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Friday, 5 December 2014

Sapphire Blue - New Book from Karen King.

I'm delighted to welcome to my blog my good friend, multi-published author, Karen King, and to say congratulations on the release today of her latest YA novel - Sapphire Blue.

With more than 125 books to her credit, ranging from picture books to adult romance (under the name Kay Harborne) this is Karen's second young adult novel. It's published by Solstice and has a very distinct supernatural theme to it. 

Karen has also written for many children's magazines including Sindy, Barbie, Winnie the Pooh and Thomas the Tank Engine. In fact she writes for all ages and all genres: story books, picture books, plays, joke books and non-fiction.

I asked Karen a few question – and was really pleased by her first answer... you'll see why!

Q. Placing the story in a spiritual setting is very different from other books you've written. How hard was it to write this and to imagine the locations and backgrounds?

Karen: It was quite a difficult book to write and I kept putting it away and in fact wouldn't have finished it if you and another friend hadn't kept persuading me! Imagining the world and background wasn't too difficult, after all no one knows what the afterlife is like so I could give my imagination free range. What was difficult was working out as things like whether people would still eat, sleep, how they would walk around, would we still have night-time? Also, the story is written in dual viewpoint, from both Sapphire and her boyfriend Will's point of view so I had to try and get into two characters' heads.

Very pleased that my nagging had something to do with you finishing Sapphire Blue, Karen.

Q. The idea of there being different plains when we die is interesting. What inspired that idea? And what inspired you to write Sapphire Blue?

Karen: I've always believed that we live on after we die, that our souls go back to the place we came from, join our friends and family and carry on with our journey. I was talking about this to someone one day and they said that they hoped they didn't forget life on Earth, when they died and that they still had their memories. That started me thinking about what it would be like if you loved someone; would your love still survive in the afterlife? Does everyone go to the same place? It was from this that the idea of Sapphire Blue was born. I started it seven years ago and my synopsis grabbed the attention of a publisher straight away but unfortunately they didn't carry on with their YA fiction list so I shelved it for a while. But the idea wouldn't go away.

So glad the idea didn't go away, Karen.

Q. Sapphire Blue is your second YA book, could you tell the readers something about your first YA book?

Karen: Perfect Summer is set in the not-too distant future when society is so obsessed with perfection that being different in any way is considered a crime. Morgan, the heroine, has a younger brother, Josh, with Down's syndrome and she and her family are under a lot of pressure to have him put away in a home, so life is tough for Morgan. Whereas her best friend, Summer, seems to have a perfect life. Then Josh goes missing and in her quest to find him Morgan encounters great danger and discovers that Summer's life isn't so perfect after all.

I've read Perfect Summer – it's a great book. I know when Karen goes into schools, the story provokes much debate amongst the students. I think Sapphire Blue will do likewise!

Q. With more than 125 books published, what advice would you give to anyone just starting to write.

Karen: Read, read, read so that you're aware of the current market, then write the story that is buzzing around in your head shouting to get out.

Q. Finally, what's next in the pipeline for you?

Karen: I'm working on a few different things but finishing my romance novel and writing the series I'm doing with you is top of my list.

So glad you said that, Karen! Good luck with all your writing projects and especially Sapphire Blue.

Sapphire Blue – Blurb

Can love survive death?
No one has ever walked out of Red. Once the Soul Catchers get you they don’t let you go.” Denny’s words scare me but I have no choice. If Will is in Red that’s where I have to go.
I’ve never really thought what it was like when you died. I’m only 16, too young to worry about that. At least I thought I was. I’ve heard about Heaven and Hell, of course, but it doesn’t look like I’m in either of them. All I know is that Will is here too and I need to find him. I can’t face spending eternity without him.

