The cat collector or Kat-a-log part 22

Hello Kitties!

Who would have thought that the spring will come so soon this year! Last time we checked, it was rainy cold weather outside and now the trees are blooming and ducks are fighting for territory at the local marina. UK, Poland and Malta are getting some serious sunshine treatment and even the Easter Holidays are getting closer and closer.

For us springtime usually means one thing: a big cleaning! Olympia is washing the windows, Rita is painting walls and doors and Mal is running errands buying presents and preparing parcels.  Despite being so busy, we still found some time to prepare  this special edition of Kat-a-log.  Just keep on reading and you will be surprised what can be found in your own house when you open all the cupboards and closets!

If you’d like to take a look at previous entries, please use the links below to about cats featured so far:

Kat-a-log Part 1: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-1/
Kat-a-log Part 2: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-2/
Kat-a-log Part 3: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-3/
Kat-a-log Part 4: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-4/
Kat-a-log Part 5: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-5/
Kat-a-log Part 6: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-6/
Kat-a-log Part 7: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-7/
Kat-a-log Part 8: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-8/
Kat-a-log Part 9: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-9/
Kat-a-log Part 10: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-10/
Kat-a-log Part 11: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-11/
Kat-a-log Part 12: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-12/
Kat-a-log Part 13: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-13/
Kat-a-log Part 14: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-14/
Kat-a-log Part 15: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-15/
Kat-a-log Part 16: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-16/
Kat-a-log Part 17: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-17/
Kat-a-log Part 18: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-18/
Kat-a-log Part 19: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-19/
Kat-a-log Part 20: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-20/
Kat-a-log Part 21: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-21/

If you’d like to contribute anything to our kitten project, please do so! We love hearing from our readers and each tip about the figurines is greatly appreciated. After so many years of collecting, we are unable to identify the maker or simply we cannot remember how certain figure came into our hands. So far, we have received several great clues and we were able to add some truly inspiring information about artists, creators or companies who made the figures.
Please send all correspondence to: rdabrowicz@yahoo.com We will get back to you as soon as we can.

Now, this special issue of Kat-a-log has been inspired by a friend (or rather an acquaintance) of ours who once tried to convince us that it is impossible to collect anything in the kitchen. He was sure that collecting items should be only limited to those parts of the household that are usually presented to friends or guests during official visits. A proper way  he said, would be to have an entire collection displayed in a showcase in living room under lock and key. He made an exception for stamps or coins which, according to his words, could be kept in special containers on shelves in bedrooms or even under the bed. But how on earth can you have a full collection in the kitchen? He even attempted to laugh at us by suggesting that there are maybe people out there who collects plates or spoons but they cannot be serious, right? Who in their right mind would be collecting plates??

Well, we love proving people wrong. There is nothing more satisfying in the whole wide world than watching people’s faces drop as you kill their silly arguments with few easy examples. You don’t even have to try hard – it took us 15 minute on Google to find several British societies dedicated to decorative plates collectors and several big auctions on Ebay specializing in silver spoons. You have to be pretty rich to collect those, we tell you! Some beautiful items were being auctioned off for thousands of pounds.
Collecting cats seems to be quite an inexpensive hobby it seems!

All together now, say MEOWW

All together now, say MEOWW

Another battle won, but the situation has got us thinking. People in general know so little about their own family members/friends/co-workers/other relations that they are incapable of  telling what their hobbies are. Even worse, when they discover something by accident, they simply belittle the collection or interest by branding it childish, silly or immature. In reality people can collect anything: postcards, vinyl records, Daleks (Robert Hull from Doncaster is the Guinness World Record holder for the biggest Dalek collection in existence), porcelain plates, cutlery, dolls, stamps, beer coasters and chocolate wrappings! Every collector should be able to enjoy their hobbies without guilt trips, name calling or having to resort to silence and secrecy. Olympia is very open about her hobby and doesn’t care what others think but it takes a lot of self esteem and dedication.

So, for the first time in Kat-a-log history we are opening the doors to our kitchen and present you with a unique collection within  a collection – a small selection of feline inspired cups, mugs and tea pots!

Kat-a-log Feline no. 90
Three sides of a cat: It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, Kitty in a cup and Time for a tea
Country of origin: France, bought as a gift in 2011

Yay! We hit the big 90! This lovely bone china porcelain teapot with a tea cup has been in Olympia’s possession since December 2011. A gift from Rita’s  former co-worker, the pot has been purchased on a ferry traveling between Dover and Calais. Before going on a short city break to France, she promised to bring a cat souvenir so it could be featured on the blog. However the promise soon became a real burden as the poor girl had serious troubles finding any cat figurines at all. Paris is usually a cat friendly place, but this time all figurines and sculptures were gone and the friend grew desperate. In her last attempt to keep her word, she purchased a teapot with big fluffy black and white cat painted on it and brought it back with her to Hereford. Giving it to Rita she was quite displeased with the whole experience and vowed to take it back if we didn’t like it.The porcelain teapot has won our hearts straight away and it became a beautiful Christmas present for our mom. It has  “Paws for Tea” written around the cap and two Miaows  near the handle and sprout. It was been made by Price and Kensington company, now part of Rayware Limited. According to official stats it weights 662 g and the catalog number is 0057.281.

P&K official website: https://www.facebook.com/PriceKensington
P&K Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PriceKensington
Buy your own here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Price-Kensington-Paws-For-Tea-Cat/dp/B0045IKZC6

It's 5 o'clock somewhere

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere

Kitty in a cup

Kitty in a cup

Time for a tea

Time for a tea

Kat-a-log Feline no. 91
Two sides of a cat: Mocha Dominquez and Pawprint
Country of origin: UK, bought as a gift in Tallinn in 2009

This superb collector mug designed excursively for British/American company Lang and Wise Fine Gifts in 2004 has been bought in Tallinn, the capitol of Estonia by two of Malicia’s co-workers who spent their holidays there in winter 2009. They found the mug in a small store  close to British embassy and thought that this was an excellent opportunity to present her with an unique cat related gift(the price was 10 pounds).  The picture on the mug is part of an original painting by American artist Lowell Herrero entitled “Mocha Dominquez”. The mug is exactly 4 inches tall, perfect for hot chocolate and has a lovely paw print inside.  If you are interested in details, the mug’s official Lang and Wise catalog number is 0501049 (LH#17).

