Hi! Welcome to Ann Evans' blogspot.

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

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Coventry - UK City of Culture

Coventry's Lady Godiva in bronze. Photo by Rob Tysall.

As most people will know, Coventry, my home city, is to be the UK City of Culture 2021. Naturally, its citizens are celebrating, and hoping that the new status is going to bring more prosperity into the city, as it has done for Hull, the current UK City of Culture.

There was competition for the title from Paisley, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland and Swansea. And actually, if Sunderland had won it, that would have been my second choice as my parents and past ancestors all hail from there.

The title is awarded every four years and Coventry will be the third UK City of Culture. Londonderry being the first in 2013, followed by Hull. Our city has so much going for it despite no longer having the motor and machine tools industries that it once had. During the 1950s and 60s Coventry was the second largest car manufacturing city in the world. It also led the way with machine tools. Alfred Herbert Ltd was once the largest machine tools manufacturing business in the world. And while that’s no longer there, the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum is named after him.

The city's present Lady Godiva, Pru Poretta.
Photo Rob Tysall
 Sir Frank Whittle, the inventor of the jet engine was born in Coventry. There’s a centre in honour of his work at the Midlands Air Museum, Baginton, which is just on the city boundaries. And there’s a statue of him alongside the futuristic-looking Whittle Arch in Millennium Place in the city centre.

Earlier in the city’s history Coventry pioneered many industries – bicycles, clocks and watches, ribbons. In early Medieval times it was a thriving market town. Today, the city’s museums, buildings and monuments remind people of its industrious past. And today, businesses are flourishing, as are its Universities.

The city’s most famous monuments of course, are our two cathedrals: the ruins of the old Cathedral of St Michaels, so badly destroyed in the Coventry Blitz of 1940, and the awesome New Cathedral, designed by Sir Basil Spence and consecrated in 1962. Not forgetting also, the City’s most famous woman, Lady Godiva.

On the literature scene, Coventry, writer and poet Philip Larkin (1922-1985) was born in the city and later became a university librarian in Hull. The Philip Larkin Society which was founded ten years after his death, point out that it’s fitting that Coventry should be taking on the mantle from Hull, which is the place where Larkin spent most of his adult life, and which shares many historical and cultural similarities.

Ann Evans meets Lee Child

Author, Lee Child, best known for his Jack Reacher novels was also born in Coventry in 1954. He spent his early years in the city before moving to Birmingham. I was fortunate to meet him at the Harrogate Crime Writers festival this summer, where he chatted to me about the things he remembered about Coventry.

Another famous early writer was Angela Brazil (1868 – 1947), who was born in Preston, Lancashire but moved to Coventry in 1911. She was one of the first British writers of modern schoolgirl stories, publishing nearly 50 books of girls’ fiction, many set in boarding schools. Her stories remained popular until the 1960s; and her collection is now in Coventry Library.

From my own point of view, Coventry has inspired my writing, with the illustrated Children’s History of Coventry, which many of the city’s schools have in their libraries. And my YA novel, Celeste, a time slip thriller set in Coventry, with the cathedrals as the backdrop.

How about you, how inspirational is your city to you and your writing?

My trailer for Celeste features the old and new cathedrals, and you can view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFDBEt9o3Fw

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Decisions can be murder!

My first adult crime fiction novel, Kill or Die was released in May of this year, but I'd actually written the first version of it some years previously. At the time I didn't get far in finding a publisher. I sent it to two publishers and their feedback totally contradicted each other. One said it was too gory and graphic, the other said it wasn't graphic enough for a crime novel.

So, what did I do? Put it away in a drawer and got on with something else. Some years later I came across the manuscript again, and saw that there was a hand written comment at the bottom saying how much the reader liked my style.

When you're just a novice writer, a rejection is a rejection. It's only through experience that you get to read between the lines, and learn how to pick up on what the editor did and didn't like and, if you use your brain, you'll suggest making a few changes. At the time though, I pushed it away in a drawer and forgot all about it.