Sapphire Blue – Extract

Everywhere Will turns all he can see is mist. It’s inside his head too, wrapping around his mind, stopping him from thinking straight.
He tries to shake the mist away, to find a fragment of memory that will tell him who he is, where he is. But there’s nothing. His mind is a complete blank. He can’t even remember his name.
He squints as a shape starts to form in the mist. It’s a man.
The man strides purposefully as if he’s heading somewhere in particular and needs to get there fast.
You okay, mate?”
Will shakes his head. “I can’t remember anything. Where am I?”
The man pauses and looks around. “No one meeting you?”
Will frowns, trying to remember. Why would someone be meeting him? “I don’t think so,” he stammers. “Should they be?”
Sometimes they do.” The man’s tone is casual. He shrugs. “You’d better come with me then.”
Will doesn’t know what else to do, so he follows the man. He has to quicken his pace to keep up with this stranger’s long, effortless strides and constantly looks around, trying to get some idea where they are. After a while the mist starts to fade and Will sees that they’re crossing what looks like barren wasteland. Rugged cliffs jut up along each side, gnarled trees and bushes dot the landscape here and there, and a buzzard caws as it flies overhead. It’s eerie. There’s no one around except him and the man yet Will feels like he’s being watched. Stalked almost.
Where are we going?” he demands, fear making his voice sound shrill. “Who are you and where the hell am I?”
The man turns around. “You really don’t remember, do you?”
Something about the way he says the words sends an icicle of fear down Will’s spine. “Remember what?”
The man holds out his hand, it’s long, thin and bony. “Take my hand.”
Will stares at the outstretched hand not wanting to touch it.
Take it if you want to remember. Or leave it if you don’t. It’s all the same to me.”
Will hesitates, a terrible feeling of foreboding seizing him. What is it he has to remember? He’s sure it’s something he’s not going to like. But he has to find out. He needs to know who he is, where he is, what he’s doing here. He takes a deep breath, reaches out and grasps the man’s hand.
Immediately, a bright light explodes across his forehead. He gasps and tries to pull his hand away but the man grips it tight, his nails digging into Will’s flesh. The light fades and pictures flash across his mind like a horror slide show. He’s getting in a car, a girl’s singing, a huge tree zooms in so close that he instinctively step back then there’s a big bang. Now the girl’s lying motionless, blood oozing out of a gap in her forehead, her neck bent at an awkward angle, her eyes open, staring. Will draws in his breath, his hand pressing across his forehead as his memory floods back and his heart shatters into jagged smithereens that puncture him inside. The girl is Sapphire, his girlfriend. He’d just passed his driving test and was taking them for a drive when he crashed.
He killed her. He killed Sapphire.

Twitter: @karen_king

Please visit my website: http:www.annevansbooks.co.uk
Take a peep at three of my latest books:
Any teenage reluctant readers in the family?

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A nice Halloween read.... by Ann Evans

If you enjoy the sort of read that sends a shiver up the spine, you might enjoy The Uninvited. It's an ideal Halloween read as there's a nice vampire-ish feel to it.

The idea for this story came about when I worked at the Coventry Telegraph. I remember spotting a headline about a man who discovered he had someone living in his attic. It seems they'd lived there for ages and he'd never known.

It made me think about those noises in the attic that we hear from time to time. Probably it's just birds... probably.

In The Uninvited, my main character, Katie is told by her very unfriendly cousin, Vanessa and their granddad who Katie has to stay with while her mum's in hospital, that it's bats. But it doesn't sound like bats, it sounds like footsteps... and sometimes it sounds like someone whispering.

There's a strange atmosphere in the old bake-house where granddad and Vanessa live. Granddad used to be bossy and loud and Vanessa used to be good fun. True enough she loved to tell creepy stories, but Katie used to love that. Only now it's very different.

Granddad seems a broken man, he's a shadow of himself. And it seems to Katie that he's actually afraid of Vanessa. And as for Vanessa, she's gone weird – all Gothic, but she's become nasty and spiteful.

She's preparing a party for herself – a surprise party. But when Katie asks how she can prepare a surprise party for yourself, Vanessa says, “Wait and see what the surprise is....”

Here's an extract:

