Hi! Welcome to Ann Evans' blogspot.

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

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Busy, busy!

Life seems to have been very busy recently. Maybe that's why these first six months of 2013 seem to have flown by. World Book week back in March was the start of it with lots of school visits. The furthest was Peterborough and the closest was Corpus Christie Primary - just down the road!

In between time I had some final edits to do on my latest book, The Trunk, which is now out as a Puffin book, published by Penguin Australia. I'm writing under the pseudonym S.Carey for this which is part of their Eerie Series. Had great fun writing this, and gave my grandson, Jake (14) the creeps when I let him read the manuscript before sending it off. Just the right reaction I was hoping for!

Also around March/April time I received my edits back from All Classic Books, who are an American publisher. They will be publishing my first adult thriller, Death Lay Waiting, and there were lots of changes to make on that – and I'm pretty sure I haven't finished yet!. That's the thing about writing, getting it accepted by a publisher is just the start. Then comes all the re-writing and changes. Whatever you do – don't write in stone.

Then Turquoise Radio got in touch, as they wanted to serialise my book, Deadly Hunter for their kids programme presented by Kaz Cockburn. It had been so long since that book was written (it was first published around 1996) that I no longer had the story on my computer. So it was a matter of re-typing it from the book, to get it into a digital format again.

 Kaz would simply have read from the book but I thought it was a good opportunity to bring it up to date. So all that copy typing kept me pretty busy for a few weeks and I have to admit, caused my wrists to ache slightly!

Kaz did a great job in recording the story which was serialised over about eight or nine weeks. I've turned it into an ebook now, and I should have some of the audio on my website soon. I'll definitely need some assistance from my IT wizarrd son, Wayne to help me with that!

Another exciting opportunity followed. Fiction Express who team up with schools to provide fiction that the pupils can contribute to, commissioned me on a story called The Mysterious Indian Vanishing Trick. The original story was pretty set in my mind, but I had to forget all that and create a brand new first chapter with three choices at the end for the children to vote on, and so dictate what would happen in chapter two – and so forth!

Chapter 1 went live yesterday (Friday 14th June) so this week there will be some instant, real time writing happening, as I'll have just two days to write each chapter. I'm praying that I don't get writer's block... I haven't got time! I hear that chocolate is good for avoiding writers block - well that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

On top of that, I've been writing a couple of non-fiction articles. One for Collector's Gazette on Doctor Who toys; and another for Dogs Monthly magazine on Dogs for the Disabled which took me and  photographer Rob Tysall out and about to the Frances Hay centre in Banbury.

My IT knowledge (or lack of it) came into play to re-vamp Rob's website - www.tysallsphotography.org.uk . Rob and I share his photography studio, which is where I do most of my writing. He wanted to change the colour scheme of his website from black, grey and silver to lilac and purple. Now that might sound easy and straight forward but had me almost tearing my hair out and dissolving into a panic stricken wreck when it all went horribly wrong! Thank heavens for my IT wizard son again, who came to the rescue!

Most recently, Coventry held its Literally...Coventry Book Festival, from Monday to Saturday, with stacks of events taking place. My involvement meant three school visits locally, which were absolutely lovely. I went to Earlsdon Primary, Our Lady of the Assumption Primary and Gosford Primary.

Just a few of the great children at
Our Lady of the Assumption Primary
 Two of those visits were to talk primarily about my book, The Beast which I'm dead chuffed to say won an award in the Coventry Inspirational Book Awards 2013 in their raring2read category.

Which brings me to one of the highlights of this week – the award ceremony. It was held at the wonderful medieval St Mary's Guildhall, with the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress, other authors and illustrators plus invited guests. It was quite exciting to meet Sir Quentin Blake who received a Lifetime Achievement award – the first that the Coventry Literary Festival had awarded.

About to have a photo taken. Sir Quentin Blake
has a laugh with author Gaynor Arnold.

And my big moment!

My daughters, Angela, Debbie and oldest grandson, Jake came along to support me, as well as Lorna Hunt from Usborne Publishing. Usborne published The Beast back in 2004. Can't believe it was that long ago. Mind you, The Reawakning and Rampage have followed, making it a trilogy.  My character, Karbel feels like one of the family these days! Although I don't think I'd want to take him out for a walk...

Then earlier this week, I had a real fun evening with The Coventry Writers Group. As part of the Festival we staged an evening of reading and performing our work which had the theme, Coventry Fact and Fiction to a small audience at the Criterion Theatre. My story was Visions, set in Whitefriars Monastery. I adapted it as a little play, and donned a monk's outfit just for fun.

Me as a slightly manic monk!

So all in all, a very busy few months. Better than being bored though!

Some websites you might want to look at:

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Thank you for the votes by Ann Evans

Just over a year ago I remember writing a blog about theCoventry Inspiration Book Awards. I'd been involved in the judging of a schools' writing competition, and had been invited along to the awards ceremony as a guest.

