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Sunday, 21 August 2016

A Great New Book For Collectors!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The publishers link for sales:
or the Amazon link:

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Welcome to author Kate Thomson aka Katy Haye!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Katy’s website: www.katyhaye.com

Twitter: @katyhaye

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

Tuesday, 2 August 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Thank you, Pia!