Your Grandfather is a good man - a kind man… deep down.”
Katie’s mother’s words echoed in her mind as the taxi neared the old bake-house. Well, he hadn’t been kind enough to meet her off the train, nor had Vanessa, which was odd.
Even though Katie was eighteen months younger than her cousin they had always been the best of friends. It was funny she hadn’t been at the station if Granddad had been too busy to meet her. Although her train had been delayed due to some problem on the line.
Oh well!” Katie sighed as the taxi left Witchaven village and threaded its way towards the isolated bake-house. Vanessa was probably out with friends and Granddad was probably at some meeting or other. He was always involved in committees. He liked organising, giving orders, shouting, bossing people around.
He’s a good man…”
Katie felt suddenly homesick. She hated leaving her mum in hospital, but with her being so ill, Granddad was the only relative to care for her.
Her cousin Vanessa had lived with Granddad and Nanna since she was a toddler. Her parents had been killed in a car crash, so they’d brought her up. But now Nan was dead too. She’d died suddenly from a heart attack at Christmas.
Katie thought back to her last visit here, seven months ago the funeral. It had been the saddest, most awful visit here to Witchaven. Poor Vanessa had been broken-hearted. Granddad had been his usual self though, stiff upper lip, not shedding a tear.
Poor Vanessa, Katie thought as the taxi pulled up outside the bake-house and she clambered out and paid her fare. Stuck with bossy old Granddad.
He was an ex sergeant major, big and loud with a voice that made your ears ring. He was always telling people what to do, bossing them about. She and Vanessa used to giggle at the way his white handlebar moustache would twitch when he barked out his orders. Although sometimes he would get so high and mighty that the only one who dared answer back was Nanna.
For as long as Katie could remember he had been involved in village life. Her mum described him as a pillar of society. Katie guessed he liked bossing committees about too.
She stood for a moment as the taxi drove away. The house was almost shrouded by the oaks, elms and chestnut trees of Oatmeal Woods. On holidays in the past she and Vanessa would go exploring in the woods, which was fun, even if Vanessa did enjoy scaring her with spooky stories about the mystical characters that lived deep in the woodland.
Katie’s gaze switched to the imposing red bricked building. It was centuries old with its huge mill wheel, like the walls, smothered in creeping ivy. Her eyes were drawn to the doorway at the top of the house the miller’s doorway where sacks of grain would, long ago, be hauled up for grinding. She and Vanessa often played in the attic – it used to worry Katie’s mum in case they accidentally fell through the doorway. But they always had such fun up there, even if they did end up dusty with old flour.
Looking forward to seeing Vanessa again, Katie rattled the heavy brass door knocker hoping her cousin would be home. Granddad was so overbearing and loud, he made her nervous.
But she was beginning to think no one was home, as it was minutes before the door finally creaked slowly open. Smoky the cat emerged first and wrapped itself around Katie’s ankles. And then Granddad appeared.
Granddad?” Katie exclaimed, startled by his appearance. He seemed smaller than she remembered. The same thick white hair, the same white handlebar moustache, but his shoulders were hunched and there was a look in his eyes which startled her. A haunted look.
He stared at her for some moments, his pale eyes blank as if his thoughts were far, far away. Finally he exclaimed: “Katie! I’d forgotten. Come in, come in.”
He drew back his shoulders and studied her like a sergeant inspecting his troops. That was more like it, Katie thought, more like his usual self.
You’ve grown!” he stated. “Still skinny though. How’s your mother?”
She… she was quite poorly when I left the hospital,” Katie answered, then afraid she might start crying which he would never stand for, she changed the subject quickly. “How are you, Granddad?”
Me? Never better. And you’re not to worry about your mother. She’s a strong woman. Now come along, I’ll get you something to eat. I imagine you’re just like your cousin, eat like a horse and never put an ounce on.”
Katie frowned. “I don’t remember Vanessa having a big appetite.”
A muscle twitched in his cheek. “Since … since your nan passed away, probably her way of compensating.”
His shoulders slumped again and he shuffled rather than marched down the cool tiled hallway into the kitchen. Katie thought how old and weary he looked.
He cut her a chunk of quiche and sliced up a tomato. “There you go! Can’t have you starving. I’ll make us a pot of tea.”
