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Sunday, 21 August 2016

A Great New Book For Collectors!

A big welcome to Adrian Levano whose first book, Blue Light Models was released at the beginning of this month.

As the title implies, Adrian is a collector, and has written this book with new collectors in mind.
As you may know, with my other hat on, I write magazine articles on all kinds of subjects including writing about scaled models, toys, miniatures, collections and collectors. I met Adrian when visiting the Maidenhead Static Model Club earlier this year to write about his club for Diecast Collector Magazine.

The MSMC club is the UK's oldest and widest model collectors' club in the UK. As well as being a collector, Adrian is the editor of the club's magazine, Wheel Bearings. I asked him what the role entails.

“This is my third year as editor,” says Adrian. “I took over at quite short notice and tried to make it look a bit less like a club newsletter, although time and budget constraints limit my ambition a little! Obviously, it’s main purpose is to pass on club news of the Maidenhead Static Model Club, forthcoming events and to report on club meetings. In addition I try to put in some articles about models, and also about real transport subjects.

“Although I’m very pleased that quite a few members contribute to it, I quite often come up with pieces about my own experiences – like a ‘cub reporter’ I always travel with a camera! Fortunately I work for a company specialising in design and print, so I’m able to handle all aspects from design through to sticking stamps on the envelopes myself!”

This is Adrian's first book, and he explained how it all came about.

Amberley Publishing approached me with the proposed subject, so after due consideration I decided to give it a go. The book attempts to give an overview of model emergency services vehicles over the decades, across the world, and some advice about how to buy, store and care for a collection.

Of course, most toy and model manufacturers have produced a far wider range than just ‘blue light’ models, so in a way it’s also a brief history an overview of model vehicles in general. In fact the title is a rather anglo-centric as emergency services vehicle in other countries can have other colours of flashing lights such as red or orange.

Although it’s written from the point of view of a British collector, I have tried to cover as wide a spread of interests as possible, and have included modern toys available at ‘pocket money’ prices through to the rarer collectibles.”

“I had a contract which gave me six months to complete the draft. Had it not been for some personal matters which took up a fair bit of time, and the need to do some ‘real’ work as well, that would have been fine. As it was, I was down to the line, even to the point of needing to plead for a short extension. As the deadline date was the Friday of a bank holiday weekend, the extension was only until the following Tuesday morning – I assumed they would not be working on it over the weekend!”

I asked Adrian just how tricky the task turned out to be.

“It was a lot more tricky that I envisaged. I found writing the text the most straightforward part, but my concept that the various sections would be the same as producing a series of articles was way off the mark.

Deciding which models to use to illustrate a particular subject was the worst part. As so many could be used for several alternatives such as country, material, scale or category, I found I had to re-photograph a lot of models. I wanted to avoid using the same item twice. At one point, every surface of the house was covered with toys and models which I didn’t want to put away in case I needed them again! At that point I realised it was a good thing I didn’t have a cat … This was complicated further by having been out to take pictures of (or having borrowed models) belonging to other collectors which I was subsequently unable to group with others of my own.

“I have to admit I learned a lot in the writing process. I hope I didn’t make too many factual errors, but I needed to do quite a bit of research – a lot of thing I thought I knew suddenly needed verifying before I committed myself to print.

I also found the word count tricky to cope with, in actual fact I cheated a bit by adding a lot more information into the photo captions. This could have been a much bigger book, but I think it’s a good introduction and, as I say in the book, finding out for yourself what’s out there is a lot of the fun of collecting.”

Naturally, I wondered how and when he first caught the collecting bug.

I’m told that I could identify real cars before I could pronounce the names,” says Adrian. “I’ve always been a ‘collector’ of toy cars, and since the age of about eight or nine have kept them in their boxes. Admittedly they were taken out and played with, so most from those early days show some signs of that use. There have been times over the years when the collecting was ‘on hold’ but I never disposed of any toys, and still they keep accumulating as I find new areas of interest. It was probably a move to the South-East of England in the 1980s that was the biggest boost, I found myself in close proximity to several collectors toy fairs, one of which in town where I lived. I do find such fairs are the best way of adding to the collection, although internet auctions are good if you know what you want.”

His book talks about emergency service vehicles, so I wondered if he specialised in particular collectables.

“Well that’s the thing! I’m not a specialist on emergency services – I have all sorts, in all scales and materials. In a way that probably equipped me better for this project than collectors who specialise in only one particular aspect. A lot of British collectors seem to prefer home-grown products, and I think the same applies in other countries. For me, the more unusual the better.

