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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.  

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Welcome Nata Romeo and her début picture book, Alphabet Wildlife A to Z

Today I'm welcoming author, illustrator, blogger, and freelance writer, Nata Romeo. Nata is talking about her début picture book, Alphabet Wildlife A to Z which she has written, illustrated and published herself.

Nata is originally from Toronto, Canada, has lived in Italy for a while then graduated school from the Art Institute and ended up in Philadelphia, PA. She's the proud mother of three children whose ages range, 28, 25 and 8. She works full time as a special needs classroom assistant for the School District of Philadelphia.

She says that creativity and inspiration derive from her kids, and also being among hundreds of elementary students on a daily basis.

Talking about the inspiration behind creating this book, Nata says that she has always wanted to be a writer and illustrator for as long as she could remember.  “I love the power of creativity," she says. "The Sketchbook Project 2014, part of the Brooklyn Art Library inspired me to write and illustrate this book. This is my third year participating with them. The original drawings are in that sketchbook, which is housed in their library. I always wanted to write an alphabet book!”

Amazingly, when she fractured her dominant hand earlier this year, she became aware that she was ambidextrous and never knew it! She says, “Now I can alternate between the two and have two unique styles of drawings. Actually, the Lion book art was illustrated with lefty, while the animals in the book were illustrated with righty. So yeah, no matter what life throws your way, pick yourself up and find a way to continue what you love to do!”

Asked why she decided to self-publish her first book with CreateSpace, she explained, “The beauty of self-publishing with CreateSpace is that you can easily edit your book. I wanted to have the freedom to make all the decisions on how the book looks. I have to admit that it was very stressing along the way. The formatting was always off! Fortunately, my son the computer genius always comes to my rescue and saves me from self-destruction! Ha Ha!”

Nata is currently revising another children’s book about Moon Trees, and illustrating it as well. She says her favourite illustration medium is combining watercolour, and pen and ink. “I love having the freedom of colours blending into other colours, creating unique effects. Detailed pen and ink is a form of de-stressing!”

She has this advice for writers /illustrators. “Read, read, read, what you want to write. Learn to storyboard/dummies to see if your story flows. Join SCBWI, go to workshops, and join critique groups. Not only will your writing improve, but you will meet other talented writers and illustrators that also share your passion.

Also, if you decide to self-publish, please avoid making the mistake I did! After my book was approved by CreateSpace and up for sale, someone I look up to and admire messaged me and pointed out that there was a typo! I thanked her soooooooo much! I immediately fixed the BOO BOO!”

Blurb - Alphabet Wildlife A to Z invites young readers into an enchanting world of animals.

Paperback: 32 pages
ISBN-10: 1496172175
ISBN-13: 978-1496172174
The book is available in print and kindle format.
Purchase from:

Find out more at her website: www.nataromeo.com

Or via social media:

And please visit my website at: www.annevansbooks.co.uk

Friday, 18 July 2014

Welcome author Ariella Moon talking about her latest YA novel, Spell Struck.

Over the next few months I'll be bringing you some different authors and their new releases here on my blog. Today I'm delighted to welcome Ariella Moon who is talking about her latest YA book, SPELL STRUCK – Book 2 of THE TEEN WYTCHE SAGA.

Ariella Moon is the author of the Teen Wytche Saga, a sweet Young Adult paranormal series. Ariella writes about magic, friendship, high school, secrets, and love in Spell Check, Spell Struck, and Spell Fire from Astraea Press.

Ariella spent her childhood searching for a magical wardrobe that would transport her to Narnia. Extreme maths anxiety, and taller students who mistook her for a leaning post, marred her youth. Despite these horrors, she graduated summa cum laude from the University of California at Davis. Ariella is a Reiki Master, author, and shaman. She lives a nearly normal life with her extraordinary daughter, two shamelessly spoiled dogs, and an enormous dragon.

When goth outcast Salem Miller casts a love spell on Halloween night, she asks for a boy who is handsome, magical, and artistic. She doesn’t count on Fate sending Aidan Cooper.

As a child, Aidan thought he was being rescued, not abducted. Now fifteen and homeless, he realizes he was taken because of his Gypsy blood. His kidnappers believe he’ll lead them to the Grey Grimoire, a valuable gypsy spell book. Madness. The book doesn’t even exist.