Then, after re-discovering it, reading it again and seeing for myself how it could be improved, I got to work on the re-write with the aim of this time persevering in finding a publisher. Amazingly the first publisher I sent it to liked it and said they wanted to publish it. Months of interaction followed before I realised that the company was bogus! Quickly extracting myself from being associated with them, I was a little wary of sending it off anywhere else.

However, my next publisher – Bloodhound Books, with the lovely Betsy Freeman Freavly and her husband Fred at the helm, it turned out to be the best decision ever. 

They have proved to be a great publisher to work with, who really work hard for their authors. They have a Facebook page for just the authors so we can share our sorrows and celebrations, and have the occasional meet up too.

 I was recently at the Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Festival in Harrogate, where lots of Bloodhound authors as well as Betsy and Fred all got together. And it was great fun!

The Harrogate Festival was just brilliant, and I came away after the four days totally inspired after listening to talks by world famous authors such as Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Mark Billingham, Val McDermid and many others. I even got to meet Lee Child!

I'm working on another book now, which I'm hoping Bloodhound Books will accept. But meanwhile here's the blurb and an extract from Kill or Die which I hope you will enjoy:

A vicious burglary goes horribly wrong when an elderly victim is killed and one of the burglars is injured.
In the detached house next door, Julia is preparing to leave her husband. He has let her down for the last time and her bags are packed. Taking their eight-year-old daughter, Lucy, from her bed they set off in the fog.
But on this cold, dark night, fate steps in and these strangers collide.
When Vincent and Nash abduct the mother and daughter, and take them to a derelict house, the situation takes a grave turn.
Meanwhile, Julia's husband, Ian, is distraught that his wife and daughter have left, and when the murder and burglary are discovered, suspicion falls on him.
For Ian, Julia and Lucy, life is about to become a nightmare.
Can Julia and Lucy escape from the twisted criminals?
What will Julia decide when the choice is – kill or die?

Extract from Kill or Die:
The car's headlights came out of nowhere, as Julia pulled out of her drive. She instinctively tried to swerve, but there was no avoiding the impact. It was slight, a faint tinkling of glass breaking – a sidelight or indicator light. In the back, Lucy buckled into her seat, cried out in fright.
Through the fog, Julia distinctively saw the driver brace his arms against the steering wheel, but his passenger shot forward, cracking his head against the windscreen so hard a circular cobweb effect of blood-smeared shattered glass instantly appeared, before he ricocheted back into his seat.
God! That must have hurt. Stay here, Lucy. He might need an ambulance.”
She got out, heart thumping, and dashed to the other car's passenger door. She was aware of the driver getting out, and walking around the back of his car towards her. He was tall, taller than Ian, and he was five eleven. This man was broad shouldered, too, and dressed all in black, like a large shadow she was only barely aware off, as she focussed on the passenger. He didn't seem to have moved since ricocheting back into his seat. She hoped to God he wasn't seriously injured.
Shall I call an ambulance? I think your passenger is hu...”
Her question was left hanging in the air, as Julia realised she couldn't make out the driver's face, because he was wearing a woollen balaclava. Something stirred in the pit of her stomach. A slight warning. She ignored it. It was a horrible night. Why wouldn't someone wear a balaclava? What mattered was the passenger wasn't moving. Was he unconscious? Dead? God, she hoped not.
She went to open the passenger door when an arm, clad in black leather, was thrust in front of her, shoving her hand aside, and yanking open the passenger door. The thick smell of leather filled her senses, as he crowded over her.
He couldn't have been wearing his seat belt...” she tried to say, but then the driver spoke.
Nash, get your arse out of there.”
Julia shot the man a sharp look, thinking how awful to snap out an order to someone who'd hit their head against a windscreen. Through the slit in the balaclava, his pale blue eyes were luminous – and cold.
The passenger looked to be in his mid-twenties, and horribly disfigured on one side of his face. He groaned, and slumped forward, his head almost in his lap.
He needs help. My mobile's in my bag. I'll...” A leather gloved hand clamped suddenly and roughly around her mouth and nose, and she felt the terrifying feeling of suffocation. Frantically, she struggled against him, writhing, twisting, trying to kick back at his legs to scrape her heels down his shins. Desperately aware she couldn't breathe, she clawed at his hand, but she was being lifted bodily off the ground, and carried back to her own car. He bundled her into her driving seat.
Shut it! One sound, and the kid dies, understand?” His eyes locked onto hers, glittering with menace.