Lowell Herrero’s official website: http://www.lowellherrero.com
Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lowell.herrero
Lang and Wise official websitehttp://www.lang.com
Lang’s Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thelangcompany
Lowell at Lang’s website: http://www.lang.com/collections/lowell-herrero.html

Mocha Dominquez

Mocha Dominquez

Pawprint

Pawprint

Full picture of the Mocha Dominquez artwork

Full picture of the Mocha Dominquez artwork

Kat-a-log Feline no. 92
Two sides of a cat: Mirror match and Twin cats
Country of origin: Poland, bought by Olympia in July 2012

Many cat figurines from Olympia’s collection come from far away countries like Israel, Malta, UK or Estonia or from different continents even (Australia, Hong Kong or Japan) but mug number three (or Kat-a-log feline number 92 if you prefer) didn’t have to travel far at all. You see, Olympia found this little gem in a local supermarket store  and decided to treat herself. The distance between her kitchen and the store is less than 1 mile! This proves that sometimes you don’t have to look far to find a spectacular item for your collection. This strange looking mug is known as Twin cats and has been made by Ravi Prestige in 2010,  Polish gift and home ware company.  Since 2012, the company has changed its name to Ravi Limited and now has two major ranges of products : Ravi Simple Solution (cleaning and packaging) and Ravi Decor (home ware).

Company’s official website is only available in Polish:
http://www.ravi.pl
http://www.ravi.pl/decor/

Mirror match

Mirror match

Twin cats

Twin cats

Kat-a-log Feline no. 93
Four sides of a cat: High Rise Cat, I’m Blue, My name is Yellow and How may I serve?
Country of origin: Poland, received as part of payment in 2010

Rita officially admits: she is responsible for bringing this huge Ravi Prestige coffee mug home in late May 2010 from Katowice. She has just returned from a 4 month delegation abroad and she didn’t have any loose change on her. Please remember that Poland is the only country in the world where the store might run out of coins and they will happily inform you at the till that they are not able to give you all your money back. Yes you have heard it right, we got used to it somehow but the foreigners are quite shocked when that happens to them. Anyway, usually the store lacks some tiny coins like one penny so you just wave it off and leave the store one penny poorer. What happened on that lovely hot day was, the store clerk admitted that it was too hot for her to go look for a change and asked Rita is she would like to chose something from the store that cost exactly 8 PLN (about 2 pounds). Being in a hurry, Rita grabbed the mug and was on her way home reflecting upon the idiocy of this sad affair. Nonetheless, Olympia had a good laugh about it all and kept the mug. And they all lived together happily ever after (minus Rita who decided to move out to some normal country). The End.

High Rise Cat

High Rise Cat

I'm Blue

I’m Blue

My name is Yellow

My name is Yellow

How may I serve?

How may I serve?

Kat-a-log Feline no. 94
Two sides of a cat: Let’s hunt and Little tiger
Country of origin: Poland, bought as a gift in 2009

Kat-a-log feline number 94 arrived into Olympia’s hands in late October 2009. It was an early birthday gift for Rita from one of her co-workers named Suzanna. Sue is a big animal lover and in her spare time works as a volunteer in local animal shelter. This fantastically cute dolomite tea mug was made by Polish company SABA around 2007 and sadly is not longer available through their shop.  It has been hand painted and covered with two varnish layers for extra protection and some serious shine. The mug is part of  Colorful Animal series and is designed for kids, but what the heck, adults might enjoy them as well!

Please visit SABA’s official page at: http://sabakatowice.nazwa.pl/sabakatowice/web/
Colorful Animal series can be found here: http://sabakatowice.nazwa.pl/sabakatowice/web/produkt/2/515
Saba on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/SABA-Sp-z-oo/447622035269567

Let's hunt

Let’s hunt

Little tiger

Little tiger

Kat-a-log Feline no. 95
Three sides of a cat: My contented cat, My cuddly cat and My sad cat
Country of origin: UK, bought as a gift in March 2013

Rita’s favorite tea mug! This absolutely delightful white porcelain mug comes from the award winning Contented Pets  series made by English company Rayware. Rita found it in Tesco in Gloucester while shopping and she had to add it to her cart.  We can see some readers’ faces at this moment. Tesco? Yes, indeed. Sometimes we are being asked why we put such information online and the answer is always they same – because this is what happened and that’s how we found a certain item. Buying in Tesco isn’t probably glamorous but they have a very nice selection of mugs and home ware that are of top quality. If you come across something you like, just buy it and don’t regret it, that’s our philosophy.  You do not have to  pay lots of money to enjoy a truly wonderful present. The price was about 4 pounds and we are  more than happy to tell you when we got it from. Contented pets series can be found in many other stores including Marks and Spencer Home, Amazon, Very.co.uk and Ebay.

The mug weights about 400 g, is 4.25″ tall with a 3″ diameter and contains 12oz (about 340 ml).

Official website:
http://www.reyware.co.uk

My contented cat

My contented cat

My cuddly cut

My cuddly cut

My sad cat

My sad cat

Contented pets logo

Contented pets logo

 

Kat-a-log Feline no. 96
Four sides of a cat: Morning coffee, Upside down, Happy happy cat and Fish-bone for tea
Country of origin: unknown, bought as a gift in January 2012

In direct contrast to previous mugs presented above, Kat-a-log feline number 96 is a bit of a (silent) enigma to us. We do not know where it was made and by whom. The most believable theory is, it was made in China and then bought by Polish company named PERFEKT. Perfekt  Limited are not the makers, they are distributor of various gifts and kitchen ware from Asia to European Union and their logo has been pressed at the bottom of the mug. This is a standard procedure among Chinese producers – European or American clients are choosing items from a catalog and the Chinese company adds their client’s logos or name to the products before shipping it to where the items will be sold. It is a bit sad that we are unable to tell you who the real maker is or that we do not even know the name of the artist. If you  know Polish, you are free to visit the website of the Polish company who brought this cute  cat collection to us: http://perfekt.co/page1.php

Morning coffee

Morning coffee

Upside down

Upside down

Happy, happy cat

Happy, happy cat

Fish for tea

Fish-bone for tea

Entire collection of mugs

Entire collection of mugs

Kat-a-log Feline no. 97
Five sides of a cat: Meow Part 1 ,2 ,3, 4 and5
Country of origin: China, bought as a gift in May 2013

A real panorama of cats! The last mug in today’s special edition of Kat-a-log has a very similar history to that of number 96. All we really know is this  super cute  mug has  been made in China and traveled all the way to Poland where Rita and her dad found it in a supermarket and thought it will be a great way to cheer Olympia up. at that time, Rita was awaiting thyroid operation and Olympia was very afraid. We can proudly report that Rita is now perfectly healthy and Olympia loves to drink cappuccino from this very mug and purrs like a real cat each time she is given one (especially chocolate and vanilla flavored). If anybody from our dear readers knows the real maker please send us a line!

