Showing posts with label Ann Evans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ann Evans. Show all posts

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

For The Love of Dogs by Ann Evans

Friends' dogs - Chip and Hetty
Did any of you go along to Crufts last week? As I’m writing this in advance I’m looking forward to going there on Sunday. Partly for work and partly because I just love seeing all the dogs. Although I admit there was one year when I'd looked at so many dogs during the afternoon, I commented on how one particular dog was sitting so still and obediently... It turned out to be a life-sized stuffed cuddly toy! 

I have always loved dogs. When I was little and all the pleading and pestering to mum and dad to let me have a dog came to nothing, I would play outside with a piece of rope which I pretended was a dog lead attached to my make-believe dog. 

Since then, happily I've been lucky enough to have had some wonderful dogs as pets. As anyone with a dog knows, our four-footed friends aren't just companions, they are protectors and comforters. They're always pleased to see you, and as confidants, you can tell your dog all your secrets and troubles and you know they won’t breathe a word to another soul.

Dogs are certainly man’s best friend – and many a writer’s best friend too. As a freelancer I've been writing for Dogs Monthly magazine since the 1990s. The first article was on my dog, Pippa who had a walk-on part in a play at my local theatre which resulted in her being interviewed on the radio!

Me and Pippa
Since then there have been articles on assistance dogs, search and rescue dogs, detection dogs - sniffing out anything and everything from ammunition and illegal drugs to detecting illnesses and impending epileptic fits. There have been articles on Army dogs, police dogs, cadaver dogs and stunt dogs; pedigree and cross breeds; dogs with super skills and dogs just desperate for love - to mention just a few. 

For many of us, walking the dog is just the ticket when we need to get away from it all and let our minds wander. That free time can be inspirational. And as we know dogs have been inspiring writers – and artists for centuries.

Here’s a few canine-themed poems which I hope you’ll enjoy reading as much as I have... and some nice doggy photos to share with you!

Tom's Little Dog
Grandson Jake and Chippy.
by Walter de la Mare

Tom told his dog called Tim to beg,
And up at once he sat,
His two clear amber eyes fixed fast,
His haunches on his mat.
Tom poised a lump of sugar on
His nose; then, "Trust!" says he;
Stiff as a guardsman sat his Tim;
Never a hair stirred he.

"Paid for!" says Tom; and in a trice
Up jerked that moist black nose;
A snap of teeth, a crunch, a munch,
And down the sugar goes! 

To a Lady with an Unruly and Ill-mannered Dog 
Who Bit several Persons of Importance
by Sir Walter Raleigh

Your dog is not a dog of grace;
He does not wag the tail or beg;
He bit Miss Dickson in the face;
He bit a Bailie in the leg.

What tragic choices such a dog
One of the perks of writing about dogs!
Presents to visitor or friend!
Outside there is the Glasgow fog;
Within, a hydrophobic end.

Yet some relief even terror brings,
For when our life is cold and gray
We waste our strength on little things,
And fret our puny souls away.

A snarl! A scruffle round the room!
A sense that Death is drawing near!
And human creatures reassume
The elemental robe of fear.

So when my colleague makes his moan
Of careless cooks, and warts, and debt,
-- Enlarge his views, restore his tone,

And introduce him to your Pet!

The Power of the Dog
by Rudyard Kipling
Daughter Debbie, boyfriend Steve and Lola
There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie --
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find -- it's your own affair --

But . . . you've given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit hat answered your every mood
Is gone -- wherever it goes -- for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept'em, the more do we grieve;

For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long --
So why in -- Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

And some dogs are worth their weight in gold.

Thank you Rob Tysall of Tysall's Photography for the photos.

And if you'd like to look at me website, it's:

Out now: Become a Writer - A step by step guide. 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Short 'n' Sweet by Ann Evans

Our latest anthology
It's all been about short stories recently. Belonging to the Coventry Writers' Group, we decided to put together another anthology of our stories to publish ourselves and to have as an ebook.