“When I was young we made regular family trips to Germany and other European countries, and that was a major influence in widening my horizons about what was around – remember that was long before the internet, so the toys and models I brought back from my travels were things hardly seen in England.

With one exception, I have always avoided the temptation to try to get everything of a particular series. It’s the last few that are always the most difficult to get and which cost a lot more. There is always something different to add a new flavour to the collection – for example it’s only in last year or two that I have taken any real interest in tin plate toys. They have a distinct charm which had eluded me previously. Perhaps with age and experience I can now put toys into a social and historical context which gives a new dimension to my hobby.”

But what does Adrian do when not writing, working of out and about collecting?

“I wouldn’t like your readers to think that toys and models are my whole life! At times I just shut the door to the collection room (yes, it does have its own room complete with small photo studio) and try to engage with the real world. For example, I’m an amateur musician and play keyboards. It’s odd how things overlap though; of the musicians I’ve worked with in recent years, at least two spring to mind as serious model enthusiasts, one is a leading expert on plastic toy soldiers, the other makes the most amazing model railway locomotives and rolling stock from scratch and also edits a model railway club magazine.

“I’m also a keen, if very amateur gardener, and also hope to get back to more travelling soon. My favourite city to visit is Istanbul, but as fate would have it, Turkey adds very little to my model collection – so going there is a real holiday from my everyday world in every sense.”

Thank you, Adrian for being on my blog.  Wishing you every success with the book. 

The publishers link for sales:
or the Amazon link:

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Welcome to author Kate Thomson aka Katy Haye!

I'm very pleased to welcome Kate Thomson to my bog today. Kate writes under the pen name of Katy Haye for her YA books. So far she has three books out: The Last Gatekeeper and The Last Dreamseer are the Chronicles of Fane – urban fantasy with fae and angels; and Rising Tides is a dystopian novel, set in a drowned post-apocalyptic world.

I asked Kate what the appeal was in writing YA fantasy. She said, “I write young adult novels because that’s what I love to read. And I write fantasy because those are always the ideas that climb into my head. My opinion is – if you’re going to make it up, you might as well REALLY make it up!”

Kate says that she fell in love with books when she was tiny. “When my mum was reading me a bedtime story at the age of four, I asked if you had to pay to get your story turned into a book. Mum replied that no, the publisher pays you and that was it – I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up.”

Inspiration strikes when we least expect it, and I wondered where Kate tends to get her best ideas.
I’m a woeful insomniac,” says Kate. “I usually seem to be awake between about 3 and 5 in the mornings – but not awake enough to get up and do stuff (which would be crazy, after all). After years of fighting it, I now look at that interlude as my plotting time and I quite enjoy figuring out the fixes I can get my characters into – and how they’re going to get themselves back out. When I haven't solved character dilemmas through the sleepless method, my other way to work out plot kinks on the allotment where I wage a constant war against weeds and slugs (this year, the slugs are winning!)”

So, what about free time. What does Kate do when she's not working on her books?
When I’m not writing, I’m probably reading. I review on a blog called the Paisley Piranha (www.paisleypiranha.wordpress.com) which is all about YA books and writers. I also play the flute for fun and in a local amateur orchestra.”

I asked Kate what was the inspiration behind her latest book?
Newly-out Rising Tides was inspired initially by a story I read about Scott’s Hut in the Antarctic (you can read it here: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2004/dec/02/1)
The story is about Alan Gibbs, who visited the hut and spotted a dried parsnip which had fallen out of a rusted tin, reconstituted itself in a puddle of chilly water and transpired to be perfectly edible – nearly 100 years after it had first been grown. There was another piece (I’ve lost the reference, unfortunately) about a different explorer who brought back a tin of rhubarb left in Scott’s Hut and baked a perfectly edible pie from it.

The idea that food grown and prepared now could still be edible a century or more into the future set my imaginative cogs whirring – how would humans manage after a total collapse of the eco-system when this food was the only thing left: how might they agree to share (or not?).”

Here’s an extract. Cosimo has dived down to long-drowned houses to scavenge whatever food he can for himself and Libby (who’s narrating):

The lurch of the boat was my only warning before Cosimo clambered back on board. There was a clatter as he tipped his finds onto the deck. Half a dozen tins covered in grey slime. “Breakfast, your Highness.” My hunger vanished. He leaned back over the side of the boat, washing the tins in the sea.