Meow part 1

Meow part 1

Meow part 2

Meow part 2

Meow part 3

Meow part 3

Meow part 4

Meow part 4

Meow part 5

Meow part 5


Kat-a-log Feline no. 98 and 99
Two  sides of a cat: Catalog and Dinner at Tiffany’s
Country of origin: UK, given as a gift in 2013

We had teapots,  cups  and collection of mugs already. Do you know what’s missing? Tea towels!! Olympia decided that since she runs a cat friendly kitchen (in a cat friendly household) she needs to add some cat related accessories. the tea towel have been bough by Rita in April 2013 in Hereford in her favorite cooking shop called Cook Mate. Sadly the owners of this small business retired and the store has been closed. But before their doors have been closed forever, Rita managed to sneak in and found two  puurfect tea-towels. We decided to put the two items together but each will receive a separate Kat-a-log number.

Number 98: the tea towel has been designed by Helen L Smith, a widely known artist that makes wonderful comical illustration about our beloved pets. The illustration is  called Catalogue of Cats  (how appropriate!) and the tea towel has been made by McCaw Allan. The tea towel number is 781U.

Helen L Smith’s Official website can be found at: http://www.helen-l-smith.co.uk
Catalog picture can be seen here: http://www.helen-l-smith.co.uk/Tea_Towels/files/page5-1003-full.htmlMCCaw Allan McCaw Allan website is available at: http://www.mccaw-allan.com/#!tea-towels/masterpage_2

Helen L Smith's Catalog

Helen L Smith’s Catalog

Number 99: This cotton tea towel is entitled “Kittie’s Dinner” and has been made by Samuel Lamont Group – Northern Ireland. Like the previous tea towel, it measures exactly 78 cm x 48 cm and weights about 120 grams. Its unique number is B0529. Both towels have been on the market since 2012.

Samuel Lamont Official website: http://www.samuellamont.co.uk/
You can see both tea towels  in the official company’s catalogue at:

http://media.wix.com/ugd/3aebcf_16a9c862db21018422aac2feaaa9398e.pdf?d..

Tabby cat and his fish

Tabby cat and his fish

 

Well kids, another great update to Kat-a-log project is now done!
Please keep visiting as we will have another  issue of your favorite cat magazine just before the Easter!

Have a great day,

XXX
Olympia, Rita and Malicia Dabrowicz

The Reading Hour – 15 (un)easy questions for Jana Oliver

Greetings dear readers!

Welcome to the third edition of The Reading Hour! Yet again at the beginning, we wish to thank all viewers and readers. You are truly incredible! We seem to have more and more visitors each time we post and this is a fantastic thing. There are hundreds and hundreds of wonderful books in the world and we need to encourage more people to start reading. A good book could be a perfect medicine for wars, anger or hate. After all, it’s harder to concentrate on the negative feeling if you are in the middle of  fascinating book and you just can’t stop reading!  So book readers of the world unite and let’s spread some love for the written word, shall we?

If you have missed previous edition, please click on the links below:

Interview with Helen Stringer:
http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/the-reading-hour-helen-stringer/

Interview with Nathan P Butler:

http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/the-reading-hour-15-uneasy-questions-for-nathan-p-butler/

Our guest for today is incredible Jana Oliver, a woman of extraordinary imagination and skills. We have been reading her books for years and when she agreed to be interviewed for our blog, it felt like winning a lottery. We are sure many of our regular visitors are familiar with her books, but if you hear her name for the first time, please pay attention. Jana is one of the most popular writers in YA (young adult) category and you will be hearing a lot about her in the future!

The Demon Trappers series logo

The Demon Trappers series logo

Official bio:

Jana Oliver is an American author. Her books cross many genres, including romance/fantasy and historical mystery. An Iowa native, she currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Her Time Rovers Series is published by Dragon Moon Press, a Canadian speculative fiction publisher, and in e-book form by Nevermore Press. The series has been nominated for fifteen awards and has won twelve, including ForeWord Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Book of the Year, the first time a science fiction novel has received that honor.

Her young adult series (The Demon Trappers) is published in the US by St. Martin’s Press (THE DEMON TRAPPER’S DAUGHTER, SOUL THIEF and FORGIVEN). The series has also been published in the UK, Germany, France, Poland, Russia, Turkey and Brazil.
Jana’s happiest when she’s researching outlandish urban legends, wandering around old cemeteries and dreaming up new stories. Her latest book, Briar Rose, a dark and twisty re-telling of Sleeping Beauty, is now available in the UK and Australia.

Vanadian Avenue had a real pleasure to exchange several emails with Jana in early January 2014 . Mrs Oliver is not only funny and easy to talk to, but also very kind. We hope that you are going to enjoy reading this interview, we definitely had so much fun asking the questions!

—————————————

The Reading Hour – 15 (un)easy questions for Jana Oliver

A beautiful picture of Jana Oliver

A beautiful picture of Jana Oliver

Vanadian Avenue: At the beginning, can we ask for a short introduction for our readers. Who is Jana Oliver and how long have you been writing?

Jana Oliver: I am a multi-published author of young adult and adult fiction. I’ve been writing for sixteen years.

Vanadian Avenue: What motivates you to write? Do you have any method for avoiding writer’s blocks and retaining creativity?

Jana Oliver:I’m motivated to write because I have all these “voices” in my head and they need me to tell their stories.

I don’t usually have writer’s block because my deadlines don’t allow me that option. I do have moments where I’m not sure where the story is headed and that’s when I clean my cupboards or spend some time playing with my cat. That “downtime” often allows my brain to rethink the next scene and find the way forward.

Vanadian Avenue: What in your opinion constitutes a good book? What’s Jana’s recipe for success? Time Rovers trilogy (“Sojourn”, “Virtual Evil” and “Madman’s Dance”) has been nominated 15 times and won 12 awards. Have you ever imagined that this series would become so popular?

Jana Oliver: A good book is one that pulls the reader into a different world full of intriguing characters who need to do something to make things right. Be that a murder mystery where the bad guy has to be found before he kills again, or a fantasy novel where good and evil are at war. At the heart of the story are those characters. If you don’t feel for them, you won’t join them on their journey. That’s what makes a story you can’t put down. That’s what I aim for with every single book.

Frankly I’ve been surprised at how well my books have been received. I thought folks might like to read them, but WOW!

First book in the Demon Trappers saga entitled  Forsaken. You can buy a copy here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Demon-Trappers-Jana-Oliver/dp/0330519476

First book in the Demon Trappers saga entitled Forsaken. You can buy a copy here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Demon-Trappers-Jana-Oliver/dp/0330519476

The Demon Trappers Part Deux: Forbidden. You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Demon-Trappers-Jana-Oliver/dp/0330519484/

The Demon Trappers Part Deux: Forbidden. You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Demon-Trappers-Jana-Oliver/dp/0330519484/

Vanadian Avenue: Many authors admit that while they are usually very happy with the final versions of their books, there is always something they would like to correct. If you could change anything in any of your books, what would that be?