Coventry Tales 2 came hot off the press last week, and the group celebrated with a launch at Waterstones last Saturday and a launch party at our main library on Tuesday evening.

We all know how isolated it can be at times when you're a writer, so its nice to belong to a group of like-minded people. Of course it doesn't always work out, but happily over the last few years our lot have really got their act together in making good use of our work.

A couple of years ago, after running a Christmas short story competition, it was decided to compile them into an anthology. Fortunately for us, one particular member is a dab hand at publishing his own non-fiction books and runs a small publishing company. (Yes, we know we're dead lucky in having him as a member!) So he (Mike Boxwell of Greenstream Publishing) was the driving force behind our efforts at getting an anthology together.
Another member of the group was a qualified proof reader and copy editor, and a friend of yet another member is an artist - who volunteered her services to do the cover - again.

For some members of the group that was the first story they had ever published, so it was quite a big deal for them. Plus we all got involved in marketing and promoting the book (definitely good practice) as well as doing some leg-work in calling in at local newsagents and other outlets to see who would like to stock the book for us. One member even went along to the Lord Mayor's office and sold him some books. Seems he was delighted to have a local Coventry book available to give away to visiting dignitaries as gifts.

That anthology Coventry Tales was followed up by a free ebook called Christmas Tales. While another industrious member entered our anthology into a national competition for anthologies – which went on to take the first prize of £250!!

As another promotional event, which was also great fun, we held a performance at a local amateur theatre. We offered it free and put on refreshments as bribes! Then more recently we indulged in a writers' group breakfast at a local pub paid for by the anthology competition prize winnings.

Naturally, we decided to repeat the whole thing, so earlier this year we ran another competition, the theme being fact or fiction and linked to Coventry. During the Coventry Literary Festival we staged another performance (with costumes) at the local theatre which was great fun. And more recently we got all the stories together again, and Mike (bless him!) has once again turned it into a lovely book.

Some of the Coventry Writers' Group rehearsing for
our anthology performance

Following a press release, local radio stations became interested in our latest escapades which resulted in invitations to two radio stations and pieces in local papers. Plus the Coventry library were again fantastic in promoting Coventry Tales 2 and letting us do a launch party, which took place on Tuesday.

Then if that's not enough about anthologies, there's another one on the go, with a totally different group. Around January last year I started up another writing course, called Focus on Fiction. It was intended as a 6-week course, and I had about 10 students. After the six weeks were over, eight of the group were enjoying themselves so much and finding it really useful and supportive, they wanted to continue meeting up – and so the course continued – and continues...

As winter approached we decided to write some short stories with a winter/Christmas theme with the intention of reading them out around Christmas. And then we had the great idea of compiling them into an anthology and producing it as an ebook.

We needed to give ourselves a name, so we played around with names before coming up with The Wordsmiths. And now Winter Tales by the Wordsmiths is about to be launched on the world via Amazon Kindle... and the group are fantastically excited about the event, and so am I.

Only two of this intrepid group have been published before, and I am so impressed by the work and effort they have all shown in writing their stories, and working hard in proof reading them, it's just been absolutely fantastic. Plus knowing they are being published has boosted their confidence in themselves as writers, that they have all visibly upped their writing so impressively that I can't wait to tell everyone about our anthology.

I've only just uploaded it on Kindle, so at the time of writing I can't give you the link. But if you're browsing at any time, please take a peep at Winter Tales by The Wordsmiths.

And my website is:

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A Society for Woman (and men too) by Ann Evans

I'm sure that quite a few Sassies are also members of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ). It's the UK's longest-established Society for professional woman writers and has members based all around the globe.

It was founded in 1894 so next year sees it's 120th anniversary. Oddly enough it wasn't founded by a woman. It was newspaper proprietor and entrepreneur Joseph Snell Wood who recognised the need for women journalists back in those Victorian times to have their own organisation that supported them and which could establish and safeguard their rights.