Thank you,” Katie said, trying to smile. He was making an effort to appear his old self, but it was an effort. She had already glimpsed the old man he’d become. A stooped old man with a haunted faraway look in his eyes. No longer a man to be feared - more a man to be pitied.
Where’s Vanessa, Granddad? I can’t wait to see her again.”
A teacup slipped from his hands and smashed on the red stone floor. As he stooped to clear away the broken china, Katie saw the expression on his face – that same strange, haunted look.
Let me help you,” Katie offered, but he dismissed her offer with a flap of his hand.
I can manage, eat your supper. Your cousin’s probably upstairs in her room.”
Katie sank back into her chair, feeling confused and lost and lonely. She was missing home, missing her mum. She wished Vanessa would come down. There wouldn’t be this awful atmosphere if Vanessa was around.
Vanessa was fun, she could always make her laugh or make her shiver. Vanessa was the best storyteller ever, and there was nothing Katie liked better than curling up under the duvet while Vanessa told her some dark and mysterious tale of witches and goblins.
She tried to eat, but the food felt dry in her mouth. It was strange too without Nanna pottering around. In fact everything was strange.
The silence between her and her granddad went on forever. Finally in an attempt to lighten the mood, she ventured, “Are you still involved with your committees, Granddad?”
Oh yes, most certainly,” he answered, brightening instantly. “I’m Chairman of the Parish Council and on the Board of School Governors. Oh yes and a magistrate now too.”
As he spoke his expression became animated, no longer a cowering old man, his back straightened even his moustache seemed to bristle.
Wow! How do you get time for all that?” Katie asked, preferring him in this mood. She didn’t know that stooped old man at all.
I never idle my time away. Life’s too precious to…” his voice trailed away, and he struggled to finish what he was saying. “…to waste.”
He had to be thinking about Nanna. He probably missed her more than he would admit. Katie wondered if she should give him a hug, but she didn’t dare, so she remained seated and said softly, “Nanna had a happy life…”
Nanna?” He frowned, as if he hadn’t a clue what she was talking about. Then, “Ah yes, your nan, fine woman. Well I must get on. Twilight meeting at the Town Hall. We’re getting close to the election of the town mayor.”
Katie lowered her eyes. No, he hadn’t changed. His committee work was still the most important thing in his life. She must have imagined that haunted look.
She forced herself to appear cheerful. “So who’s going to be elected mayor? I can’t imagine anyone more suitable that you.”
His pale eyes suddenly sparkled. “Well, between you and me, I’ve heard I’m in the running.”
That’s good,” Katie replied, pleased to see his craggy face break into a real smile. But just as swiftly, it vanished. The sparkle died in his eyes and in slunk that stooped, haunted look again. Only this time he seemed to shrink before her eyes, curling up, like a beaten dog, cowering before its master.
Granddad!” Katie cried, jumping to her feet. “What’s wrong?”
Then a prickling sensation at the nape of her neck warned her that they were no longer alone. She spun around.
Standing in the doorway, was Vanessa.
She was dressed in black. Black from head to toe. A long floating black skirt that reached her ankles and a fine black shirt that hung loosely from her thin shoulders with a black top beneath it. Her raven hair had grown longer and she wore it loose, framing a face that was almost pure white – except for her blood red lipstick. There was no hint of her overeating to compensate for losing her nan. She was tall and willowy and beautiful.
Although the dramatic Gothic appearance of her cousin surprised Katie, she ran and threw her arms around her. “Vanessa, it’s brilliant to see you again!”
But Vanessa stood rigid, arms at her sides, expressionless. Projecting an aura of cold, stark bleakness that left Katie feeling uncomfortable and unwelcome.
You’re here then,” said Vanessa, her voice flat, emotionless as Katie stepped awkwardly away from her cousin. “Didn’t Granddad tell you? This isn’t a good time.”
The icy welcome shocked Katie. “But, there’s nowhere else, no one else…” She looked to her granddad for support.
The old man mumbled inaudibly, lowering his head, avoiding Katie’s gaze. Confused, she looked back at her cousin.
Vanessa’s darkly rimmed eyes were icy blue. “Well, just don’t expect things to be like they were. Nothing’s the way it was.” She glared at the old man. “Is it, Granddad?”
Without a word he shuffled towards the sink, shoulders slumped, head bent, a pathetic shadow of himself. Vanessa flicked back her hair, looking triumphant.
Katie stared at them both, shocked by how things had changed. Their roles had been reversed. Vanessa was the domineering one now and Granddad was a trembling wreck under her power.
What on earth had happened here?