Jana Oliver: Not really. That doesn’t mean I don’t wish I could have written a scene better, but the stories themselves I’m good with.

Vanadian Avenue: Denver Beck and Riley Blackthorne, the main characters from The Demon Trappers series are our definitive favorites. Which one of the characters you have created is your favorite one?

Jana Oliver: I’m very fond of Grand Master Angus Stewart. He’s just such a neat guy. He’s wise, but not in a pompous way. And he’s seriously bad-ass in battle. Gotta love a dude like that.

Vanadian Avenue: Can you tell us more about “Briar Rose”? We heard it is a based on the popular Sleeping Beauty fairytale (but with a twist!)

Jana Oliver: “Briar Rose” is a twisty and dark version of Sleeping Beauty set in the South. It has vengeful Civil War ghosts, a nasty curse, clockwork wolves and a spunky heroine. I had a grand time writing that story.

Vanadian Avenue: Do you plan to write a sequel or is Briar Rose a stand-alone novel?

Jana Oliver: No sequel, it’s a standalone. That’s part of the reason it was so fun to write – I didn’t have to fret about what might be happening three books down the line.

Vanadian Avenue: Demon Trappers Series was set in Atlanta and Briar Rose is set in southeastern Georgia near Savannah. Do you find it easier to write about places you know from personal experience?

Jana Oliver: I like to visit the places where I set my books to get a feel for the area. I trudged around Atlanta to get it know it better (even though I live just outside the city). I did the same for the setting for “Briar Rose” and for my Time Rovers Books which were set in the East End of London. That personal knowledge helps make the writing easier.

Vanadian Avenue: We have to ask about the covers. They have always been visually stunning and beautifully designed. Who is responsible for them? Also, Elizabeth May, the girl featured on the covers for The Demon Trapper series, has just released her debut novel – “The Falconer”! Aren’t you afraid that the girl featured on the Briar Rose cover is going to become a writer as well? :)

Jana Oliver:  LOL. That would be kinda cool – my cover models go on to become successful authors. I agree, the covers have been stunning and I credit my UK publishing house (Macmillan Children’s Books) for that. My editor (Ms. Rachel) has a great eye for a striking cover and their graphic artists are really talented. The result is a really pretty book.

The Demon Trappers series part three entitled Forgiven. You can purchase a copy here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Demon-Trappers-Jana-Oliver/dp/0330519492/

The Demon Trappers series part three entitled Forgiven. You can purchase a copy here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Demon-Trappers-Jana-Oliver/dp/0330519492/

The last book in the series is called Foretold. Order your copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Demon-Trappers-Jana-Oliver/dp/1447216067/

The last book in the series is called Foretold. Order your copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Demon-Trappers-Jana-Oliver/dp/1447216067/

Elizabeth  May, the face of Riley Anora Blackthorne. More information about Elizabeth's book Falconer can be found at: www.elizabethmaywrites.com

Elizabeth May, the face of Riley Anora Blackthorne. More information about Elizabeth’s book Falconer can be found at: http://www.elizabethmaywrites.com

Vanadian Avenue:  It came as a bit of surprise for your readers, but recently you have published another book – “Tangled Souls”. You mentioned in a recent interview that it took you nearly 10 years to finish it.

Jana Oliver: “Tangled Souls” is an adult paranormal romance I wrote way back when. Over the years I’d fuss with it, then set it aside as other (paid) projects gained precedence. I finally decided to get it done and out there. I’m working on the companion book to it (the sister’s story, yet untitled) at the moment. It’s been in the works since 1998. Hopefully it’ll be published sometime this year.

Vanadian Avenue: Fantasy and paranormal elements play a big role in your books. However, your characters have to deal with everyday difficulties more often than with supernatural beings. Lack of prospects, family tragedies, economical crisis, unemployment – your vision of America is dark and scarily realistic!

Jana Oliver: One of the ways to have believable characters is to give them real problems. Even superheroes need personal issues, so my folks have financial concerns, dating dilemmas, big decisions to make. Sometimes they make the right decisions, sometimes not. Either way, they have to live with the consequences. I’m not fond of characters who seem to be able to handle everything thrown at them. That’s not the way it works. I want characters who screw up every now and then. Then I can relate to them. Big time.

Vanadian Avenue: Tell us about your future projects. What can we expect from you in 2014?

Jana Oliver: Besides that companion book I spoke of earlier, I’m looking forward to writing another YA novel or two. My editor and I are discussing that at present so I’m hoping to have some good news on that front very soon.

Vanadian Avenue: Famous last words – anything you’d like to tell your readers?

Jana Oliver: You guys rock. Thank you for reading my stories!

Vanadian Avenue: Thank you so much for answering our questions!

Jana Oliver: My pleasure. Thank you.

Front cover of Grave Matters - Demon Series novella. You can purchase it here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Grave-Matters-Demon-Trappers-Novella/dp/0970449089

Front cover of Grave Matters – Demon Series novella. You can purchase it here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Grave-Matters-Demon-Trappers-Novella/dp/0970449089

Great book with a great cover - Briar Rose can be ordered here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Briar-Rose-Jana-Oliver/dp/1447241096/

Great book with a great cover – Briar Rose can be ordered here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Briar-Rose-Jana-Oliver/dp/1447241096/

Useful links about Jana:

Official site: http://www.janaoliver.com
Official site for Demon Trapper series:
http://www.demontrappers.co.uk
http://www.demontrappers.com
Official site for Time Rovers series: http://www.timerovers.com
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jana_Oliver

Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JanaOliver
Jana’s personal profile: https://www.facebook.com/jana.oliver.754
Official Twitter: https://twitter.com/crazyauthorgirl

GoodReads:
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4105961.Jana_Oliver
Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jana-G.-Oliver/e/B001K7LIR6

Jana Oliver is represented by Meredith Bernstein. Please contact her at:
Meredith Bernstein Literary Agency
2095 Broadway, Suite 505
New York, NY 10023

St. Martin’s Press (Publisher): http://us.macmillan.com/author/janaoliver

Malicia and Rita would like to thank Jana and her assistant, Chris Jasper for their help and assistance. You are truly wonderful! Thank you very, very much.

If you have any questions regarding Jana’s interview, her plans or books, please drop us a line at rdabrowicz@yahoo.com
We will try to answer all fan mail or pass any information to the author.