And so he established the Society of Woman Journalists. In 1951 it changed its name to the present title, adding in the words 'Women Writers' to meet the changing needs of its membership. Then in 2004 the Society made the decision to invite men who are published writers to join as Associate Members.

The origins of the Society can be found in Sylvia Kent's book The Woman Writer published in 2010, but as a snapshot into the Society's history I found it interesting to note that in its early days a reception was arranged for its members to meet Sarah Bernhardt, one of the most famous actresses of all time. Within two months more than 200 women had applied to join.

Over the years it has attracted countless famous literary and society names. To mention just a few, members and Presidents have included Ursula Bloom, a prolific writer with some 500 books published, many under pseudonyms; crime writer Margery Allingham, Catherine Cookson, who has sold 100 million copies of her books; Richmal Crompton, famous for her Just William books;

Lady Longford was their Honorary Life President for 25 years. Joyce Grenfell was the Society's President for 22 years, followed by novelist Nina Bawden who was President from 1980 until her death in August 2012. 

It's an awe inspiring and possibly daunting line up, nevertheless the SWWJ – just like our SAS is friendly and welcoming.

I joined back in 1994. It actually comes as a bit of a shock to think I've been a member for so long. But it must be because I remember going to one of their Centenary celebration events as a new member.

The aims of the SWWJ include the encouragement of literary achievement (which I'm still striving towards!) the upholding of professional standards, and social contact with fellow writers and others in the writing business, such as editors, agents, publishers and broadcasters.

The social contact with fellow writers is something we all appreciate, although I must admit I haven't been to that many SWWJ events. However 18 months ago I went to a writers' retreat in Gozo near Malta which had been organised by a SWWJ member. That was fun with writing workshops every morning leaving the afternoons and evenings free to explore, get inspired – and of course lots of sand, sun, sea, cocktails and good food, to get those creative juices flowing.

A band of SWWJ folk in Gozo
There's lots of benefits from being a member. There are regular events such as workshops and visits to places of literary interest. There are seasonal get togethers which often feature big-name guest speakers. There are informal regional meetings. Just a few weeks ago, the Society held it's first Midlands regional meeting, and for me it was nice to put faces to names - and to meet up with a fellow Gozo writer again, Jean Morris.

Other benefits of being a member are that you receive the magazine The Woman Writer five times a year which is packed full of news, articles, competitions, markets and more. You receive a Press Card, which will get you into places and behind the scenes at countless events and venues - that alone is worth the very reasonable annual membership fee. Plus there are different levels of entry - but you can check out all the details of membership on their website.

There's a lot of benefits of belonging to the SWWJ. It might be right for you. Why not visit them at: And you can find them on Facebook.

Or visit my website:

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Busy Bee by Ann Evans

Me about to meet some real busy bees!
I like to have a number of different writing projects on the go. It probably isn’t the most efficient and productive way of working. Perhaps if I concentrated on one thing at a time, I’d get things finished and sent off a lot quicker, rather than having half finished books and articles hanging around for ages.

But that’s me, and when there’s a deadline looming, I knuckle down to the job in hand. I suppose the reason I like having a collection of different things on the go, is because there’s always something different. Writing doesn’t get tedious, and things are at different stages.

What I probably enjoy the most, is doing the research, especially if it gets me out and about. And to be honest it's a lot easier than actually sitting down to actually write.
The photo on the right is me being a real busy bee, about to go get up close and personal to a few thousand bees. The picture below is me taking notes about a new Charlie Chaplin museum in Switzerland. 

Another interview

It's mainly when I'm working on an article that I go off and research some topic or other, and now and again I've found that the information gathered on what is usually someone else's hobby or passion, can come in very useful in my fictional writing too.

A couple of weeks ago, my romance book Champagne Harvest came out in paperback large print, published by F A Thorp (Publishing) of Leicestershire. (Originally published by People's Friend). It's set where else but the Champagne Region of France.