The Uninvited is available from Amazon:

If you enjoy The Uninvited, you might also enjoy Celeste. A time slip mystery set in my home city of Coventry in the present day and in the Medieval past.

Both books are published by Astraea Press.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Romance writer turns to crime!

Michelle Kelly 
I'm very pleased to welcome author Michelle Kelly to my blog today. Michelle is talking about her latest book, a crime novel entitled When I Wasn't Watching. Michelle also writes romance and erotic fiction under the name of Kelly Lawrence.

I asked Michelle how she first got into writing. Here's what she said:

“I've been writing stories since I was tiny really. I used to write them for my friends at school when I should have been working! I've only been writing professionally for just under two years however. I was made redundant from my job as a literacy teacher and I thought 'now's the time to give this thing a go.' I was really lucky, or perhaps it was Fate; I had an agent and my first book deal within six weeks of making that decision.”

Her first book, Wicked Games was released in June 2013. It's an erotic romance published by Black Lace. “I caught the market at the right time, in the wake of the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon,” added Michelle.

“After Wicked Games I got a contract to write a series of novellas for Mills and Boon. As a reader however, crime is my first love. Then I was reading an article about the recent re-release of a notorious teenage child murderer, and the characters and main plot for When I Wasn't Watching just came into my head. It was a story I just had to write, and I was about a third of the way in when I realised 'this is the stuff I really want to be writing.' I still write romance though, my latest novella Borgia Heat is published in November.

Michelle's crime novel is set in her home city of Coventry and I wondered if that made things easier or more tricky for her when writing the book.

“It was easier in that I knew my setting, but difficult in some ways,” said Michelle. “Knowing what to keep and what to change, and there's always the worry of offending someone...”

Asked what she was working on at the moment, Michelle said: “I've just finished the first round of edits on my first cozy mystery Murder at the Yoga Cafe. It's the first in a series and will be released in the US next year by St Martins Press. I'm now in the planning stages for my second crime novel, a loose sequel to When I Wasn't Watching.”

Wishing Michelle every success for her future books, here's some info about When I Wasn't Watching and a short extract.

Every parent’s worst nightmare… 

About When I Wasn't Watching.

Eight years ago, Lucy and Ethan Randall’s little boy, Jack, was abducted and murdered by teenager Terry Prince. A moment’s distraction had ripped a family apart – and with the loss of their son came the collapse of the Randalls’ marriage. Tortured by memories, Lucy was left to battle her grief while raising her remaining son alone.
Now, Jack’s killer has walked free, giving him the second chance at life that little Jack never had. Lucy’s wounds newly opened, her world is turned upside down a second time when another child goes missing – and she can’t shake the suspicion that Prince has struck again.
When DI Matt Winston, the same officer who found Jack’s body, is assigned to the case, the echoes of Lucy’s past grow ever more insistent. Bound by their tragic shared experiences, Matt and Lucy grow closer – and become fixated on bringing the culprit to justice. But now history has repeated itself, answers seem even further out of reach. And for Lucy, it’s time to face her ghosts, and ask the most terrible question of all: can she ever really forgive herself?

When the phone had rung Lucy had expected it to be Susan from work. They had arranged a movie night on Saturday and she had been looking forward to it; even treating herself to a new pair of jeans. So she answered cheerfully enough, then frowned as a throat cleared on the other end of the line before asking, after a slight hesitation, for Mrs Randall. She paused before realising the voice was asking for her.
It’s Ms Wyatt now,’ she said firmly. There was after all a new Mrs Randall. ‘I got divorced five years ago.’
I do apologise.’ It was a male voice, quite official sounding and also, Lucy thought, nervous. As soon as she thought it a sense of dread twisted low in her belly.
But you were Mrs Lucy Randall? Jack Randall’s mother?’
Lucy felt as though her throat was full of sand as she spoke.
Yes, who is this?’
She hoped to God it wasn’t the press. They had hung around enough in the days after Jack’s death and the weeks leading up to the trial, and then again when Ethan had left her. They had been sympathetic but still intrusive and she had always refused to comment, an instinctive need for privacy taking precedence over the urge to talk, to share and to rail against the injustices Fate had dealt her. But why on earth would it all be dragged up now?
Lucy realised she was gripping the phone so hard her knuckles were white, and she couldn’t process the words coming through.
Until she heard ‘Parole Board’ and her guts twisted further.
Ethan and herself had been asked to attend a meeting with them a few months before, but she had let Ethan deal with it. Afterwards, he had seemed pretty certain that the general consensus was that Terry Prince wasn’t getting out any time soon. But then Ethan always had the knack of hearing exactly what he wanted to hear and no more.
I’m sorry, can you repeat that please?’ Lucy said, her voice sounding far away. Inside she was screaming no no no, because she didn’t want to hear what she suddenly already knew.

If you'd like to read more or buy When I Wasn't Watching, here's the Amazon link: 

Thank you Michelle.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Welcome Kay Harborne alias Karen King.

I'm very pleased to welcome back my good friend, author Karen King. Today however, she's under the guise of Kay Harborne – her pseudonym for her romantic novels. Laren will be telling us about her latest romance Never Say Forever.

Karen has written around 120 children's books – ranging from beautiful picture books for little toddlers, through to joke books, novelty books, bedtime story books and adventure and mystery novels. She also writes for young adults.