Have a lovely day!
XXX
Rita and Mal

The Reading Hour – 15 (un)easy questions for Nathan P Butler

Good day book lovers!

Welcome again to The Reading Hour. We need to thank all of you who visited our blog and read theinterview with incredible Helen Stringer! We have received a lot of attention from s-f and Young Adults readers on both sides of the Atlantic and we are incredibly proud. If anybody tells you that dystopian or s-f literature is no longer popular, don’t believe  a single word they say. We know better and have excellent blog stats to prove that.

If you have missed our talk with Helen, please click on the link below:
http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/the-reading-hour-helen-stringer/

Today, our guest is Nathan P Butler, a popular s-f writer and a living legend in Star Wars fandom!

Official bio:

Nathan P. Butler is a high school teacher by profession. He graduated from University of Evansville in southern Indiana with a BS in Secondary Education in 2002 and soon began teaching in the Atlanta Metro area. In 2009, he completed graduate work through Walden University and earned a MS in Education with a specialization in Integrating Technology in the Classroom. He is also certified by the College Board to teach their Advanced Placement World History course. However, Butler is best known as the writer of the Star Wars story Equals and Opposites (2004) in Dark Horse Comics’ Star Wars Tales, which has been reprinted in collected form and also released with two action figures, based on the story, through Hasbro. He has also made other contributions to the Star Wars mythos, most notably including the development of in-universe dates for several historical maps in Star Wars: The Essential Atlas by Daniel Wallace and Jason Fry. In 2009, Butler joined Grail Quest Books to write two Earther faction novellas (Healers and Hunters and On Red Soil) for the WARS: The Battle of Phobos series, based on the Decipher, Inc. science fiction property. In 2006 and 2009, Butler self-published the original versions of his novella Echoes and the Greater Good novel. Beginning in 2011, new editions were developed for both, and they are now seeing professional release through Grail Quest Books. Originally from Evansville, Indiana, he now lives in the Atlanta area with his wife and a fellow sci-fi fan, Jodi and two cats. When not writing, he teaches Advanced Placement World History and regular World History at Creekside High School in Fairburn, Georgia.

We have interviewed Nathan especially for our blog in October 2013. Enjoy!

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The Reading Hour – 15 (un)easy questions for Nathan P Butler

Nathan P Butler looking very professional

Nathan P Butler looking very professional

Vanadian Avenue: Your name is known far and wide in the Galaxy Far Away but please introduce yourself to our readers.

Nathan P Butler:  I’m Nathan P. Butler. By profession, I’m a high school Social Studies teacher in the Atlanta area and a freelance science fiction writer, having published works through Dark Horse Comics and Grail Quest Books. I am also an avid Star Wars fan, having produced the Star Wars Timeline Project (now the Star Wars Timeline Gold) since 1997, having hosted (and currently hosting) Star Wars podcasts since 2002, and now moving into several new YouTube video series on the subject. I also run the Star Wars fan audio “hub” site StarWarsFanworks.com.

Vanadian Avenue: A question everybody wants to ask: How would someone become a Star Wars writer? What do you have to do for LucasArts to approach you with an offer to write a SW book?

Nathan P Butler:  I am probably not the best person to answer this because, frankly, my experience was a fluke. I had been working on my Star Wars timeline document online for about seven years and had been a Star Wars podcaster for two years or so when I had the chance to write for Star Wars Tales in 2004. It was one of the few times in the history of Star Wars publishing that a publication was given leeway to go with writers who were untested and not necessarily previously published. Jeremy Barlow, the Associate Editor of the Star Wars line for Dark Horse Comics at the time, had seen my timeline and either heard or heard of my podcast and fan-made Star Wars audio dramas and felt that I was a good fit to write a short tale for that anthology series. Probably the one part of my experience that is similar to most writers is that you have to be “invited to the party.” You cannot actively submit works or seek the opportunity to write for Star Wars; they have to come to you. That would also include my later chances to impact the saga, such as being asked to assist Jason Fry and Daniel Wallace on some material for the Star Wars Essential Atlas and the like. I was simply very lucky or blessed to be in the right place at the right time.

Star Wars Tales, Volume 6 (released on January 25th 2006), featuring Nathan's "Equals and Opposites," which pits Kyle Katarn and Jan Ors (in their first comic appearance) against the Yuuzhan Vong. This trade paperback includes issues 21 - 24 of the original series.

Star Wars Tales, Volume 6 released on January 25th 2006, featuring Nathan’s “Equals and Opposites,” which pits Kyle Katarn and Jan Ors (in their first comic appearance) against the Yuuzhan Vong. This trade paperback includes issues 21 – 24 of the original series.

Star Wars Tales Volume 6 promotional poster drawn by Tsueno Sanada.

Star Wars Tales Volume 6 promotional poster drawn by Tsueno Sanada.

Vanadian Avenue: How long did it take you to write “Equals & Opposites”? Was it hard to come up with a storyline?

Nathan P Butler: The story pitch was made in March 2004, and the final approved script with all Dark Horse and Lucasfilm edits and such worked in was ready about two months later. Granted, I believe that Jeremy had a bit more leeway with me, given my inexperience at the time, so I had more opportunities for feedback and a dialogue with Jeremy than I would imagine a more seasoned writer would have had. He definitely was there to make sure it was a smooth process. As for coming up with the story, there were actually a couple of different pitches that emerged. One that focused on the Yuuzhan Vong War and briefly included Kyle Katarn and Jan Ors eventually became, through discussions with Jeremy and feedback from Lucasfilm, a story that was more personal for Kyle and Jan. The real heart of the story for me, though, was based on some feedback that was received. I was not allowed to make Kyle and Jan a married couple in the story, which was a bit of a surprise, given how many longtime Star Wars partnerships become married couples. That quickly became the focus of the banter and character development for the pair in the story, with the Vong encounter surrounding it as its context, though not its core.

Vanadian Avenue: Having a Star Wars character named after yourself is a dream come true for every fan. What was your reaction when you learnt that Jeremy Barlow created Krono Relt to honor you?

Nathan P Butler:  I was quite excited, as one might expect. I actually had no idea that was the case until Jeremy told me and explained the name’s origins: “Krono” from ChronoRadio (my first podcast) and “Relt” from the last four letters of my surname spelled backward. I was even more stoked when, as a sort of congratulations for finishing the writing process, he sent me a signed copy of that issue (Empire #13), which was his own first Star Wars comic writing experience, I believe.

Vanadian Avenue: With such enormous universe, Star Wars has many plot (black) holes and non canon endings. Every writer has their own way to cover up mistakes in the storyline. What are your tricks to unified Star Wars history?