The idea for the book first took hold when I was lucky enough to go on a press trip to Champagne to write about bubbly for the newspaper I was working on. I know, it's a dirty job but someone has to do it.

My hero in the book is champagne tycoon (and famous painter) Philippe Beaulieu. My heroine is a feature writer on a local newspaper. Okay a bit type cast but as you all probably know, being a writer opens doors and I wanted my heroine, Laura Kane to investigate Monsieur Beaulieu, believing him to be up to no good.

I found it really helpful to read back through the copious notes made on the press trip, and then weave some of the factual stuff into my story. The quotes from the growers and champagne aficionados certainly made my characters sound more believable when I slipped a few authentic words and sentences in here and there. 

Learning about champers!
Thinking up new story ideas is a real struggle at times and for me the spark of an idea is nearly always centred around something in real life, so looking at the factual info gathered for different non-fiction articles comes in so useful at times.

Just a week ago I went off to interview an engineer who rebuilds and repairs large scale model steam trains – the sort you and the kids might sit on to ride around a park. It's for a mechanical engineering magazine. And amongst the research I discovered a wonderful eccentric character from the 1920s who will be just perfect to resurrect and remould in a romance. In fact the prospect of writing the fictional story that's currently brewing in my head is a lot more exciting that writing all that stuff about castings and boilers!

So I suppose that's the thing with research. You start off on one subject and you just never know what other ideas and opportunities it will spark. What do you think?

Please feel free to look at my website:
Become a Writer - A Step by Step Guide, out now.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Seeking Inspiration. Ann Evans

Harbury Library recently

Whenever I do a school visit I'll inevitably be asked 'Where do you get your inspiration from?'
Before I tell them, I usually turn the question around and get them thinking about where their story ideas come from. 

After that discussion, I'll usually tell them how I came to write this book ot that book. In almost every instance the idea is based around something that I've done, seen, heard or experienced in real life. 

However, the more often I repeat these anecdotes, the more easy and obvious it all sounds. Probably because I'm looking back, and time and distance seems to have put it all into some clear-cut logical sequence. In reality, when considering where inspiration came from for a particular story I'm pretty certain I've lost track of the actual time factor between getting that spark of an idea and actually getting organised enough to write something on it. Perhaps weeks or even months have slipped by before a few words get woven into a first draft of a story. So in retrospect, when we (or at least I) talk about finding inspiration, it sounds a lot easier than it actually is.

I know that with The Beast I was deliberately seeking inspiration for a thriller. I'd finished writing a series for Scholastic which had taken a lot of plotting, as they were whodunnits. But then I was free and I wanted to see where my imagination would take me.

Holidaying in Scotland was the perfect location to set a story with those majestic mountains and deep forests – plenty of scope there for an adventure. And just as I advise other budding writers to do, I asked myself all those 'what ifs'  which eventually led to a storyline and characters. (At least I practised what I preached there!)  

So actively looking for inspiration can work. But generally  it strikes when you least expect it, and sometimes the more you try the harder it gets.

A general piece of advice I give to students is to keep an 'ideas notebook' because those elusive ideas can flit into your head and vanish just as quickly. But where's my notebook? Well actually, I either fill up my notebooks and the ideas are lost somewhere between the pages; or the actual notebooks get buried under the other papers and 'stuff' on my desk. 

Although I know when an idea has really taken hold, because I'll start typing it up. Sometimes though, it gets forgotten or overtaken by more pressing jobs. Then, months (even years) later I'll come across that sketchy idea again by accident and decide that it's not too bad – or alternatively, wonder what on earth was going through my head.

Inspiration is a funny old thing. Here's what a few well known writers have said on the subject. Do any of these quotes strike a chord with you?

Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy. Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work. Stephen King

I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning. P eter De Vries

If you wait for inspiration to write; you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter. Dan Poynter

A writer is working when he's staring out of the window. Burton Rascoe.