My stomach rumbled and I ventured to the cabin to see what delicacies he’d found.
Cosimo had chosen sweetcorn. The other open tins held pineapple, mashed peas and minced meat. I wished, as I did most times I set to cook a meal, that it was possible to know what was within the tins before we opened them. I guessed the Old Ones hadn’t imagined their labels might need to be waterproof.
The pineapple would taste of nothing more than the tin it had been encased in, so I took the minced meat from the ledge inside the cabin, found a fork and returned to the deck. I sat at the back of the boat, close enough to him to watch what he did with the boat’s controls without being so close he might get presumptuous ideas.

You can get a copy of Rising Tides as a paperback, on your Kindle or download with Kindle Unlimited by using this (universal) link: http://authl.it/B01FHXD8HG?d

Currently, Kate has just finished a tie-in short story set in the world of Fane, for readers of The Last Gatekeeper and The Last Dreamseer. She says: “It was great fun going back to Fane and spending a bit more time with Cal, who is probably my favourite character from there (shh, don’t tell the others!).”

And here's an extract from The Last Gatekeeper (First of the Chronicles of Fane)

Two worlds. A queen determined to rule both. And one teen girl who stands in her way.

Zanzibar MacKenzie knows she’s a freak. She has EHS – electrical hypersensitivity – which leaves her trying to live a Stone Age life in the twenty-first century: no internet, no phone, no point really.

On her seventeenth birthday she discovers the truth: she can’t stand electricity because she’s half-fae, and her mixed-blood makes her the only person on Earth able to control the gates that link the fae and human worlds.

With the help of Thanriel, an angel charged with keeping the worlds in balance, and Cal, an exiled fae, Zan – the girl who can’t flip a light switch – must now learn to control the elemental powers she never knew she had in order to defeat a queen bent on destruction.

The Last Gatekeeper is currently FREE. Grab a copy from Amazon: http://authl.it/B00P5DNUZY?d or in all other formats from Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/572349

Read on to meet our hero, Thanriel:
His dark hair fell in spiky disarray into eyes so dark they looked black. His skin was pale, almost luminous. He looked like he should be in a poster on my friend Em’s wall, not standing in my doorway.
His hair glinted in the rising moonlight, the colour of lacquered mahogany, dark against his pale skin. I breathed in. He smelled like he’d been outside all day. He smelled like the air during a rainstorm. My pulse picked up.


Katy’s website: www.katyhaye.com

Twitter: @katyhaye

Or watch Katy’s video How to Become a Writer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o03uWBH7bBE

Tuesday, 2 August 2016


I am so pleased to welcome the fantastic Pia Fenton (aka Christina Courtenay) on to my blog today to talk about her latest book, a YA contemporary romance novel entitled New England Dreams. Pia writes historical romance, time slip and YA contemporary romance, mainly published by independent publisher Choc Lit. 

She is half Swedish and was brought up in Sweden. In her teens, she moved to Japan where she had the opportunity to travel extensively in the Far East. She is a former chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association. Her novels Highland Storms and The Gilded Fan have both won the RoNA Award for Best Historical Romantic Novel of the Year (in 2012 and 2014 respectively). Her latest novels are The Jade Lioness (historical) and New England Dreams (YA contemporary romance). Coming soon – The Velvet Cloak of Moonlight (time slip).

Pia and I have met a few times at the Romantic Novelists Conference, and I couldn't wait to hear more about her life, how she got into writing, and of course all about her latest book. Over to you, Pia….

New England Dreams is a Young Adult contemporary romance, the 4th instalment in my Northbrooke High series which features UK heroines clashing with US heroes in an American high school setting. The other three books are New England Rocks, New England Crush and New England TLC. The first one was published by Choc Lit, but they subsequently decided not to continue with a YA imprint, so I self-published the others as I had already written them.

I have to admit I’m not very techie, so luckily I didn’t undertake this endeavour on my own – I got together with three other YA authors who were also keen to self-publish and we work together as a group. We have a website, blog and Twitter account under the name Paisley Piranha and I have found the support of the others invaluable! Everything is always easier when you work as a team. During the weekend of 29th-31st July we were selling our books at YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention) which is part of the London Film & Comic Con – very exciting!

New England Rocks, first in the series, was inspired by a high school reunion I attended a couple of years back. I was lucky enough to live in Tokyo as a teenager and went to the American School in Japan (ASIJ) for three years. I had a fantastic time and meeting up with some of my old friends from back then made so many memories come flooding into my brain, I just knew I had to do something with them.