Nathan P Butler: That depends on what perspective we’re coming from. If the issue is how to consider it all to be one unified history without errors, then I’d have to say that I simply don’t consider it to be such a thing. There are certainly plenty of contradictions, intentional and unintentional, especially as Lucas re-entered the saga, circa 1999 – 2005 and 2008 – 2013. As for how to keep it all straight for my Star Wars Timeline Gold, I think the key is intellectual honesty. Take at face value what we are told is the case, work in the retcons as they are explained or released, ask questions when necessary, and just roll with the punches. If a contradiction exists, note it and move on. One thing that I feel strongly about is that fans should not just make up stuff as we go along to fit things together. That isn’t “canon” it’s “fanon” and it has no bearing on the official Star Wars universe.

Vanadian Avenue: Let’s play favorites: who is your favorite character in Star Wars and why? You can choose one character from the movies and one from the books.

Nathan P Butler: My personal favorite is Cade Skywalker, the protagonist of the first Star Wars: Legacy comic series by John Ostrander and Jan Duursema. Cade is a descendant of Luke Skywalker, who is an adult in an era over 130 years after Return of the Jedi. With a new Sith Order having again wiped out most of the Jedi Order and solidified an Empire over much of the galaxy, Cade is a Skywalker on the run from his past when we meet him. He is a bounty hunter, raised in part by Jedi but later by pirates, and he is a drug addict, using “deathsticks” to try to shut out the Force. His story is one about reclaiming one’s identity, truly choosing between Light and Dark when both seem viable options at times, and one of finding selflessness in a character who had fallen into selfishness. One of his most repeated lines, “We take what is given,” is a mantra that I think all of us could benefit from acknowledging in our everyday lives.

Nathan's original novel entitled "Greater Good"

Nathan’s original novel entitled “Greater Good”

Back of Greater Good novel. You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Greater-Good-Nathan-P-Butler/dp/0983548811

Back of Greater Good novel. You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Greater-Good-Nathan-P-Butler/dp/0983548811

Vanadian Avenue: Is there a Star Wars character you would never write about? The fan base is not particularly kind to Jar Jar Binks. Name one character you would love to have crossed – out of the Extended Universe once and for all.

Nathan P Butler: There are certainly plenty of characters that we’ve grown to dislike over the years. I would love to see Jar Jar toned down in the films, though he works as the “fool” character for The Clone Wars and in how he is manipulated in Attack of the Clones. If I had to choose one character, it would probably have to be Waru the “anti-Force being” from The Crystal Star. If I could choose a performance, it’d be B.J. Hughes voice acting as Jar Jar Binks before Ahmed Best returned to the role. If I could choose a group of characters, I’d love to see the characterizations of the Ewoks from the second season of that cartoon series entirely wiped from existence in favor of their personalities in the first season – before their souls were removed, so to speak.

Vanadian Avenue: Your expert knowledge about chronology and events within Star Wars Extended Universe is legendary. You have served as an advisor for many other writers and even developed in-universe digital calendar for “Star Wars: The Essential Atlas” written by Daniel Wallace and Jason Fry. Can you could give us some examples of the worst crimes against the canon chronology ever committed that you managed to find?

Nathan P Butler: In recent memory, the Coruscant Nights books come to mind. Repeatedly in that series, the author(s) managed to foul up the dates of Michael Reaves’ previous novel, Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, and the dates of the prequels in relation to that novel. The entire climax of the third novel, Patterns of Force, relies on the idea that a substance carried around since the Clone Wars has basically spoiled in the decade(s) since the conflict. But . . . it hasn’t been decades, or even years. It has been a matter of months instead. The co-author of the latter books in that line has also continued to claim in interviews that a character that was gravely injured in a Coruscant Nights book did, in fact, die, despite that character showing up later in Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, very much alive. Usually, though, the biggest continuity headaches come from Lucas himself. He played his cards close to the chest before creating the Prequel Trilogy, so things like Jedi not being able to marry, Greedo’s Prequel-era appearances, and such were things that contradicted previous Expanded Universe materials that had been created before knowing about these ideas from Lucas. The biggest issue of this kind came with the recent The Clone Wars cartoon series. Lucas let Dark Horse, Del Rey, LucasArts, and others fill in the era of the Clone Wars in a very intricate, often week-to-week, storyline, only to come back three years later and say, “Oh, I’m going to create a new TV show that takes place in this era, so move aside!” The continuity chaos created by The Clone Wars has created some irreconcilable issues in that era, and, at present, there are apparently no plans to try to fully integrate the 2002 – 2007 and 2008+ versions of that era into one coherent timeline. Granted, Lucas has every right to re-enter and expand upon his own saga, and it is the peril of any licensed work author to know that their stories could be wiped out at any time if the power behind it all were to exert itself again, but however we look at it, it is the biggest continuity train wreck the saga has ever seen.

Front cover of Wars: The Battle of Phobos (Vol.1) - Preludes

Front cover of Wars: The Battle of Phobos (Vol.1) – Preludes

Back cover of Wars: The Battle of Phobos (Vol.1) - Preludes . You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wars-Battle-Phobos-Vol-1-Preludes/dp/0983548803

Back cover of Wars: The Battle of Phobos (Vol.1) – Preludes . You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wars-Battle-Phobos-Vol-1-Preludes/dp/0983548803

Vanadian Avenue: Star Wars is not just another complete universe – it’s a pop cultural phenomenon. We suppose there is a pressure on writers regarding new story lines. If you have ever experienced it either from publishers or the fans, would you like to speak about it?

Nathan P Butler: Personally, I did not feel it much, other than knowing that fans had been wanting the Yuuzhan Vong and Kyle Katarn in comics for a while, and I’d be the one bringing them into that arena with the story. In a lot of ways, though, I’d imagine that writing a Star Wars story is both a blessing and a curse for a novelist or someone embarking on a full comic series. On the one hand, your name becomes instantly known, and you sell quite a lot of copies based on the Star Wars name alone. On the other hand, your work will be fodder for snarky reviewers out in the fandom community like me, which is not always a pretty sight.

Vanadian Avenue: You are the driving force and the main writer behind Star Wars Timeline Gold. Can you tell us more about this project?

Nathan P Butler: The SWT-G is a massive Star Wars chronology document (or set of documents, as it is now four PDF files) that chronicles the saga in the most comprehensive format currently available anywhere. It began as a small document for my own use, started to be released online in late 1997, and has grown by leaps and bounds since. The last edition (August 2013) came in at 2,459 pages between the four documents. If you’re looking for Star Wars chronological information or a comprehensive history of that universe, it’s where to look.

Vanadian Avenue: Outside of your work for Star Wars, you have also released an original novel entitled “Greater Good” and WARS: The Battle of Phobos novella through Grail Quest Books. Where can we buy them?