Her first YA book, Perfect Summer is set just a little in the future when society is so obsessed with perfection that the government gives grants for plastic surgery. The book was runner up in the Red Telephone Books YA Novel 2011 competition. The controversial story is proving a lively topic for debate when Karen visits senior schools around the country.

She has also written for many children's comics and magazines, including Jackie, Sindy, Barby, Winnie the Pooh and Thomas the Tank Engine.

As Kay Harborne she has written several romance stories for women's magazines. Her romantic novel, The Millionaire Plan was nominated for the RONE Award earlier this year.

Being such a prolific writer, Karen is also an experienced writing tutor and currently tutors for The Writers' Bureau. This year she was also delighted to accept the invitation to become Patron of Reading for Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College, Worcester.

Her latest book, Never Say Forever was originally published as a People’s Friend Pocket Novel, then in large print by Linford Romance, and has most recently been published by Astraea Press.
I'm pleased to be able to feature it here:

Never Say Forever blurb
Do you follow your dream or follow your heart?
That’s the decision Kendall McKenzie has to make when she meets hunky businessman Jake Newman. It’s obvious that he’s as attracted to her as she is to him. But Kendall has vowed to never get married – and it seems that Jake, too, is determined to never commit. When the two are together however sparks fly and it’s obvious to everyone except themselves that they’re meant to be together. Can Kendall trust Jake enough to give him her heart? And if she does will she have to say goodbye to her dream?

He turned and saw an open door leading into the kitchen where Kendall, her back towards him, was unplugging the kettle. She was wearing a neat, grey, pinstriped suit, the jacket tapering in at the waist and the skirt finishing just above the knee, with enough of a slit to reveal her very shapely legs.
She turned around and smiled at him, and his heart missed a beat. She was incredibly pretty and fresh, even at this early hour. Her glowing hair was loosely tied back from her face, which was bare of make--‐ up apart from a touch of lipstick, and her eyes were bright and sparkling, as if she’d had a restful night’s sleep.
OK, I’m ready now. I’ve just got to get my suitcase out of the bedroom.”
Here was where he was supposed to tell her that she was staying at the Birmingham office, that he didn’t need her in Spain, after all. But the words wouldn’t come. He might not need her in Spain with him, but he definitely wanted her there.
Ouch!” Kendall’s cry of pain interrupted his thoughts. He dashed down the hall and saw her bending down, rubbing the back of her leg, the suitcase on the floor behind her.
Are you all right?” he asked, worried. His eyes rested on the hole in her tights and the bruise already forming. “That looks nasty,” he said sympathetically.
She flushed. “The case was heavier than I thought. I stumbled and caught the back of my leg with it. I’ll be fine. I just need to change my tights.”
I’ll wait in the car for you.” He effortlessly picked up the heavy suitcase. “And we’re all right for a few minutes if you want to put some ice on that bruise.” Without waiting for an answer, he carried the suitcase out the front door.
Maybe he was the one who needed the ice, he thought, as he took the case down to the car. The sight of Kendall’s bare skin peeping through the hole in her tights and hint of cleavage as she’d bent down to rub her leg had certainly made his temperature rise.
Don’t even think about it, he warned himself as he pressed the remote to open the car boot. This was a business trip, and he had to keep it that way. He never mixed business with pleasure and he wasn’t about to start now. Not even with Kendall McKenzie.
Especially not with Kendall McKenzie.


It was only as she walked into the car park at the back of the flats that Kendall realised she didn’t know what sort of car Jake drove, but the sleek, midnight--‐ blue sedan just had to be his. She was a bit taken aback when he got out, walked around,
and opened the passenger door for her. Not many guys did that nowadays.
Thank you,” she said as she slid onto the leather seat.
My pleasure.” There was a hint of teasing in his reply, as if he knew he’d surprised her.
Love the car,” she said as he got in beside her.
He flashed her a smile. “I quite like it too.”
It might have been better if you’d got someone to drop us off at the airport so they could take the car back,” she suggested. “I wouldn’t risk leaving a car like this parked at the airport.”
ʺI’m not. I’ve left a spare set of keys with my chauffeur. He’ll pick it up later this morning then drive it home for me. It didn’t seem fair to drag him out of bed this early.”
He’s a nice guy, Kendall thought, kind and considerate yet rich and successful. In her experience, the qualities didnʹt always mix.
As they drove along, she was acutely aware of his presence beside her, of his strong hands holding the wheel casually but firmly, of his left hand reaching down to change gears effortlessly and smoothly, just a few centimetres from her knee.
How long did you teach in Thailand?” he asked her. “I spent a bit of time over there myself a couple of years ago. It’s a beautiful country.”
I was there for a year.” She was glad of the diversion. “I taught in a school in Chiang Mai.”
For the rest of the journey they spoke about Thailand and some of the other countries they had both visited, and she realised that he was actually very easy to talk to with a good sense of humour. She was almost sorry when they arrived at the airport; she’d enjoyed his company so much.
Careful, she told herself. I bet he’s as charming as this with all the women he meets. She knew he had a reputation for collecting beautiful girlfriends — Tanya had hinted as much at the engagement party. He was the eternal bachelor. Well, she was the eternal bachelor girl, wasn’t she? She could handle Jake Newman, even if he did make her go all goose-bumpy