Of course, everything wasn’t perfect (what teenager’s life ever is?!) and with hindsight there were things I would have chosen to do differently. I started to think about how I would have liked to change things back then and how I should have acted and decided to write it down. This turned into book one of the Northbrooke High series and I’ve just carried on from there.

I wasn’t one of those people who always wanted to write – I didn’t scribble down stories as a child, but I did daydream a lot and perhaps that helped? I was a voracious reader, but never tried writing myself until I’d had my first child and decided I wanted to stay at home with her. The only work I could think of which would let me do that was to write, so I had a go. I really enjoyed it and thought it was dead easy – until my manuscripts (yes, plural, I sent two off at once to give the publisher a choice – <cringe> how naïve was I?!) came winging back very quickly. In the end, it took me 21 years to get published, but I had so much fun writing, it was worth it.

I normally write historical or time slip stories for adults, which involve a lot of research, but sometimes I want to write using nothing but my imagination. So basically, writing YA is a sort of holiday for me – when I give myself permission to just write and have fun!

The latest one, New England Dreams, was inspired by a crazy thing I did once – kiss a guy I met on a plane, a complete stranger. I really can’t remember now how it came about, it just seemed a natural progression from talking, I suppose, and nothing ever came of it (he lived in Alaska, I lived in Sweden). But although I can’t even recall what he looked like, the memory stayed with me and my story grew from that.

I’m sure we all do silly things occasionally, that’s human nature, but I’d love to hear what some of you have done!


Firstly though, the back cover blurb from New England Dreams.
When opposites attract, can dreams come true?
Staying in New England for a few months is just what Sienna Randall needs after all the family problems she's been dealing with at home in London. The last thing she's expecting is romance, so it's a total surprise when she ends up kissing a guy she meets on the flight.
Kyle Everett is Sienna's complete opposite – he’s clean-cut and over-polished, she has piercings and pink dreads. But he can’t resist making out with her. He is, after all, Northbrooke High’s number one player. Except Sienna's different from other girls. He’s definitely expecting to see her again – until they're separated by irate airline officials before he can get her number.
Fate throws them together once more, but when Sienna turns up in Kyle's home room, neither admits to having met before. The chemistry between them is still there though – should they let it have free rein or should the attraction stay in their dreams?
Buy links:-

Don't forget – Pia is giving away a free copy of her latest book, to whoever leaves the most amusing (in our opinion) comment!

Thank you, Pia!

Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Tale of Beatrix Potter

Once upon a time there were four little rabbits, and their names were, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail and Peter. They lived with their Mother in a sand-bank, underneath the root of a very big fir tree...

And so began The Tale of Peter Rabbit, one of the most beloved characters created by author, illustrator and scientist, Beatrix Potter. Today, 28th July 2016 sees the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter's birth and it's wonderful to know that her stories and characters are as popular today as they ever were.

Helen Beatrix Potter was born on 28th July 1866 in South Kensington, London, the eldest of Rupert and Helen (Leech) Potter's two children. Beatrix was brought up by a nurse and educated at home by a series of governesses. Family holidays were spent in Scotland and later in the Lake District – a region she loved and where eventually she made her home and did some of her best work.

Beatrix loved nature and wildlife. On holidays she and her younger brother Bertram would explore the countryside drawing, painting and learning all about animals, insects, flowers and fungi. She would also trap small animals to keep and train as pets. They would appear in her stories and artwork.

In later years, encouraged by Charles McIntosh, a Scottish naturalist, her knowledge and technically accurate artwork of fungi resulted in her becoming a scientific illustrator. She produced beautiful watercolours and wrote a paper on the reproduction of fungi spores, for the Linnean Society.

Her first published work was in 1890 when at 24, she had a collection of her Christmas card illustrations published alongside poetry by Frederic E Weatherly. It was published by Hildesheimer & Faulkner, and entitled A Happy Pair. In 2001 a rare copy sold at auction for £23,250.

The story of Peter Rabbit began on 4th September 1893. Beatrix, then aged 27, was on holiday in Eastwood, Dunkeld and decided to write a picture letter to Noel Moore, the five year old son of a former governess who was ill in bed. She wrote:

My dear Noel, I don’t know what to write to you, so I shall tell you a story about four little rabbits…

The letter was later to become The Tale of Peter Rabbit. The following day she wrote a letter to Noel’s brother, Eric, about a frog called Jeremy Fisher. These famous letters are now stored in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Later, in 1901, Beatrix decided to try and get The Tale of Peter Rabbit published. She wrote the story out in an exercise book and sent it to six publishers, They all turned her down and so she decided to have it printed herself.