Writing is just having a sheet of paper, a pen and not a shadow of an idea of what you are going to say. Francoise Sagan

And this quote from Raymond Chandler made me smile, because it's exactly what I've done in the book I'm writing now. Trying to decide how my protagonist should first encounter his pretty unpleasant cousin, I did exactly what Chandler suggested...

When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand. Raymond Chandler

Thank you Mr Chandler.

And finally, Inspiration is the act of drawing up a chair to the writing desk. Anon.

How about you, do you wait for inspiration to strike, or just knuckle down and write?

Feel free to take a look at my website:

Latest books: (under the pseudonym S.Carey)

Friday, 12 July 2013

A bloomin' good adventure by Ann Evans

Well first of all, I just wanted to add my belated Happy Birthday wishes to ABBA. Five fantastic years of children's authors writing about writing.

Talking about writing and writing about writing are the two things that we seem to do best, so long may it continue!

Of course we have to get down to actually DOING some writing every now and then!

It's just too easy to procrastinate especially when the sun is shining and the garden beckons. However, and you may not know this, but it is actually vital to be out in the sunshine mowing the grass and pruning the roses and planting up a few more flowers, rather than sitting in front of a hot PC on nice days. I believe it is the law!

Thinking about it, gardening is a bit like writing. We have the seeds of a story germinating in our heads, we use our skilled fingers to plant those first tentative words out and see them blossom and grow. And then we prune, chop and weed out the unnecessary bits and perhaps recycle some snippets to use elsewhere.

Sticking with the gardening analogy, my writing has been a real hothouse of activity these last five weeks and I've been digging deep into the old brain cells for some fresh adventures for my characters in The Mysterious Indian Vanishing Trick.

In my blog last month I mentioned that I was writing the story in five 2,000 word chapters for Fiction Express which goes out to schools every Friday afternoon. I was just starting the project then and was understandably nervous knowing I had to write a fresh chapter in just two and a half days, after the kids had voted on which way the story should go.

And today, (Thursday as I write this) I've just finished chapter 5 – my final chapter and thought I'd let you know how it all went. First off, I was nervous when the first vote came in and I had to start writing while the clock was ticking.

I actually had butterflies in my stomach as I was writing chapter 2, but I got it done well before the deadline, and found that with Fiction Express's Paul and Laura really knowing their stuff and being fantastic editors, the chapter was edited so smoothly that it was literally painless.

I found that keeping one step ahead worked, and while the readers would have three options to vote on, over the weekend I would draft out three opening paragraphs, so I had one ready for whichever way the vote went. So then when the official vote came in on a Tuesday afternoon, I was already up and running, so to speak. So much easier than staring at a blank screen even though those opening paragraphs eventually got altered and re-worded.

Another really nice bit about being involved in this, is the blog, where the author gets to hear the readers thoughts almost instantly, and can reply back and produce a regular blog to keep the interest going. All good fun!

As for The Mysterious Indian Vanishing Trick itself. I first wrote the original story quite some time ago, but it never found a publisher. This new version still features my main characters, Jamie, Valinda and Rahul – and Jamie's daft mum and dad, and the mysterious magical book. But the plot has gone off in different directions and turned into a book that I'm more than happy with. The readers all seem to have enjoyed it too. So, all in all it's been quite an adventure.

So now that the words 'the end' have been written at the end of chapter five, rather than 'vote now' I can relax a while - and I know just the place to do it, providing the sun keeps shining, So, I'm off to sit in the garden for half an hour or so with a glass of wine and wait for another idea to germinate and grow.

How about you - is this fine weather helping you write or is it a distraction?