It was a really good night - especially (obviously) for the authors who won in the twelve adult and twelve young reader categories. And if you were you to ask if I was just a teeny weeny, itsy witsy bit envious as I watched the successful authors taking their bows - well, what writer wouldn't be - in a generous and big hearted way, of course!!

The presentation evening took place in the beautiful Saint Mary's Guildhall – one of Coventry's most historic buildings which dates back to the 14th century and has been in constant use throughout the ages. Reputed to be haunted and the place where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned for a time, the venue alone was inspirational to any writer.

Coventry's St Mary's Guildhall
Looking back on that evening, little did I know that a year on I would be fortunate enough to have a book up there on the actual winners' podium. The first I knew of The Beast even being nominated was when I learned it had been shortlisted in the Young People's Raring2Read category.

The Beast was published by Usborne in 2004 (can't believe it was that long ago!) and tells the story of Karbel, the ghost of a sabre toothed tiger haunting a remote Scottish valley nicknamed Valley of Shadows. Two other books followed it, The Reawakening andRampage, turning it into a trilogy.

In addition to the voting for all the books in all 24 categories being open to one and all, twelve Coventry Primary Schools and twelve Secondary Schools also entered into a lively competition calledBook Bouts! Each school was randomly allocated one of the shortlisted books. They then had to read and prepare a five minute presentation to 'sell' this book.

The benefits to the children being they have a chance to show their creativity in all kinds of things from public speaking, creative writing and drama to ICT, PowerPoint and presentation skills. Eventually there is a special prize judged by an independent panel which is presented to the school with the best presentation. The school rooting for The Beast was Mount Nod Primary.

As if being shortlisted wasn't a big enough thrill, the next six weeks was a nail biting time as two books each week were eliminated 'Big Brother' style until only two were left in each category. I honestly couldn't believe my eyes to find in the Raring2Read category it was eventually down to The Beast and Alex T Smith's wonderful picture book, Claude in the City. A head to head battle ensued between the cute and friendly Claude and a fearsome ghostly beast.

It was a surreal moment to discover that Claude came as runner up, meaning just one thing!

So a massive THANK YOU! to everyone who voted.

Last week I popped along to Mount Nod Primary to meet the book club children who'd got my book in the Book Bout. And what an amazing and delightful team of Year 5 book lovers they were. We had a lovely morning chatting about The Beast then I got to talk to all of years 4 and 5. Plus I spotted a collage of books and reviews they'd made.

Collage of books in the Coventry Inspiration
Book Awards
But the icing on the cake was when they performed their presentation. Firstly just to me, and then to the whole of years 4 and 5. I hadn't actually realised what had been involved in putting this presentation together. They had dramatised and scripted a particular scene; made scenery, and created a big screen PowerPoint presentation with images and music to accompany their acting.

It totally blew me away to think they had gone to so much effort and it didn't surprise me to learn that Mount Nod had themselves won the special prize, for the school with the best presentation.

THANK YOU Mount Nod Primary School, Coventry.

Front row l-r: Olivia, Josh, Jazmine.
Back l-r: Shona, Sanjot, Niamh, Mia, Sophia, Sophie.
Not forgetting Ben who is not in the picture who
did all the computer presentation.

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

Friday, 15 February 2013

And Somewhere An Owl Hooted

It's true what they say about never throwing any of your old writing away. You just never know...

My three when they were little.
Years and years ago, when my three children were all young, and my writing was in its very early stages, ie, writing loads and getting loads rejected, they liked to help out now and then.

The kids all knew and liked the fact that mum was trying to be a writer, and often encouraged me – especially my son Wayne who would add a line of narrative whenever he found my computer open and I was off probably doing the dishes or making dinner.

Later as I would be reading through my story, I'd find his helpful line that was going to turn my story into a best seller ....And somewhere an owl hooted.

Wayne!!” I'd yell.

It got to be a bit of a standing joke over the years, and he has never got out of the habit of adding his 'catch phrase' whenever he gets the chance. Now donkey's years on with the kids all grown up and flown the nest, and with kids of their own (well two of them) I still find ...And somewhere an owl hooted in whatever I'm working on if he happens to call by and spots my computer open. The most recent time only a few months ago. It just makes me laugh although I wouldn't be surprised if one day I'll be reading through something I've had published and I'll see his handiwork there in print, somehow having escaped my eagle eye.

Thinking back to the very first time he'd added his few words, it was to a story I was working on called Death Lay Waiting which was an adult novel about murder and a kidnapping. After I'd finished it, I sent it off to various publishers. I remember one rejection coming back saying it was too violent and gory and another came back saying it wasn't hard hitting enough. Eventually it got put away in a drawer and I got on with other stuff. Happily that other stuff turned into six books for Scholastic, the first being Cry Danger.

Then about two years ago as I was sorting out my old filing cabinet I came across this slightly yellowing manuscript, with the title Death Lay Waiting. Attached was a review by a writing tutor who I couldn't even remember sending it to. His comments were very encouraging, which made me wonder why I hadn't persevered with it years ago.