Kill or Die (ISBN 978-1912175147)is available from all good book stores in paperback and Kindle.

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/annevansauthor

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Karen King tells us about The Cornish Hotel by the Sea

I'm delighted to welcome back onto my blog, author and good friend, Karen King. Karen's brand new romance The Cornish Hotel by the Sea, published by Accent Press has just been released. This is Karen's second chicklit for Accent Press, her first, I Do?...Or Do I? Was published last year, and she has yet another romance in the pipeline.

Accent have also republished her earlier romance novels, The Millionaire Plan and Never Say Forever. She has also written several short stories for women's magazines and has had around 120 children's books published!

Prolific writer Karen, is a member of The Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists. She's also a tutor for The Writers Bureau. Being so busy with her writing and helping others improve their writing skills, she doesn't get a lot of free time. But when she does get chance to relax she enjoys travelling, watching the 'soaps' and reading.

“Give me a box of chocolates and a good book and I'm in heaven,” says Karen.

I've read all of Karen's YA books and romances, which I've loved. And I'm currently reading her latest novel, The Cornish Hotel by the Sea and enjoying it very much.

It's about Ellie Truman who's widowed mum is struggling to keep Gwel Teg, the family hotel in Cornwall, afloat. Ellie is determined to do everything in her power to help her, even if that means moving back to the sleepy Cornish village she fled from broken-hearted a few years before. However, things go wrong from the start, and she's grateful for the help from hunky guest, Reece Mitchell. But Reece has ulterior motives for being so helpful.

What I love about this book is the perfectly created setting. You really get a feel for being in a sleepy Cornish village on the coast. I asked Karen if there was a particular beach that had inspired her in this story. Here's what Karen said.

“I know Cornwall really well as I holidayed down there for many years and l lived in a bungalow ten minutes from the beach in Hayle for almost a decade. Memories kept flooding back as I wrote it. There wasn’t one particular beach that the story is based on, but the gorgeous beaches in St Ives were definitely the main inspiration.”

Much of the action takes place in the hotel. I asked Karen if that caused any difficulties.

“Well I’ve stopped in quite a few hotels so I didn’t have to research that but a key event in the story was a leak from an upstairs bathroom that came through the ceiling and flooded the room below. So I had to research how to plaster a ceiling, how long it would take to dry out, etc – and it took far longer than I wanted it to so I then had to tweak the story a little.”

I know it's been a busy year for Karen, I asked her to recap on what's been going on in her life book-wise.

“It has been very busy. My YA Perfect Summer was republished by Accent Press in May so I had a book launch for that and for my romance novel I do?...or do I? which was published last year by Accent. In fact it was three book launches, and all with you Ann when your crime novel Kill or Die was published! Also, I’ve been busy visiting schools, writing my third novel for Accent which will be out next year, and writing short stories. I’ve recently had a story published by My Weekly, and am due to have one published in Yours magazine in August.”

I wondered what she was working on now? Any more books in the pipeline, Karen?

“Yes, as mentioned earlier, I’ve just finished my third book for Accent which will be published next summer. I’ve got a few more projects on the go, a YA, an emotional drama and another romance, as well as a couple of short stories. Not to mention a notebook of ideas I want to write up when I can find the time…”

Read more on Karen's blog tour....

Good luck with all these ventures, Karen. And here's a short extract from The Cornish Hotel by the Sea.

"Excuse me."

The man’s voice made her jolt. Ellie tore her eyes away from the figures on the computer screen and looked up, straight into a pair of deep grey eyes set in a ruggedly handsome face topped by chocolate-brown hair. Very nice.

It took her a few seconds to realise that it was Merc Guy, now wearing a black tee shirt and jeans, and to notice the angry set of his jaw and the frown lines in the middle of his thick eyebrows. He was staying here then. Great. An unhappy customer was all she needed.