Please visit my website:
And find out more about Fiction Express here:

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

On Your Marks, Get Set... Write! By Ann Evans

I've always thought that the good thing about writing fiction is that you can do it at your leisure. Well I know you have to 'up' the pace when deadlines are looming. But in general you can let the ideas mull around in your head, then play about with them on the page, plan your story, write it, rearrange it, write some more, edit and polish, put it aside, go back to it. Then eventually, when you realise it's the best it's going to get, you can think about doing something with it, like sending it off to the publisher or your agent.

That's my normal way of writing fiction anyway, but I'm just about to embark on something new which calls for instant writing of a 2,000 word chapter, from idea to going live in a matter of two and a half days; and then repeating the process over the following four weeks!

Fun? Or nightmare? I'm hoping it's going to be fun and a great experience.  

Last year I teamed up with Fiction Express, who have taken on my story The Mysterious Indian Vanishing Trick - or rather they've taken on the first chapter and the concept.  The rest still has to be written in real time.

Chapter one goes out on 14th June – this Friday. If you pop along to their site, there's even a countdown clock, ticking away the seconds!

Screenshot of the front page of Fiction Express website
Possibly some of you Sassies have already worked for Fiction Express, but if you haven't heard of them, they work alongside primary schools, providing online fiction every Friday afternoon where the children say what will happen in the next chapter via three voting options; the author then writes the next chapter in real time, and it goes live the following Friday.

For the schools who enrol there's other activities going on for the children to get involved with, while the author can keep the excitement going through the Fiction Express blog.

So, all in all, I'm looking forward to next Friday – or rather what will be heading my way once the children have voted. The three choices are now written along with the first chapter, but then I've only got the vaguest outline as to where the next chapter will go, as it depends on which option gets the most votes.

I'm praying that when I get told the result of the votes next Tuesday afternoon, I don't get an attack of writer's block! Now what are those tried and tested methods of avoiding such a thing? Walking the dog, doing the ironing...
Or the best one – a deadline looming!

How about you, do you work best under pressure, or prefer a little breathing space?

Here's the link to Fiction Express if you want to find out more: 

Please visit my website:

Sunday, 12 May 2013


As well as writing fiction, for the last 30 odd years I've also written magazine articles on all kinds of topics. Just over the last few days I've been working on a Doctor Who toys article to tie in with the programme's 50th anniversary in November and an article on the charity Dogs for the Disabled which this year celebrates 25 years of assistance dogs working with disabled people.

Sometimes when I'm talking about writing to schools or adults even, the mention of writing articles results in a bit of a glazed-eyed look as they imagine how boring it must be to write up some dry old factual stuff which can't possibly be half as much fun as writing fiction that takes you off into the fantastical world of your imagination. 
Me all set for my first flight in a helicopter.

But once I've told the class about combat flying in an army helicopter, racing down the Thames on a police boat, watching a Swiss mountain rescue team at work and interviewing the likes of chef Gordon Ramsay and iconic comedian Norman Wisdom, you can see them seriously considering whether non-fiction writing is something they might actually consider taking up.

One of the nice things about freelance writing is the fact that it's open to all, so long as you have the ability. You don't need special qualification, you can do it as a hobby, or you can try and make a bit of money from it. Age doesn't come into it either. Young or old, so long as you've learnt the craft of article writing, have the ability to immerse yourself into someone's world to learn about their passion so you can write about it – and you have some method of capturing their words and taking photos. Then what's to stop you?

Seeing the Thames Police at work - so
When you're doing a mix of fiction and non fiction writing, they compliment each other so well. While books, edits, awaiting publisher's decision etc can take months or even years, an article can be written in a day or so (I used to be quicker when I was at the Cov Telegraph!) And you can see your results within a matter of weeks sometimes.

Of course article writing still carries all the disappointments of rejections; and changing editors can often make a huge difference to your work being accepted or not. But on the whole the two genres rub along very nicely together.

