Hi! Welcome to Ann Evans' blogspot.

Whether you've found this page by design or accident, I hope you enjoy my random ramblings.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Big Welcome to my old boss Steve Chilton!


And before he says it - not so much of the old!

I'm delighted to welcome Steve Chilton to my blog this week. Steve is a former Midlands Feature Writer of the Year with a long and illustrious career at the Coventry Telegraph which included news and features editor plus writing the offbeat Peeping Tom and Red Button columns. Walking Keef's Dog and Other Short Stories is Steve's first book and marks his début in fiction after a reporting career that spanned more than 25 years.




Additionally, Steve was my Features Editor when I first started writing features for the Coventry Telegraph way back. I just thought I'd share this little story with you, as he was actually responsible for sending me on my very first press trip, Lunch in Lille.

I really felt that I'd landed on my feet as I jetted off for lunch in Lille, France. It was a fabulous way of spend the day, being shown around the town, lovely free food, and then back in time for tea (well almost). It was a week later when Steve called across the office to me: “Have we had your copy for Lunch in Lille yet?”  Oh!” says I. “You want me to write about it?”

Anyway, back to this brand new book Walking Keef's Dog and Other Short Stories: “It’s a complete reversal for me,’ said Steve. ‘As a reporter you sometimes get accused of making up a story, although it is factually correct, because people just don’t like what’s being said. Now, I am making it up, in stories of complete fiction - well, almost - and hoping people do like it.”

Several of the short stories start with a foothold in historical fact, he says. But soon stray off into comedy fantasy. Steve explained that a photo of Keith Richards arriving for a Coventry gig cuddling his pet puppy provided the inspiration for the book. The unlikely paring of the Stone' bad boy and a cute puppy on tour in 1971 is one of 10 short stories in the book.

Keef did turn up at the Coventry Theatre with Boogie, his puppy, and the Telegraph has some great archive pictures, including Mick Jagger with wife-to-be Bianca in the cobbled lane off Hales Street leading to the stage door. But thereafter it’s a fantasy, as Boogie escapes for a brief taste of rock ‘n stroll before returning to the gig to find he’s been replaced by a bogus Boogie.”

Steve's home city and neighbouring towns feature strongly in his book. His targets for parody include Queen Elizabeth 1’s romantic break in Kenilworth, under-performing folk festival fans, star-struck local politicians and a hard-drinking jazz-loving gumshoe cop...from Leamington.

It’s not all played for laughs, though. There are a few satirical barbs aimed at the way PFI hospitals raise finances, the post-war planners of Coventry city centre, and men behaving badly on away football trips.

He says the Coventry region is a treasure trove of unlikely but true stories. “I was around for some of them,” he says, “although not - as some may believe - for Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Kenilworth in 1575, which has been portrayed as one of history’s great love stories. Well, maybe, but I’ve spiced it up a tad.”

Steve, says he was born between cathedrals in Coventry - “after the old one was destroyed but before the new one was consecrated’’ and points out that his birthplace has a long history of spinning celebrity surprises.

Brigitte Bardot turning up unannounced at the cathedral for a funeral service, John and Yoko planting acorns for peace and most bizarrely of all, Muhammad Ali visiting a Tile Hill chip shop to meet an old sparring partner, are just a few examples,” he says.

He admits ’ borrowing’ one or two star visits as a starting point in this collection of stories, but makes it clear where facts end and fiction begin. He’s hoping that the book will appeal to people looking for a light-hearted break from Christmas over-indulgence.

After all that stodge and TV, it could provide a dash of escapism and some gentle exercise, page turning. If you don’t like it, wrap it up and hand it over as a Boxing Day present to that relative who keeps giving you socks very year.”

Here's a short extract from She's a Killer...Queen

A mist was still hanging over the mere as we left the following morn, but the watery sun was showing well-enough to promise enveloping warmth later. The captain obviously had similar intentions and instructed his two men to follow 50 paces behind, well out of earshot.

Truth be told, there was little to hear that would have given us away as lovers. We talked easily about the excesses of the past few days, tried to best each other by naming the hedgerow flowers and song birds along the way and paused often at the small stream we were following to see if we could spot the sparkle of a trout basking in the shallows. We didn’t need anything else. It was just how I had imagined a fledgling romance might be, had I not been born different.

I had suffered many suitors since I came of age. Princes from Denmark, Spain and Sweden; the King of France... all seeking a political union. Their passion was for more power. I was merely a means to that end.