She just hoped he didn’t recognise her from this afternoon when he was blasting his horn at her. Thank goodness she’d been wearing sunglasses. She fixed a pleasant smile on her face. "Can I help you?"

"The shower isn’t working in my room and I have an important business meeting in less than an hour,” he informed her curtly. "So will you either arrange for it to be fixed immediately or provide me with the use of a shower in another room?”

Great. Problems already.

“Did you hear what I said? I haven’t time to waste. I have an important meeting to go to.”

The man’s abrupt tone annoyed her but she kept calm. “Of course, Mr...er..." she glanced at the hotel register for the man`s name.

"Mitchell." He supplied. "Reece Mitchell. I arrived earlier today. And I’m in a hurry.”

Yes, I got that. A quick glance at the register told her that Reece Mitchell was in Room 12. Luckily the room next to him was empty and there was a connecting door between the rooms. Problem solved.

“I do apologise, Mr Mitchell. I’ll get it sorted for you today. Meanwhile, please use the shower in the room next to you. It’s vacant at the moment and you can access it through a connecting door.”

She reached for the key and handed it to him. “I’m very sorry for the inconvenience. Would you mind popping the key back on your way out?”

He didn’t look too pleased. “Well, I guess it will have to do. I must say this hotel isn’t what I’d expected. I’m surprised you do any business at all.” He almost snatched the key out of her hand.

She swallowed the angry retort that sprung to her mouth reminding herself of Mum’s mantra that the customer was always right. And if they weren’t you didn’t tell them so. She watched, fuming, as Reece Mitchell stormed off.

What an arrogant man!

Thank you for being on my blog, Karen.

Here's the buy links for The Cornish Hotel by the Sea by Karen King.

Buy Links:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cornish-Hotel-Sea-Cornwall-perfect-ebook/dp/B072275N5V/

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-cornish-hotel-by-the-sea/karen-king/9781786150714

W.H.Smiths: https://www.whsmith.co.uk/products/the-cornish-hotel-by-the-sea/9781786150714

Author links:
Website: http://www.karenking.net/
Twitter: @karen_king Karen King Romance Author
Facebook: Karen King
Facebook: Karen King Young Adult Books
Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/karenkingauthor/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karenkingauthor/?hl=en

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Top stories at the Evesham Festival of Words.

Earlier this year I was again asked to judge the junior category in the Evesham Festival of Words short story competition, which I was very happy to do. I really enjoyed reading all the stories, and choosing those to be short-listed and winners in both the 8-11s and 12-15s categories. I'm so often impressed with the talent and creative skills of our younger writers, and there were some really excellent stories with all kinds of twists and turns.

In the older category, the prize went to Charvi Jain for Boundless, a story filled with emotion which was a real joy to read. It was written with such care and attention and swept you along with the anguish of the main character – a young mother, trying to cope with a toddler when she is only a child herself. There was some beautiful descriptive narrative and not a single superfluous word to be found.

In the 8-11 category, the young writer, 11 year old Iona Mandal clearly has a great future ahead of her. Her story was Anne Frank Reborn. It wasn't just the way it was written with beautiful phrasing but this young writer had taken to heart the story of Anne Frank, and then taken it a step further, through her death and on to her re-birth. Iona also considered the fact that things rarely change, people fail to learn and prejudice continues.

I just had to admire an 11 year old's understanding and ability to articulate their own thoughts and feelings through their writing. So it was a really special moment to meet up with Iona at the presentation ceremony at Evesham Town Hall on Friday. She received her award from the Festival's special guest, TV presenter, chef and novelist Prue Leith. Afterwards I chatted to Iona and her proud parents and asked her what had inspired her to write this story.

Iona who is in Year 6 at King David Primary School, Birmingham said: “My school is a Jewish school even though I'm not Jewish. We learn about the holocaust as it's a very important part of Jewish history. It was through the lessons, school trips to places such as the Holocaust Memorial Centre in Nottingham, and having a survivor of the holocaust come to talk at our school, that I was inspired to write it – as well as my own experiences.”