I think when you first start out, a rejection letter is a rejection letter. I didn't realise then that I should have taken those editor's comments on board and re-wrote/adjusted or whatever.

However, curious, I re-read my story and realised that it wasn't too bad at all, so I set about re-writing it and bringing it up to date, and off it went again winging its way to another publisher, only to have it rejected again; and then another publisher – who, to my absolute delight, have accepted it!

It's an American publisher who I hadn't heard of, but they seem very keen and there's a contract for hardback and paperback and as an e-book, with an advance – not huge, but still an advance, and decent royalties.

I'm over the moon about it, and just so pleased that a story first written, dare I say it, over twenty years ago, is finally going to see the light of day.

And now that I'm making a start on the proofs, I wonder if I can slip in there somewhere that classic line...And somewhere an owl hooted.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

A Year of Books

My new book - coming soon!!

What sort of books to you like reading? That's a question I often get asked by school children when I'm doing an author visit. Usually I find myself waffling on a bit because I like all kinds of books – children's and adults and often have a few books on the go, so I can always find something to read that suits my mood. Currently I'm reading 61 Hours by Lee Child - a Jack Reacher novel and Lynda La Plante's Bloodline. Very different in style but both gripping in their own way. 

I've also been reading the proofs for my latest children's book, The Trunk, which is being published by Penguin Australia in their Eerie Series under the pseudonym of S.Carey. This was great fun to write and it's exciting to know it will be out soon. A few friends and relatives have asked me 'what's in the trunk?' But I'm not saying. Only my 14 year old grandson, Jake (and Penguin editors) know. I tried the story out on Jake to gauge his reaction, which was. 'Nan! Your mind! I can't stop thinking about it!'
'Good, good', I say rubbing my hands together with glee.

So, looking back over the last 12 months, I thought I'd pick out a dozen or so books that I've read and which have left a lasting impression.

Other recently read books have included Claimed by Vicky Lewis Thompson, a Mills & Boon romance – I've been trying to write a Mills & Boon for years. It was my original ambition when I first got the writing bug. I've had some success with two romances, published by DC Thompson and which are coming out in hard back and large print via other publishers, but the ever illusive M&B still eludes me. 

Everybody Jam by Ali Lewis is another book I've enjoyed over the past year. A friend leant me this book because I needed to get the feel of the Australian outback for The Trunk which is set in a vaguely similar location. So while I'd intended reading it just as research regarding the accents and backdrop I was soon captivated by the story. 

Firstborn, Karen King's delightful dragon book was a really enjoyable read, and was one of the first ebooks I downloaded onto my new kindle at the beginning of 2012. 

Another great children's book which I absolutely loved was Katherine Langrish's Dark Angels, and what was so exciting was that I'd read the book without realising it had been written by Katherine - a fellow member of the Scattered Authors Society. I hadn't looked at the author's name until after I'd finished reading it – doh! It was such a lovely surprise!

Indie book The Survival of Thomas Ford by John A A Logan was another great read. John is a member of Authors Electric which I also belong to, and this was just one of the fantastic reads I've downloaded in e-form over the year.

I bought Pincher Martin by William Golding in a second hand book shop. It was first published in 1958 and is one of those books that sticks in your mind. The beginning absolutely captivated me, the middle almost drove me mad with frustration at the repetition and difficulties the protagonist endured and twice I put it down deciding I couldn't read on. But read on I did and was blown away by he ending – so much so, I will be reading this book again.

I do like Stephen King books and during 2012 I've enjoyed two blockbuster novels of his. Under The Dome being one, and as soon as I'd finished that I started on 11.22.63. Desperate to get through them, but not really wanting them to end, it resulted in reading long into the early hours of the morning instead of sleeping.

Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold. I went to a quirky book 'speed dating' event at my local library, which wasn't dating, but had that same format where instead of telling people about yourself, you chatted for two minutes about your favourite book. One of the ladies couldn't speak highly enough about Girl in a Blue Dress, so I just had to bring it home with me. And it was indeed a great read based around Charles Dickens.

At the same event I heard about Fatherland by Robert Harris, which is all about the German SAS but it's fiction and its setting is Germany after they won the war. Incredibly thought provoking book that I would highly recommend.

And now Hilary Mantel. Her book Beyond Black was the first book of hers I had read – and loved this beautifully written story of troubled psychic Alison. I then read Giving up the Ghost – a memoir, again a fascinating insight into her life. I'd thought mistakenly that I would love anything that she wrote, but discovered this not to be so. The Giant O'Brien is about a poverty stricken Irish giant who goes to London to earn a living by appearing as a freak and I found this story too depressing in its atmosphere and the story itself. I tried the multi award winning Wolf Hall which I found too confusing to continue reading after getting halfway. That said I'll probably love her next book.

So, a year of varied reading. How about you, have you read any good books lately?