Buy Never Say Forever via these links

Read more about Kay Harborne and Karen King at:

Twitter: @karen_king

Thursday, 14 August 2014

A Little Romance

As well as writing children's books, I am quite partial to writing a nice romance every now and then. In fact when I first started writing 30 odd years ago, it was romances that I particularly wanted to write. At the time I joined The Romantic Novelists Association (RNA) as a probationer, and went along to a couple of their events.

There was a weekend in Bournmouth where I heard author Mary Wibberley, talk and recall being absolutely awe inspired by her. I bought her guide on writing romance, To Writers with Love which she signed for me.

I was saddened to learn that she passed away in December last year. She'd written almost 50 books for Mills & Boon, the first being Black Niall in 1973.

When my writing went in the direction of children's books and non fiction, romance got put on the back burner for some 20 years. Then a couple of years ago, I caught the romance-writing bug again and finally got two romances published as floppies with My Weekly and People's Friend – and then in large print and ebooks.

This all rekindled my interest in writing romance, and I re-joined the RNA, this time as a full member. Good friend and fellow author Karen King – who writes romance under the name of Kay Harborne joined at the same time, and in July this year we went along to their annual conference, which was superb.

It was held at the Harper Adams University, Telford and for the three days we were treated to a packed programme of talks and workshops by top romance authors, publishers, editors, agents and other professionals. At each period there was always a choice of three different session to attend, so you were just spoilt for choice as to who you were going to be inspired by next!

Gala Dinner starter!

Food and drink was wonderful – it was good to see they recognised the fact that writers like to eat and drink! There was a free drinks party before dinner on the first night - courtesy of Independent Publishing at Amazon. And they again provided lots of free wine the following night before the gala dinner.

Author Pamela Hartshorne gave a fascinating talk.

There was also an opportunity to have a one-to-one with editors and agents, which you pre-booked and submitted some work beforehand that you wanted feedback or comments from. 

All these slots were quickly nabbed, and I think everyone there really appreciated the opportunity of talking about their latest masterpiece with a possible publisher, or agent.

A little pre-dinner drink with Karen King.

Everybody was networking, exchanging emails, phone numbers and business cards. And a few new friendships sprang up too, no doubt.

It was just such a great three days – and if the RNA is an organisation that you think would interest you, then I'd recommend you take a look and see what they have to offer. As well as conferences and get togethers, they have annual awards and lots of other activities going on.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Samantha Clarke talks about A History of Caludon Castle.

I'm extending a warm welcome to Samantha Clarke on my blog today. As well as being the assistant editor on the fascinating academically researched non-fiction book, A History of Caludon Castle – The Lords of the Manor of Caludon she's also a friend and colleague from the good old days of working at the Coventry Telegraph.

Before chatting about the book I asked Sam about her career in journalism and whether it had always been her ambition to go into this line of work. Here's what she said:

“I wanted to be a journalist from a very early age. My father was a journalist and he'd tell me all these exciting tales. I also developed an interest in local news very early on. I remember a careers talk at school when I was about 11 or 12 and the careers advisor asked all of us if we knew what we wanted to do. When I told her I wanted to be a journalist I remember she said: 'What's your name? I'll look out for you in the Coventry Telegraph in 15 years time.' I started there 12 years later. I always wondered whether she did remember my name and look for my by-line.”

Sam worked on the Coventry Telegraph for many years, in fact we sat two desks apart! I asked her about the best and worst parts of working there. 