She had 250 copies made with 41 black and white illustrations which she sold to family and friends for a halfpenny. She soon needed more copies, so she ordered another 200. Then Frederick Warne & Co., publishers gave her a publishing deal and produced 8,000 copies in October 1902, selling at a shilling each.

Her association led to more than just publication of her book. Beatrix fell in love with publisher Norman Warne. Her parents however didn’t approve and tragically Norman died before the two could marry. Coping with her grief, Beatrix spent time in the Lake District, a special place where she and Norman dreamed of one day owning a home together.

With a small legacy from an aunt and the royalties from Peter Rabbit, Beatrix bought Hill Top a 34-acre 17th century working farm. Again this brought friction and disapproval from her parents, but bravely Beatrix got on with her life, throwing herself into farming and country life with a special interest in conservation and livestock, in particular Herdwick sheep.

By 1909 Beatrix had published fourteen books and was receiving income from licensing merchandise based on her books. As an astute businesswoman she spent the money improving and developing her farm and increasing its livestock, again under the disapproving eyes of her parents.

As she continued to develop her land and property, she sought the advice of a firm of local solicitors, W. H. Heelis & Son and in particular William Heelis. Their relationship blossomed into love and despite being torn between her own happiness and caring for her parents' needs who disapproved of William just as they'd disapproved of Norman, she eventually married William Heelis. She was 47 years old, and the two enjoyed a happy 33 years of married life.

The years saw Beatrix buying more property and getting more and more involved with the community, conservation, district nursing, the Girl Guides, the environment and the traditional value of hill-county farming. With all this going on in her life, and failing eyesight, Beatrix had less and less time to write her stories. She published her last story, The Tale of Little Pig Robinson in 1930.

When Beatrix Potter died on 22nd December 1943 she bequeathed fifteen farms and over 4,000 acres to the National Trust, ensuring the protection and conservation of the countryside that she loved so much. The countryside which had inspire a host of wonderful little books and characters, loved by young and old generation after generation.

Discover more about Beatrix Potter at: http://www.hop-skip-jump.com

Please visit my website: http://www.annevansbooks.co.uk

Please pop along to my brand new blog:  http://wordsandimagesuk.blogspot.co.uk/
Words & Images UK is the combination of : www.annevansbooks.co.uk andwww.tysallsphotography.org.uk
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Thursday, 14 July 2016

A Love-ly RNA Conference

Karen King, Ann Evans, Chrissie Bradshaw,
Sheryl Browne, Lynda Stacey.
Last weekend was one of my writing highlights of the year – the Romantic Novelist Association's annual conference. 

This year is was held at Lancaster University, and it was my third conference. My good pal, author Karen King and I teamed up, and we took the train north feeling really excited to be going along to another RNA gathering.

It's the thought of meeting up with familiar faces, making new friends, and basically just being around so many people who share that love of writing. It's such an amazing atmosphere, lots of buzz and noise, lots of laughter and chat – and of course plenty of time to eat and drink.

Of course it wasn't all socialising. It was brilliantly organised with the programme of talks, workshops and one-to-ones sent out to delegates some weeks before the event so that you can say which sessions you plan on attending, and arrange a one-to-one consultation with one of the top editors or literary agents who attend. You have to be quick in booking these however, as places are highly coveted.

Sheryl Browne, Karen King, Ann Evans
Around 220 romantic novelists attended the conference, who ranged from those on the New Writers' Scheme to multi published big name writers. But the friendliness of the event ensured there was no divide between the published and non-published, or those published traditionally or the self published. Everyone mixed together, sharing news, catching up on the year gone by and generally making new friends and having fun.

There were around 35 different talks and workshops ranging from 'Author marketing – brand, plan and goals' led by author Liz Fenwick and Brigid Coady of Harper Collins, to 'Romancing the YA readership – what makes a book successful for teen readers' presented by author Joss Stirling.

Tracy Bloom. Katy Haye and Ian Skillicorn ran an excellent session on 'The business of self publishing', and Sarah Wendell had jetted over from the USA to run a brilliant – and funny session of 'Reviews – getting them, dealing with them and managing them.' Her initial piece of advice for any writer about to look at a review about her book is to eat chocolate! She wasn't joking – eat lots of chocolate or something equally as messy because then you'll have sticky fingers and won't be tempted to use your keyboard and reply to a review as a knee jerk reaction. Good advice!