Nathan P Butler: Greater Good, my sci-fi thriller of time travel and telepaths/telekinetic can be found in paperback through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, though the best place (if you want to support Grail Quest Books and me directly) is to order through MiddleEarthShop.com. Greater Good is also in ebook format for Kindle and Nook. WARS: The Battle of Phobos is a nine-novella series that is still ongoing, for which I wrote two novellas: Healers and Hunters, then On Red Soil. Both are available as an ebook for Nook and Kindle, and they are each one of three collected novellas in the paperback WARS: The Battle of Phobos, Vol. 1: Preludes and Vol. 2: Stretti, respectively. These are also available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, though more supportive if picked up through MiddleEarthShop.com.

Vanadian Avenue: Audio dramas seem to be another hobby of yours. You have produced many Star Wars related dramas as well as original ones since 2002. What’s so fascinating about them?

Nathan P Butler: I personally enjoy the freedom that the medium provides. While you are limited by being in an audio-only medium, you are also not limited by things like special effects budgets or the kind of considerations necessary in trying to produce film projects. With good voice actors and a nice library of music and sound effects, you can create an engaging audio drama with team members all over the world. In fact, it was the desire to produce an unpredictable, high-end fan film script that led to the production of my first (and the first in online Star Wars fandom) audio drama, Star Wars: Second Strike.

Front cover of WARS: The Battle of Phobos (Vol.2) - Stretti

Front cover of WARS: The Battle of Phobos (Vol.2) – Stretti

Back cover of WARS: The Battle of Phobos (Vol.2) - Stretti You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/WARS-Battle-Phobos-Vol-2-Stretti/dp/0615798543

Back cover of WARS: The Battle of Phobos (Vol.2) – Stretti You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/WARS-Battle-Phobos-Vol-2-Stretti/dp/0615798543

Vanadian Avenue: What exactly is www.starwarsfanworks.com? How varied and well organized is the audiodrama community on the internet?

Nathan P Butler: It started as a sort of go-to directory and feature site for the Star Wars fan audio community when it was just getting off the ground in 2003. Today, it acts as a directory page to help people find Star Wars podcasts, past and present, small and large, along with audio dramas and audio parodies (that is, parody stories, not musical parodies). Originally, the community based around Star Wars fan audio was fairly cohesive, but as podcasting has become a much bigger part of our culture, it has expanded and integrated into that broader podcasting community to the extent that it isn’t often a cohesive whole so much as just a lot of networking between people interested in the same general subjects and franchises.

Vanadian Avenue: Nathan, you are also a teacher and author of educational podcasts for students in Economics, United States History and World History. Does your experience as a writer and producer come handy in the class room?

Nathan P Butler: I’m not sure that the writing and producing has very often, but the podcasting has come in handy. I have created podcast study guides for World History, Economics, and United States History, based on the Georgia Performance Standards that are now used across the state. I also find that podcasting has helped me as a communicator, which I’d like to think makes me more engaging and clear in classroom lessons.

Vanadian Avenue: Any plans for the future? What can we expect from you in the next months to come?

Nathan P Butler:  Writing-wise, I am not really in a position to do much at the moment, as I’m teaching three different kinds of classes every day, recently married, and juggling a lot of work and financial responsibilities at the moment. What remain on my plate right now is the fandom projects, which are stress relief to me. So, fans that are following my YouTube channel will see more of my From the Star Wars Library video series and its spinoff, From the Star Wars Home Video Library. New editions of the Star Wars Timeline Gold will continue to be released each year. More often than either of those, fans can keep up with my podcasting. I continue to host Star Wars Beyond the Films at StarWarsReport.com with Mark Hurliman with new episodes each week, and we are awaiting an upcoming release of our The Clone Wars film retrospective review on Republic Forces Radio Network to announce the future of that team in relation to the potential of covering Star Wars: Rebels in the future. Big announcements are coming in that regard, but nothing I can reveal prior to that episode’s release. It’s all good things, I’m inclined to say, but I’m biased on the subject, of course.

Vanadian Avenue: We are much obliged! Thank you for your time.

Nathan P Butler:  My pleasure. Thank you.

Cover of Healers and Hunters (WARS: The Battle of Phobos - Earthers, Part 1 of 3) You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Healers-Hunters-WARS-Battle-Earthers-ebook/dp/B004MPRAJ8

Cover of Healers and Hunters (WARS: The Battle of Phobos – Earthers, Part 1 of 3) You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Healers-Hunters-WARS-Battle-Earthers-ebook/dp/B004MPRAJ8

Cover of On Red Soil (WARS: The Battle of Phobos - Earthers, Part 2 of 3) You can purchase a copy  at:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/On-Red-Soil-WARS-Earthers-ebook/dp/B0078JDDF0

Cover of On Red Soil (WARS: The Battle of Phobos – Earthers, Part 2 of 3) You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/On-Red-Soil-WARS-Earthers-ebook/dp/B0078JDDF0

Useful links about Nathan:

Official site: http://www.nathanpbutler.com/
Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nathanpbutlerauthor
Star Wars Fan Works: http://www.starwarsfanworks.com/
Official Twitter:  https://twitter.com/swfanworks

Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2885637.Nathan_P_Butler

Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Greater-Good-Nathan-P-Butler/dp/0983548811/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395250670&sr=8-1&keywords=greater+good+nathan+p.+butler

Grail Quest Books (Publisher):
http://grailquestbooks.mymiddleearth.com/2011/06/01/wars-the-battle-of-phobos-volume-1-preludes/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WARSUniverse

Wookiepedia bio: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Nathan_Butler

ATTENTION PLEASE!
Dear Readers.  If you are  Star Wars fans and have enjoyed Nathan contribution to the Extended Universe and  SW Fandom, would you kindly consider helping him out in really difficult times? Nathan’s beloved wife, Jodi is very ill and they need financial assistance. Living in Europe, we have access to free  state health care and we consider it not a benefit but our constitutional right. However, things are different in America. The statistics say that nearly 50 million of people have no medical insurance of any kind and are forced to pay horrendous amounts of money for scans or tests.  This is what happened to Jodi.  Vanadian Avenue crew, Nathan and Jodi will be forever grateful for your kindness. Every little helps, guys – if you are not able to donate, please order a book or just pass the word around. A big thank you for your assistance. Jodi’s medical fund link can be found here:

http://www.gofundme.com/6cz5l4

Have a lovely day and please return shortly as The Reading Hour will be back sooner than you think!
XXX
Rita and Mal

****** 24.03.2014******

We have something über – cool to announce! Our friends at Malta Comic Con featured interview with Nathan on their website and linked back to us. This story is now featured promptly on Comic Con website in the news section. You can check the screenshots below:

Malta Comic Con website as seen on March 24, 2014

Malta Comic Con website as seen on March 24, 2014

 

Malta Comic Con website feature  as seen on March 24, 2014

Malta Comic Con website feature as seen on March 24, 2014

 

 

or follow the direct URL here:

http://maltacomic-con.com/post/640/an-interview-with-star-wars-writer-nathan-p-butler

You can also follow Malta Comic Con on their Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Malta-Comic-Con/193667083985578

We don’t have to tell you how excited and happy we are! Thank you guys and comics lovers of the world unite!