Or does it?

Salem is charged with fixing a half-destroyed spell book, her last hope for saving her sister. Amy attempted suicide and the meds aren’t helping. Maybe a powerful Get Well Spell will cure her.

Aidan’s kidnappers will kill to attain the Grey Grimoire. But if he destroys it, Salem will hate him. Either way, he loses. Again.


Aidan lowered his hand. His finger pressed against my skin, shooting a delicious tingle up my arm. When I didn’t move away, he hooked his finger over mine. My breath caught. We stayed, frozen, hyper-focused, for what seemed like three lifetimes. Then Aidan trailed his fingertips across the back of my hand. The soundtrack, popcorn smells, and theater audience melted into the background. The world narrowed down to the unspoken grief and need entangled in Aidan’s touch.
I rotated my hand so my palm faced upward. Aidan hesitated. Our gazes locked in the flickering light. The spell link humming between us lit up like blue lightning. At least I think it was the spell link. Aidan plunged his fingers between mine. Our palms pressed together, igniting a current. Air shuddered from my lungs. Magic rippled from us in successive waves.
My heart stuttered. My breath ceased. Every cell within me vibrated. Troops of fairies or dragonflies took flight in my lower abdomen. It’s possible blue lightning shot from my boots.
Good thing I wasn’t holding the popcorn.

Spell Struck Video
What if the one person who saw through your lies and loved you anyway, harbored a secret that could cost you everything?

You can buy Ariella Moon's SPELL STRUCK via:

Ariella loves to hear from her readers. You can reach her at:


And please visit my website: www.annevansbooks.co.uk

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Welcome to author Karen King

Today I'm delighted to welcome my good friend, author Karen King to my blog.
Living only about 25 miles away from each other, we often go to writing events together, and we run a double whammy schools Author Visit project which we call KAT. This stands for Kids and Authors Together. It also, incidentally, stands for Karen and Ann Together!
Karen has had around a hundred and twenty children’s books published. She’s also written for many children's magazines including Jackie, Sindy, Barbie, Winnie the Pooh and Thomas the Tank EngineShe writes for all ages and in all genres; story books, picture books, plays, joke books and non-fiction. As well as her children's books, she has written some short stories for women’s magazines and has had two romance novels published under the name of Kay Harborne.
There's so much to say about Karen. She has a BA with the Open University, a Certificate In Education, a HNC in Media and many years of experience as a writing tutor. She was a part time lecturer on the MA in Professional Writing course and the BA Illustration course at the University College, Falmouth for many years, where she also ran Summer Schools on writing for the children's market.

She has tutored online for the TrAce Online Writing School, and via correspondence for the Open College of Arts. She now tutors creative writing for Worcestershire County Council, the Writer's Bureau and the London School of Journalism. Her latest accreditation is Patron of Reading in her home town of Worcester. She also offers private writing tuition and a manuscript appraisal service. Details are on her website.

With so much experience in writing under her belt it's not surprising that one of her latest books is her extremely useful - Get Writing: Children's Fiction. The perfect handbook to help you break into writing for children.

Cover blurb
The aim of this book is to get you writing. It's full of inspiration, tips and writing exercises for anyone who wants to write children's fiction. Included are tips from other published writers, useful links and answers to questions you've always wanted to ask.  

Get Writing: Children's Fiction includes chapters on:

Know-how: the difference between writing for children and writing for adults.
How to get ideas for your stories from your family, your work and your life - and how to expand those ideas.
Creating believable characters children will love reading about.
Writing by the seat of your pants, or plotting? Basic things you need to know for either approach.
Writing realistic dialogue.
Writing the first draft
How to create 'reel them in' beginnings, sustain the pace in the middle, and write satisfying endings.
How to write page-turning chapter endings; keeping continuity when writing series.
Writing for the educational market.
Writing a synopsis and a proposal.
Submitting your work to a publisher or agent.
Dealing with rejects and rewrites.
Publicity and marketing.
Publishing your own work.

Get Writing: Children’s Fiction
Is your head full of children's stories?
Will they make a book?
Karen King's, Get Writing: Children’s Fiction, is out now to help you break into writing for children.

Buy Links

Author Links

Thank you, Karen.

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