Friday night's dessert - Yum!
The Romaniacs – a group of authors who got together to support each other a few years ago, gave an inspiring panel talk called, 'Pens & Pompoms – writing against the odds'. Complete with pompoms there were rousing cheers and support for those who were facing – or had faced difficult times in their lives. The ladies talked of the problems they had faced, and gave great advice on how they managed to get through those bad times and get back to their writing.

There was lots and lots going on, with frequent tea, coffee and biscuit breaks, lunch breaks and then dinner and a bar in the evenings. The highlight of the weekend was the Gala Dinner on the Saturday evening which included the presentation of the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy. This was a short story competition, judged anonymously, and the winner and highly commended announced on the night.

Meeting one of my favourite romantic novelists,
Freda Lightfoot.

2010 was the RNA's Golden anniversary and the society is rightly proud of its long history and its association with so many professionals in the world of romantic fiction. It holds numerous social events and meetings with top speakers, sharing expertise and knowledge. It runs competitions and a New Writers Scheme. It also publishes a quarterly magazine, Romance Matters.

Lots of books and their authors at the conference.

Why not take a look at their website? The RNA welcomes traditionally published and self published writers - and they have great conferences!!  :http://www.romanticnovelistsassociation.org/

My website: http://www,annevansbooks.co.uk
Facebook: Ann-Evans-Books
Twitter: @annevansauthor
Blog: http://www,blogger.com/annsawriter

Thursday, 12 May 2016


A big welcome to my good friend, Karen King, whose brand new romance is released today: I DO? ... OR DO I?

Multi published writer, Karen is well known for her children books – with around 120 books for young readers published, ranging from picture books to adventure books, and from activity books to joke books. She also writes for young adults and has written two other romances.

I DO? ... OR DO I? is Karen's first chick-lit for publisher Accent Press and she has also been contracted for two more chick-lits for Accent – plus they are republishing three earlier books, The Millionaire Plan, Never Say Forever and Perfect Summer. Having read all of these, they are all great reads, so keep a look out for their release dates.

Having read Karen's latest book, I have to say it's a really enjoyable read, and very funny. The main character, Cassie gets herself into such trouble, that it somehow reminds me of Karen herself!
She's the only person I know who can nip off to the loo and find herself on the wrong side of the Israeli border – without her passport! She's also been known to frantically search her house looking for the sound of running water – only to eventually discover the phone in her pocket is playing a relaxing running water sound effect!

But back to I DO? ... OR DO I? The story is about local journalist Cassie who is getting married to hot-shot lawyer, reliable Timothy. His mother Sylvia, who Cassie has nicknamed ‘Monster-in-Law’, wants to plan the entire wedding. When Sylvia books the exclusive ID Images to take photographs of the extravagant do, Cassie has no idea what she’s walking into. 

The elusive JM, ID Images’ newest photographer, just so happens to be Jared, Cassie’s first love and ex-fiancé, who broke off their engagement to travel and take photos of far-reaching wonders. He’s back to pay for his next wild adventure.

Cassie decides it’s best to pretend not to know him, but when she’s asked to write an article for her newspaper, she’s tasked with a column surrounding all things wedding related. When Cassie jokingly writes a column meant for herself depicting her situation, a co-worker submits it in place of the real article and it’s soon making headlines, with readers asking the age old question - Who will she choose?

It's a great fun read and I wish Karen every success with it.

Find out more about Karen:

Twitter: @karen_king

Buy Links:
Amazon: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01CGKLOKQ
Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/i-do-or-do-i/karen-king/9781910939345
Book Depository - http://www.bookdepository.com/book/9781910939352

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Welcome to award winning author, Susan Price.

I'm really pleased to welcome author Susan Price onto my blog. Susan is a multi award winning author who will be telling us all about her latest book, The Drover's Dogs, which I've read and thoroughly enjoyed. 

After reading it I couldn't wait to find out what inspired her to write it – and just how difficult was it to research.

Firstly though, I asked Susan to tell us all about her writing career, so far. Staring with the question every author gets asked: How did you get into writing? I was amazed by her answer!

How did you get into writing?
I was determined to be a writer from an early age. From the age of 14, I was reading very critically, with a view to improving my own writing. If I liked a piece of writing, I asked, ‘What is this writer doing, to make this so good – and how can I copy it?’ If I disliked a piece of writing, I asked myself why, so I could avoid the same mistakes. I was also writing, with the intent of getting published.