Courtiers from my own land were as numerous as the mayfly hatching along that lonely stream, and would have been as short-lived. For their ardour also would have died after they’d planted their seeds. I did not intend to be the vessel for their vanity. My father chartered that route and is remembered as an overweight ogre who treated his wives as brood mares.

I would not give up a sliver of my power let alone be subjugated by the rule of a man occupying my throne. What I wanted on that day, walking with my compliant lover, was to banish a dark yearning for something else, something that was recognised long ago.

You are different, like me’, my French governess had whispered in my ear on my 12th birthday, before kissing me tenderly on the lips.


Walking Keef’s Dog and Other Short Stories is published by Takahe, rrp £9.95 and is available from bookshops and major online bookstores. Steve Chilton’s website www.redbutton2.com has free extracts from three of the stories.


Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Welcome to author Peter Walters


I'm delighted to welcome Peter Walters onto my blog today. Peter is a friend and work colleague from our Coventry Telegraph days. With a wealth of knowledge about the city, he has now written his second book on Coventry entitled – Great War Britain: Coventry Remembering 1914-18.

Illustrated with wonderful old photographs from the city's archives, the book explores the 1914-1918 story of the place they called The Busiest Town In England, years that established Coventry as one of Britain's most important 20th century industrial dynamos. It's a tale often over-shadowed by the city's suffering in World War Two and has not been told often enough.

Peter's first book, The Story of Coventry, also evocatively illustrated, was the first full narrative history of Coventry for more than a decade, tracing the city's story from its beginnings around the year 1000 to the recent recession. Written for the general reader, it concentrates on the rich gallery of characters who have populated that colourful thousand years.



Peter and his wife, Barbara who is also a journalist, were already working at the Coventry Telegraph when I started back in the day. I asked him how he first got into writing.

“I was always keen on English at school and got an S level (grade 1) in it as well as A level. Stupidly, I was persuaded that law was a better career so did a law degree at Leeds University (69-72). When I finished I immediately went into newspapers, initially a weekly in Cheshire.

“I came to the Coventry Telegraph as a reporter but quickly switched to features. I was a general feature writer but found myself writing a lot about the city's history – I'd always been interested in history. I also liked profile writing and did a lot of those too. In later years I had a weekly light-hearted column and wrote leaders for the paper, the latter I think great training for a writer as it forces you to be succinct.”





Around 2011, publishers, The History Press approached him to write a book on Coventry.
“I was nervous about it but found it less difficult than I had imagined. I treated it as an extended feature, I suppose. As a journalist you are at least comfortable with putting pen to paper, so to speak.”

It took him around a year to research and write his first book, The Story of Coventry which came out in 2013.  This led to the writing of his second book featuring Coventry during the First World War. Great War Britain: Coventry Remembering 1914-18.

“I loved doing the research, most of it in the Herbert Museum's History Centre,” added Peter. “It felt like an extension of something I had always done on the paper – in the CET's Library. To be honest, I didn't find anything that came as a complete surprise as I'd written a lot about the city's history already. But Coventry's extraordinary monastic past was something I hadn't really grasped before and the incredible scale of its contribution to the First World War was also unexpected.”


With his interest and knowledge about the city of Coventry, when he's not writing – or reading, Peter conducts city walks for people with an interest in its history along with being involved in community projects; and in his free time, he plays tennis, enjoys film, theatre and music. I wondered whether there were any more books in the pipeline.

“I'd love to write more books,” Peter told me. “Although I'm not sure if I want to write more about Coventry. I feel I've 'done' the city in a way. I'd really like to write something in the popular history field with a national focus. I'm trying to work up an idea for the publishers at the moment.”

I'd like to thank Peter Walters for being on my blog today, and wish him every success with these books and good luck with future projects.







The Story of Coventry. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Story-Coventry-Peter-Walters/dp/1860776922/

Both books are published by The History Press. http://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/

If you would like to contact Peter, Email: peter@waltersconsultancy.co.uk.
Mobile 07748 116041.



Saturday, 3 September 2016

Welcome to writer Emilie Lauren Jones.




I'm delighted to welcome Emilie Lauren Jones to my blog today. Emilie is a budding writer with her first book of poetry Sitting on the Pier out now. In fact she has a book launch at the Big Comfy Bookshop, Fargo Village, Coventry on Saturday 15th October from 1pm-3pm. So make a note in your diaries.

Emilie is a member of the Coventry Writers' Group and a member of my own Monday Evening Writing Class when her bowling allows! Really keen to learn as much as possible about all aspects of writing, she is also studying with the National School of Journalism.