Yesterday I came across my first scrapbook and the first article I ever had published. The very first thing I had published was a reader's letter to Weekend Magazine which earned me the grand sum of £1.50 and I was over the moon about it. The first proper article was in Nursery World in 1979 for which I earned £9. I'd got one toddler and one new baby at the time so felt suitably equipped to put pen to paper (or fingers to typewriter) to write about avoiding jealousy amongst siblings when a new baby comes along. 

My first ever published article 1979.
When it was published they'd illustrated it with a generic picture of a toddler and baby, and I thought, I could have sent a photo in of my two. Lesson learned! Articles do better with photos or illustrations.

How to make a wooden darts case came next, suitably illustrated, for Dart's World magazine, this linked in with my social life at the time, playing darts in a ladies darts team – couldn't hit a barn door these days!

All sorts of articles followed, coinciding with my attempts at writing stories and gradually the two fell into place, side by side, fiction and non-fiction – and the path was set.

Teaming up with a photographer friend, Rob Tysall, was the best thing ever and we'd go 50/50 on anything published. As our articles were rarely commissioned, it was pot luck whether our hard work would result in being published or not. (Actually nothing changes!) But it was (and still is) exciting to keep an eye out in WH Smiths to see if we'd got anything published each month.

From the early 90s I started writing for Dogs Monthly with Rob taking the photos – and amazingly we still do to this day. As we're both massive dog lovers, writing about dogs has resulted in getting out and about meeting some amazing dogs – generally working dogs and some amazing people.

In the hope that there's lots of other dog lovers out there, I've just sorted through a few photos of dogs we're written about over the years. A picture may paint a thousand words but behind every picture there's a story. Enjoy the doggy pics, and thanks Rob (Tysall's Photography) for taking them. 

How about you? Is non fiction and article writing part of your writing life? Or do you just love dogs?

Richard Curtis practising for Crufts.
Canine aquatherapy but he stopped to
pose for the camera!

Swiss mountain rescue
(simulated for our article)

Mary Ray's amazing dogs

Please visit my website:

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Thank You For The Votes by Ann Evans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So a massive THANK YOU! to everyone who voted.

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

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

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

THANK YOU Mount Nod Primary School, Coventry.

Front L-R: Olivia,Josh, Jazmine.
Back L-R: Shona, Sanjot, Niamh, Mia, Sophia, Sophie.
Ben (not in the pic) responsible for the fab
computer imagery in the finished presentation.

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Tuesday, 23 October 2012

A Pomzkizillious Place for Inspiration by Ann Evans

Last month I went to the Maltese island of Gozo in the Med. It wasn't just a holiday, it was a writers' retreat organised by one of the members of The Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ) of which I've been a member for years, probably even longer than being with the SAS.

I went with a writing friend but apart from my pal Maxine, I didn't know any of the other people they were just familiar names that appeared in our round-robin emails and the Society's quarterly journal The Woman Writer.

There was no need to feel nervous however, from the moment we all met up there was that lovely camaraderie and easy conversation that always seems in abundance when any group of writers get together. And this was a special get-together on the beautiful – and tiny island of Gozo which measures just 9 by 5 miles.

The retreat was organised by SWWJ member Jennifer Pulling and apart from Maxine and I there were three other ladies and another who came over just for the day from her home on Malta. A cosy little band of writers, keen to explore, take in the legends and folklore and bask under that hot Mediterranean sun.

Personally, I went with the hopes of finding inspiration to write another romantic novel. My two previous romances have been set (a) on a tropical island and (b) in France. I thought that Gozo would be the perfect location for a love story to blossom.

Gozo has certainly proved magical and inspirational for other writers, not least Victorian author and poet Edward Lear who was so impressed by the island that he had to make up his own words to describe its magnificence – pomzkizillious and gromphiberous, no less. Although legend and myth go much further back in time as Ramla Bay on Gozo is supposedly where the nymph Calypso kept Ulysses a prisoner for seven years.