I was a winner of The Children’s Literary Competition at the age of 15 and again at 16. Encouraged by this, I finished my first book, The Devil’s Piper, and tried my luck. It was accepted by Faber and Faber. I was 16. My dad had to sign the contract because I was under-age.

I've seen a number of your books, and they range from picture books to adult adventures. Do you write for all ages?
Oh yes. I enjoy it. I’ve written everything from The Little Red Hen and Billy Goats Gruff — stories I love – for nursery age, to The Sterkarm Handshake which is decidedly for adults. And for all ages in between.

Q. How many books have you had published – and which are your most famous or best loved ones?
I lost count of my published books a long time ago. I generally say ‘about 63’ but that’s an estimate. I’ve written several picture book texts, such as How The Bear Lost His Tail and ‘The Runaway Chapati. I’ve re-issued Chapati as a self-published book, with illustrations by my brother Adam, and it’s selling very well.

For children aged about 7 and up, I wrote The Wolf’s Footprint. This was so popular in schools that when it went out of print, I got many, many emails from teachers asking where they could buy it. So I republished it myself, with new illustrations by my brother Andrew – and that, too, is selling very well. (It’s useful,being related to artists.)

For slightly older children there’s The Ghost Drum and the other books in that series, Ghost Song and Ghost Dance, which are also selling very well as indie-books.

I’ve written teen fiction, such as Foiling the Dragon and the Odin’s Voice trilogy – and some books, such as the Sterkarm series have ‘crossed over.’ They’re to be republished in June by Open Road and they seem to be treating them as adult books.

Q. Some of your books have won awards. Can you tell us a little about those titles?
My book, The Ghost Drum, a fantasy set in a time and place something like Czarist Russia, won the Carnegie Medal. It went out of print, so I re-issued it along with its companions, Ghost Song and Ghost Dance – and all are doing very well as self-published books.

My time-travel, sci-fi-historical-adventure-romance, The Sterkarm Handshake, won the Guardian Fiction Prize – ‘for children,’ actually, but that’s such a mouthful that people usually just say ‘The Guardian Prize.’ 

The book was written for teenagers rather than children, and its biggest readership, from the start, seemed to be adults – though I was at a school recently where the teacher ducked back into the room after the class I’d been speaking left. She said, “I just wanted to let you know that when I was fourteen, The Sterkarm Handshake was my favourite book!” So it was read by some teenagers.

The Sterkarm Handshake and A Sterkarm Kiss are to be republished later this year, in June, together with a new book in the series: A Sterkarm Tryst, by the e-publishers Open Road. I’ve seen the new covers they’ve had designed. They are gorgeous and definitely adult in tone.

I’ve picked up a few other awards too – The Norfolk Libraries Prize for The Wolf’s Footprint and the Indiana Libraries award for The Sterkarm Handshake, but the main ones are the Carnegie and the Guardian. And of course it's great to win awards, but my thinking is more like – okay, that was lovely, now what am I going to write next?

Q. Can you tell us the story behind your latest book, The Drover's Dogs?
Up until now, I’ve only self-published re-editions of books that had already been published conventionally. But my latest book, The Drover’s Dogs has never been published before – it’s my first original self-published book. I did offer it, through my agent, to various publishers and got lots of ‘rave rejections.’ The typical response said, ‘We loved it, but it’s too quiet for the modern market.’

I could have tried rewriting it, but I liked the story as it was. So I decided to publish it myself. It was one of those stories that was a long, long time growing – but then, once started, almost wrote itself with few problems.

It’s set in the early 19th Century, and tells of a Scots boy, Sandy, running away from life as a ‘bondager,’ which amounts to slavery. He feels betrayed by his family and is distrustful of people – but falls in with two drove dogs who are travelling the roads alone. Since he has nowhere in particular to go – except as far away from home as he can get, he decides to follow the dogs to wherever they are going. He follows them across Scotland, from East to West and they bring him to the sea and the fishing village, as it was then – of Oban.

All the time Sandy knows that when they reach the dogs’ home croft, he will have to part with them because the dogs have a home and family where they belong and Sandy doesn’t, although he longs for one.

Q. It's a fascinating story, Sue. But where did the idea come from and what inspired you to write it?
I got the initial idea almost 20 years ago, when I read Haldane’s ‘Drove Roads of Scotland.’ In the footnotes it’s mentioned that when the drovers reached the cattle markets in the Lowlands, they sent their dogs home, and the dogs made their own way back to their Highland or island crofts.