Iona is no stranger to winning writing and poetry competitions. Her first win was when only eight when she won the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation competition with a poem about poaching. Since then she's won the Ted Hughes Poetry Award and recently she came tops in the Wicked Young Writers competition. She also took first in The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, winning herself a trip to the House of Lords.

“I've entered that twice. The first time I came second, and the second time I came first,” said Iona who has her heart set on being a cardiothoracic surgeon when she grows up – but continuing with her writing in her spare time. “If I have any spare time,” she added with a laugh.

I asked Iona if she has any advice for young writers. She had this to say: “Even if you don't win anything it is good to have a go for the experience and the fun – and it is a great hobby to get into. When you write you should dip your pen in your soul.”

Here's a short extract of Anne Frank – Reborn by Iona Mandal.

3rd September, 1944; Auschwitz: There was no moon or a star in the sky that night. To the whistle of the last train and barking of unfriendly dogs, I arrived. In the dead of night, in a carriage, Star of David pinned on my coat. The ground stood cold at almost freezing point. I could see tall lamp posts and fences with barbed wires - distanced by uniformly separated watch towers, manned by sentinels. The railway lines running aimlessly were meshed with broken flints. The smoke from the last carriage had settled by now. As black boughs of stark trees creaked in the ghastly wind, soldiers with blinding flash lights shouted, ripping the eerie silence.
There was no room for confusion. Everyone seemed in haste. It was now time for roll call to separate the men, women and children.The young and old were segregated in different lines. Dad went away with able bodied men, pushed by a soldier wearing a weird symbol stitched on his sleeve - black, circled by white, bordered on red cloth. Oh! How much I hated it! Reminded me of a creepy spider with four legs!

Your can read the rest of Iona's story and all the short listed and winning entries in a new anthology entitled: Short Stories (2) Best Stories from 2017. Available from the Evesham Festival of Words website: https://eveshamfestivalofwords.org/ also available from the Almonry Evesham. http://www.almonryevesham.org/

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Are you looking forward to a Perfect Summer?

I'm delighted to welcome my good friend and fellow author, Karen King, back onto my blog. As a busy writer, Karen is actually celebrating three new books at the moment. Her YA book Perfect Summer which we will hear about today; a fun-filled romance called I Do? Or Do I? plus The Cornish Hotel by the Sea which will be released on 13th July. All published by Accent Press. Karen will be back on my blog in July telling us all about that Cornish hotel by the sea – and I can't wait to read it.

In total Karen has more than 120 children's books to her credit; she also writes short stories for women's magazines, and for many years worked on children's magazines such as Thomas the Tank Engine and Winnie the Pooh, My Little Pony, Fireman Sam, Barbie and Sindy, as well as the iconic Jackie magazine.

Having read Perfect Summer, as well as being a great story, it's quite a gritty teenage read featuring disability and child abduction. It's set not too far in the future in a society obsessed with perfection. I know that her book has prompted many discussions and debates in schools. So hats off to Karen for tackling these topics.

Here's the blurb:

Set in a society obsessed with perfection, 15 year old Morgan is best friends with the seemingly perfect Summer. But when Morgan’s brother, Josh, who has Down’s syndrome, is kidnapped, they uncover a sinister plot and find themselves in terrible danger. Can they find Josh before it’s too late? And is Summer’s life as perfect as it seems?

I asked Karen if she found it a difficult subject to write about?
She said: “Yes, the storyline is quite gritty and I wanted to make sure I tackled it sensitively. Another difficulty was that the story is set in the not- too- distant future so I had to try and guess what technology would be available then. The first edition of Perfect Summer was published a few years ago so I’ve now updated it for this new edition.”

And I believe it has already won an award?
“Yes, it was runner up in the Red Telephone Books YA novel competition in 2011 and I'm thrilled that it has been republished by Accent Press. They are also the publisher for I Do? Or Do I? and The Cornish Hotel by the Sea.”