I can certainly think of worse places to be held captive as the rugged coastline around the tiny island is so magnificent with its incredible caves and rock formations while the little towns and villages remain unspoilt by modernisation. As for the churches, their dramatic appearance especially at sunset can take your breath away. Explore more deeply and you'll uncover secrets and discover the stunning craftsmanship of the Gozitan people.

I found it amazing as to how such a tiny island could have so many ancient archaeological sites, perhaps the most incredible being the Ggantija Temples thought to be older than the Egyptian pyramids. Sadly I soon realised that this tiny golden speck in the Mediterranean has too many wonders to see in just a week. I'll have to go back some day.

But did I feel the inspiration for a romance novel as I'd hoped? Sadly no, I was too busy taking in the sights, enjoying the weather, swimming in that clear blue sea and partaking of the culinary fayre! But all the memories are stored in my head and captured on photos and probably just need time to readjust and muse and go through all the subconscious processes that we unknowingly do before a story can begin to form. Although I did come home with article ideas. One being the amazing Gozo salt harvested from the salt pans that were just along the coast from where we stayed.

Oblong pans chiselled from the rock to collect sea water
It may look like snow but it's actually salt.
I stopped to talk to locals Alfred Attard and his wife Mary who are following in generations of their family's footsteps in harvesting the salt from the salt pans. Speaking in broken English they invited me into their cave which had been chiselled from the cliff to form a storage shed for the harvested salt and told me something of how the salt pans were created.
Alfred and Mary Attard, Salt Pans, Gozo.

I always think that if something stops me in my tracks because I find it interesting, it might also interest a magazine and its readers. I hope so anyway. It might not be the romantic novel I was hoping to be inspired to write, although... I wonder if Alfred and Mary found love among these surreal surroundings in their youth... perhaps there's another story beginning to germinate after all.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Dog tails and champagne by Ann Evans

Inspiration for writing ideas comes from a whole variety of different sources and that's not just for fiction. When I'm not writing fiction, I'm busy writing articles for magazines, but keeping up a steady flow of non-fiction often taxes the old brain cells to seek out inspirational ideas that I can turn into saleable magazine articles.

The cute Ashleigh and Pudsey off Britain's Got Talent provided the inspiration to enquire with a certain canine magazine that I've written for for many years, to see whether they would like an article that informs dog owners what's entailed if they want to teach their dog these kinds of moves. This happily resulted in being commissioned to write the article.

Writing doggy features is probably my favourite form of non-fiction articles and over the years I've been so fortunate in meeting dogs that do amazing things, from detecting arms, drugs and explosives to iconic dogs renowned for rescuing; and those providing a tremendous quality of life to less able people – and then there are those who simply bring joy to their owners and those around them.

Very often non-fiction research will re-emerge in a fictional story too. About five years ago I went on a press trip to the Champagne region in France and had a fantastic three or four days visiting the Champagne houses, the cellars and the vineyards – not to mention trying out a big selection of different champagnes and some posh nosh to go with it. (I know it's a dirty job but someone had to do it!) Anyway, subsequent articles were written and published, and all those wonderful memories were filed away for possible future use.

That research was called on again fairly recently when I had the urge to write another romance. I'd written A Tropical Affair for My Weekly Pocket Libraries which was based on a tropical island, which I hadn't personally visited (shame); but when looking to follow this up and trying to think of a new story I was reminded of the wonderful setting of the champagne region. A rich, handsome champagne millionaire would make the perfect hero. As for the heroine, well why not a feature writer on a mission?  

The subsequent book Champagne Harvest came out at a People's Friend Pocket Novel (under my maiden namejust last week and reading through it, (even though I'd written it) it was great to hear my hero quoting phrases that various champagne growers had made on my visit. I was able to take the best bits of my research and create this lovely fictional world that was, in a way, very real.

I wonder how other writers weave real life events into their work, and does fiction and non-fiction sometimes work together to produce something new?

Doggy and champagne pics courtesy of Rob Tysall
Out of focus book cover pic by me!!

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