“I could highlight so many 'best parts' I started at the Telegraph at the age of 24, having previously trained at the Rugby Observer for four years, working my way up to Deputy Editor. I'm very much a people person and I believe there is no better profession to get the opportunity to mix with people from all walks of life. I really enjoyed 'people' stories and have met such inspiring individuals along the way.

"Over 12 years on newspapers I covered everything from local fairs to murders and sudden deaths among children. It sounds morbid but the tragic stories were always my favourites as without exception, despite prior nerves when door-knocking, I always received good vibes from people and in a lot of cases the families would thank me for listening. I almost felt like I'd helped them to open up and share their grief. I received a lot of thank you letters along the way and have kept all of them to this day.

“Also I would argue that I worked in newspapers during the glory years. I have made some excellent friends for life along the way. Perhaps contrary to common belief journalists are a great bunch of people and I had the privilege of working with some really talented, inspiring individuals. I still see them now, almost seven years after leaving the newspaper.”

As for the worst parts, Sam said, “The worst part - especially when I worked on the Rugby Observer, which was a weekly newspaper, would be following a good story over a few days
and preparing it for the following week's newspaper, only to have certain developments kill the story before it gets into the press. That was so frustrating!”

Talking about A History of Caludon Castle, Sam said, “It is actually my father's book and had been in the pipeline for many years. It was during his time as a pupil at Caludon Castle School where
he became fascinated with this mysterious ruin. Both my father and I grew up in the same house in the shadows of the castle. He had played in Caludon Park as a young boy and both he and my grandfather Jack very often took me there when I was a little girl. As I grew older I too became fascinated by it but until now little was known about its history as it wasn't very well documented.

“I became involved in the book by accident. About three years ago, having watched the book slowly all come together and hearing my Dad speak of the latest findings, I asked if I could read it. Perhaps due to my background in journalism I found myself proof-reading, rather than reading the book. As I got more into the proof-reading I found it an extremely enjoyable experience and a real learning curve. I haven't read it since it's been published but I am looking forward to reading it as a
reader, as opposed to a proof-reader.”

I suggested to Sam that it must have taken an awful lot of research. She explained, “The book was researched by two professional historians – George Demidowicz and Stephen Johnson. George had been the Building Conservation Officer for Coventry City Council for over two decades and
was also the head of the Conservation and Archaeology Team. Prior to his involvement in the book George had also been involved in repairs of Caludon's ruins. Stephen had previously been the Administrator of the Manorial Society for Great Britain before becoming an independent historical researcher in 2001.

“The book received some great support from the Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, whose ancestors lived at the castle. While the book was being put together my father, along with George and Stephen, made a number of visits to Lord Clifford's home - Ugbrooke Park in Devon - where they were allowed access to historical documents relating to Caludon and dating back to the 1220s. These were invaluable and took the book to a whole, exciting new level. I'm not sure how long George and Stephen worked on the book but I first met them both back in about 2008 and it was already well underway then.It has been a real labour of love on all sides.”

Sam reported that the team behind the publication of the book have been pleasantly surprised by the way it's been received. “We have received an excellent response to the book - with demand far
higher than we had expected. We thought orders would come primarily from residents who had grown up in the vicinity of Caludon Park but we've taken orders from all over - including one from New Zealand! The press showed great interest too with a fantastic feature in the Coventry
Telegraph and a great review in the Birmingham Post. We have been delighted with the response.”

“I had never edited a book before. It was a real learning curve for me and a fantastic experience. I went on to create the index as well which from memory was 2,000 words alone. This was painstaking but again a great experience which has given me another string to my bow. Since undertaking the Caludon project I have found a new skill which I love. I've since joined the SfEP as an Associate Member and am looking to train as a proof reader / editor. It's very early days but I can't wait to see what this new chapter may hold.

Read more by following this link:

A History of Caludon Castle - The Lords of the Manor of Caludon.
The book is academically researched and is the only book solely dedicated to Caludon and its manor and traces the history from the 1200s through to the present day.

It contains 220 pages, with 76,000 words and 110 illustrations, with references to Caludon's links with royalty and William Shakespeare.

The book marks the fulfilment of John Clarke's lifelong ambition which sought to unravel the 800 year-old history of the castle.

The book received sponsorship from Shortland Horne Residential Ltd.

Publisher John Edward Clarke OBE
Author and Editor George Demidowicz
Co-author Stephen Johnson
Assistant Editor Samantha Clarke

To purchase the book, or for more details contact Century PR on 024 7622 8881.