So, what inspired you to write Perfect Summer?
“I’ve been concerned for a long time about society’s obsession with physical perfection, especially when I read an article about girls as young as four and five worrying that they are too fat. Another concern of mine is how disabled people are treated, so both these concerns sowed the seeds of this story.”

As well as writing for children and YA, you also write contemporary romance novels. So when and why did you turn your attentions to this genre?

“I started writing romance novels about ten years ago. I’d been wanting to write one for a long time but I write for a living and couldn’t spare the time it would take to write a 75,000 word book – most of my children’s books were under 10,000 words. Finally, when all my children were grown up and left home, I had more time and less financial pressure so decided to take the chance and write a romance book.”

So, for you, what is the best part of the writing process? And what's the hardest part?
“Seeing the story in your head come to life on the screen/page. It’s a marvellous feeling when it all starts to come together. And the hardest part is getting the story out of your head and onto the screen/page.”

Karen, I know that you're a tutor for The Writer's Bureau and run writing classes, plus you've written a book on writing called Get Writing Children's Fiction, but in a nutshell what advice would you give a budding writer?

“I'd say, write, revise, rewrite. Make sure your work is the very best you can do before you send it off. Too many new writers send of hurried first drafts. And never give up!”

Thank you so much for chatting on my blog today, Karen, and I'm delighted to print an extract from Perfect Summer. Good luck with all of your new books!

Extract from Perfect Summer

Summer and I hurried upstairs while Josh was busy watching TV. Summer plonked herself down on my bed while I got my things ready.

“Want some music?” I asked, pressing the silver button on the comm-panel. The latest hit from Krescendo, our favourite band, blasted out and a hologram of them playing beamed onto the wall.

Then I pressed the green button, my wardrobe doors glided open, and a rail of clothes slid out. I glanced over at Summer, feeling awkward as always, that my room was so small and my wardrobe so sparse. Summer’s wardrobe was a huge walk-in affair full of designer clothes. Luckily, she was sprawled out watching Krescendo so I quickly grabbed the clothes I needed for the weekend and shoved them in my rucksack. Thank goodness I’d found an immaculate emerald green Maliko dress at the recycle store the other week. That would be perfect for Roxy’s. I knew Summer would let me borrow her clothes but felt better if I wore something of my own.

I took out the dress and zipped it into a freshpack to keep it crease-free. I glanced at the image screen on my bedroom wall and grimaced. My make-up needed renewing and some strands of my chestnut hair were escaping from the ponytail I’d swept it into. I swiftly fixed it and applied more make-up. I didn’t want to turn up at Summer’s looking a mess, Tamara and Leo expected everyone to always look their best.

“Ready.” I pressed the buttons on the CP again to close my wardrobe doors, and switched off the music.

“Have a nice weekend,” Mum said as we popped in to say goodbye. She looked so pale, with dark circles under her eyes. I could tell the visit from the Ministry had upset her and hesitated for a moment, wondering if I should stay. But Dad was due home soon and I was so looking forward to the weekend. I loved going to Summer’s house and being spoilt for a bit. It was like living in another world. She was so lucky.

“Thanks, we will.” I leaned over and tousled Josh’s chestnut curls. “Bye, Josh.”

“Play, Maw,” he said, scrambling up.

“Maw going out now. I’ll play with you when I come back.” He puckered his face as if he was going to cry, but Mum took his hand. “Come on, Josh, let’s pick some tomatoes for tea.”

Josh’s face lit up. He loved helping Mum in the garden. Everyone had a vegetable patch, compost and water butt by order of the Ministry as part of the Planet Protection Programme. I hated gardening but Josh loved helping Mum water the plants with the rainwater collected in the butt, and picking the vegetables. Summer’s parents had a gardener, of course.

Mum led Josh out into the garden while we went out the front door. before Josh could realise I was leaving. I had no idea how much I was going to regret not playing with Josh one more time.

Discover more about Karen King.

Website: http://www.karenking.net/
Twitter: @karen_king
Karen King Romance Author Facebook Page
Karen King Young Adult Books
Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/karenkingauthor/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karenkingauthor/?hl=en

Buy Links Amazon: http://amzn.to/2mMXTzI