This took my imagination. I loved the idea of the dogs fending for themselves and trotting along by fell and dale, crossing rivers and lochs. I tried several times to find a story for the dogs, but it never came to life until my Scots partner told me about the Scottish ‘bondagers.’ These were agricultural workers who were ‘bound’ to a farmer for a term, usually a year. Most of them were women, but boys were bound too. It was hard, hard work, in all weathers, seven days a week. Some farmers were fair, but others treated their bondagers very badly.

Q. How difficult was it to research the subject?
The internet has made research so much easier! I read Haldane’s book on the drove roads, and chose the one to Mull as the most likely. I used the internet and images to make myself a sort of pictorial route map – which, combined with my own memories of walking in Scotland, helped me imagine myself in Sandy’s world.

The best part of the research was going to Scotland with my partner and following much of the drove route (albeit, often in a car.) We found the old ferry crossing at Teychreggan, which is now a rather out of the way and posh hotel, and we stood at the edge of the deep dark loch – Loch Awe, where Sandy spends his silver threepenny bit.

Instead of following the modern road to Oban, we took the old road across the mountains – not a trip for the faint-hearted motorist, as the road is barely wide enough for one car, and has blind bends and inclines all the way. It gave me a wonderful sense of how tiny Sandy must have felt as the mountains leaned over him.

We saw the bay of Oban and the islands of the Hebrides as Sandy would have first seen them, from the top of the hills encircling the town; and we wandered from one end of the town to the other, trying to work out where the cattle would have been swum across from the island of Kerrara.

We crossed to Mull – one of our favourite journeys. The modern ferry puts in at Tobermory, but we had to find Grass Point, which was the old ferry point, on the island’s east coast. It’s well off the beaten track now, at the end of another scary road, and the old ferry house has become a place for tourists to stay.

Q. How long did The Drover's Dogs take to actually write?
Once I had the idea of Sandy running away and joining up with the dogs, it wrote itself fairly quickly and smoothly, in about a year.

Q. Did you encounter any problems when writing this book?
I knew as I wrote it that it was a ‘quiet’ book and I toyed with various ways of making it more ‘exciting’ with Sandy being pursued, or meeting ne’er-do-wells on the road. But it didn’t work out. For one thing, my research suggested that the farmer would be unlikely to pursue Sandy. There was no national police force in Scotland at that time, and it would have meant the farmer spending a great deal of his own time and effort – and neglecting his farm, in order to try and track Sandy down.

Also, the story didn’t want to be that kind of story. Every time I tried to take it in the direction of exciting chases and thrills, it simply ground to a halt and working on it was like trying to wade through knee deep mud. As soon as I let it go back to a simple tale of boy following dogs across the Scottish landscape, off it went again, as fast as a dog can trot.

So I worked with the story and let it be what it wanted to be; but this is why it was rejected by the big publishers: for being ‘too quiet.’ Yet the feedback I’ve had from those who have read it has been very positive. I can only hope that, as an indie-book, it finds its audience. If it’s ‘too quiet’ – well, not everyone wants to read ‘noisy’ books all the time!

Q. And finally, Sue, what are you working on now?
For a while now I’ve been working on the new book in the Sterkarm series, A Sterkarm Tryst, and then I’ve been revising the two other books, The Sterkarm Handshake and A Sterkarm Kiss. And I’m trying to get several out of print books out as POD paperbacks.

I’m taking a bit of break right at the moment, while I wait for final edits on the Sterkarm books to come back at me. After that, I do have a book up on the stocks. It’s more adult than anything I’ve done, I think, and I don’t know if I can finish it. The working title is Bad Girl.

Sue, Thank you so much for being on my blog. Good luck with all the future writing, and I really hope that The Drover's Dogs is a great success.

If you would like to buy any of Susan Price's fantastic books, here are some links. Or discover more at her website: http://www.susanpriceauthor.com

The Drover’s Dogs – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Drovers-Dogs-Susan-Price/dp/1523900644/

The Wolf’s Footprint – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wolfs-Footprint-Two-Susan-Price/dp/0992820499/

The Runaway Chapati, illustrated by Adam Price – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Runaway-Chapatti-Susan-Price/dp/1515329666/

How The Bear Lost His Tail – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Oxford-Reading-Tree-Traditional-Tales/dp/0198339585/

Ghost Drum – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ghost-Drum-Book-World-Sequence/dp/0992820421/

Ghost Song – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ghost-Song-World-Sequence/dp/099282043X/

Ghost Dance – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ghost-Dance-Czars-Black-Sequence/dp/0992820448/