The course is the short story writing course from the LSJ,” explained Emilie. “You are assigned a tutor who feeds back on the assignments. There is no time limit on handing them in so it's good one for people with lots of other commitments.”
Writing and understanding how magazines work has been in her blood since she was a child. Her mum founded the Coventry magazine, Chatterbox which is very much a family affair, and when Emilie was just 9 years old she began 'working' for the mag.
I used to put a poem in each edition,” said Emilie. “And the whole family were involved in delivering and collating the magazines by hand. Grandad and I got so good that we could collate one forwards and one backwards to save time! As a teenager I learnt to use the professional design software and since then I've been involved in writing pieces of the editorial, setting pages and designing any new adverts that come in. Mum calls me her 'co-editor!' Although this is a voluntary position!
Emilie's day job is a HLTA (higher level teaching assistant) at a primary school in Coventry, working with individuals and groups and also covering classes with years 5 and 6. A job that she loves.

Emilie told me: “I do love my job and it comes without all the paperwork so I have time to write when I finish work whereas teachers, as you know, have to do a LOT of extra hours!”

However, she almost didn't get into teaching as the pull of writing was almost too strong. Emilie explained that when she was six months into teacher training at one of the top teacher training courses in the country, she had a dramatic change of heart.

She explained: “I was asked the question: ‘where do you see yourself in a year?’ And I answered: 'I see myself as a writer' which definitely wasn't what they wanted to hear!

It was the uttering of these words that led to an afternoon of serious conversations and the eventual decision that I should not be completing an intense teacher training course. Before I left, the teacher I had been working alongside took me to one side and said: 'If they can do it, why can’t you?' The next day I began writing again.

I quit my training and spent the year volunteering and writing the book. But because writing poetry doesn't pay too well I got a job as a TA and now as a HLTA.

Having previously had individual poems and stories published I was aware of the challenges ahead but this time I was determined to make it work. I had spent too long wanting to be a writer whilst doing less and less actual writing; a dilemma I have found a lot of writers face at one point or another.

The result of this period of writing came in the form of my poetry anthology Sitting on the Pier and I spent much of the summer performing and book signing anywhere that would have me – from literature festivals to churches to a market stall in Kenilworth! Within six months I had sold a couple of hundred copies in and around Coventry.

So, it was true – if they could do it, so could I. Okay, I’ve not sold millions of copies yet but I am writing and people want to read it and that means a lot to someone who wrote their first novel at six years old about Drippy the Tap.

I’ve also been fortunate to win a few competitions, again it’s a great feeling to know that people are enjoying your work. My aim has always been to write poetry that is ‘real’; poetry that stirs emotions and ideas that people can relate to. To me, poetry is about inclusion – usually each person who reads a poem will find something different in it and interpret it in their own way. The title Sitting on the Pier is intended to encapsulate this inclusion. I am at my most content when around nature, especially by the sea; I feel an inner peace and sense of belonging – I can just ‘be’ as I am and so can everyone else.


Sitting On The Pier

Sitting on the pier,
Because all are welcome here.
With their thoughts and dreams,
Their pasts and presents.
The sea air does not care
What mistakes you have made
Or will make.
The waters do not mind
If you are black or white or purple,
The sun and the rain
Do not discriminate,
They choose to fall equally on all,
Because they share this world.
The wood, rock, water, sand and cloud
Are content for me to sit with them
Here in my denim shorts
And worn sandals.
To think, remember, imagine.
To mourn or to laugh,
Together or alone.
Healthy or struggling,
To stay for a day or a lifetime.
All are welcome here.


THANK YOU SO MUCH EMILIE for being on my blog today, and good luck with the launch of Sitting on the Pier on Saturday 15th October at the Big Comfy Bookshop, Fargo Village, Coventry. See you there between 1pm-3pm.

Sitting on the Pier is available from Amazon at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/095722530X
Or order either instore or online from Waterstones
For signed copies please email Emilie directly at: emsj13@hotmail.com

Discover more about Emilie Lauren Jones: http://www.emilielaurenjones.co.uk
Follow her on Twitter @emilielaurenxxx



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. 

BUY LINKS
The publishers link for sales:
https://www.amberley-books.com/blue-light-models.html
or the Amazon link:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blue-Light-Models-History-Collectors/dp/1445657155







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.


Links

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

WELCOME PIA FENTON!


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!

PIA IS OFFERING A FREE COPY OF NEW ENGLAND DREAMS TO WHOEVER LEAVES THE MOST AMUSING COMMENT BELOW!



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



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