Mal+Rita

 

The Reading Hour – Helen Stringer

Welcome again everybody!

Have you noticed that Vanadian Avenue is changing rapidly? Our blog is maturing and we are not afraid to introduce more and more new topic to our readers. Last month, we have created a new section dedicated to our travel and playfully named it ” One castle  a day”.  Today, we would like to invite  you  to take a look at yet another column: The Reading Hour.

The Reading Hour  will be dedicated to books and writing. As we have mentioned many times on our blog, Mal and Rita have been writing professionally for years, having our articles published in magazines, on CD’s and online. What we have failed to tell you, is that we also have been creating our own stories, writing novels and novellas since the first grade. Sadly, we have never found an agent and  never published anything in traditional form, but who knows, things might change next year! There are some works in progress, one fantasy themed, one dystopian and maybe, just maybe, if we are lucky enough, you may find something written by us in Barnes and Noble :)

Since we are addicted to books and have several published writers as close friends, we thought that interviewing them would be a perfect start for The Reading Hour.  Helen Stringer, a popular YA author, became  our first victim and  she was forced to answer 14 very strange questions we gave her.

We have written about Helen nearly two years ago when she visited UK during her book tour promoting “The Midnight Gate”. Helen has been extremely busy in the last 24 months: she has released another book entitled “Paradigm”, got involved in the making of the supernatural drama “The Gloaming” and currently works on her third book in Belladonna Johnson Adventures series.

You can find  the review from her book tour  here: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/a-day-with-helen-stringer

Now ladies and gents, have fun reading!

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The Reading Hour: 14 (un) easy questions for Helen Stringer

Helen Stringer and  the American cover of the "Spellbinder" novel (aka The Last Ghost in the UK)

Helen Stringer and the American cover of the “Spellbinder” novel (aka The Last Ghost in the UK)

Vanadian Avenue:  Do you remember your first short story or book you have ever written? What was it about and how old were you?

Helen Stringer: I can’t remember the first ones. I was always telling stories to my sister. She’s only 15 months younger than me and we shared a room. I also had a vast collection of Barbie dolls whose sole function was to act out my stories (they were usually hair-raising adventures that involved a high body count). I do remember telling my sister that there was an evil genie that lived in the toilet, and if you didn’t get out fast enough after you flushed, it would jump out and pull you down. Scared the living daylights out of her.

Vanadian Avenue: Paranormal, s-f, fantasy, ghost stories, young adult – your books are not easy to qualify. This is your chance to tell us what literary label is the correct one.

Helen Stringer: It really depends on the book. Spellbinder, Midnight Gate and The Blood Binding were middle-grade fantasy (the US term “middle-grade” refers to readers from about 10-13). Paradigm is science fiction aimed at the teen market, which would make it YA, although lots of adults seem to enjoy it too.

Vanadian Avenue:  Imagine your home library is on fire and you only have time to save three books. Which books would you choose and why?

Helen Stringer: What a dreadful thought! I would definitely save Pride and Prejudice. I never tire of reading it, it’s just so well-written and such a great observation of human behaviour. When books continue to enchant generations of readers hundreds of years after they were originally written, it’s generally because there is something universal in the characters. I’d also save Macbeth for the same reason. It’s my favourite Shakespeare play, by far. The final one would probably be Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. A lot of people think his books are just pulp detective tales, but there is so much more to them than that.

Vanadian Avenue: You made your official debut with “The Last Ghost” (also known as “The Spellbinder”), the first book in Belladonna Johnson Adventures series. Belladonna is not your typical heroine: she not only talks to ghosts but also lives with them…

British cover of  The Last Ghost

British cover of The Last Ghost

British cover of The Midnight Gate

British cover of The Midnight Gate

Helen Stringer: Yes. I wanted to do something different with the ghost story – create a character for whom they were not only real, but comforting. Belladonna’s parents died in a car crash a year before the action of the first book begins. But what could have been a tragedy is just a re-adjustment for Belladonna because her parents are still there, at home, looking after her. The only difference is that they can’t leave the house (ghosts have to choose a place to haunt), which forces Belladonna to be more independent. She’s also shy and somewhat introverted, never quite sure who is alive and who is a ghost. The kind of girl who keeps her head down and tries not to attract attention. When the ghosts all disappear and she realizes that she is the Spellbinder, she discovers a strength in herself that she didn’t realize was there. Of course, the fact that she is forced to work with Steve Evans, her opposite in almost every way, helps her find the confidence that she needs to defeat Dr. Ashe.

Vanadian Avenue:  Both “The Last ghost” and “The Midnight Gate” received wonderful reviews. Is there going to be a book three in the series? Will Belladonna ever find an arch enemy, somebody like Draco Malfoy to Harry Potter?

Helen Stringer: There is going to be a third book. It’s tentatively titled “The Lost Lands,” but that will probably change.  I’m three chapters in, so there’s a way to go yet! Belladonna does have an archenemy, but she doesn’t know it yet. (It’s not Sophie Warren, though.)

Vanadian Avenue: Your books are often mentioned alongside Jana Oliver (“Demon Trappers” saga), Holy Black (“Spiderwick Chronicles”), Tony Diterlizzi (“Wondla” saga), Frederic S Durbin (“Dragonfly”) and Jasper Fforde (The Dragonslayer series), as prime examples of literature that mixes magic with modern times. Did you expect this form of fantasy story telling to gather so much following and fanbase?

Helen Stringer: Fantasy stories have been a staple of children’s literature for well over 100 years, but we do seem to be in the middle of a “golden age.” I read lots of them when I was young. My favourite author back then was Alan Garner. His stories were darker and had more of an air of menace than many others. Most of them were set in and around Manchester as well, so he was writing about a world I recognized. I try to do the same with the Spellbinder books, which are also set in the north west of England.

Vanadian Avenue:  Let us mention two other great writers – Y S Lee (“The Agency” series) and Trenton Lee Steward (“Mysterious Benedict Society”) who base their novels around strong female characters. Belladonna, Elsie, Alma, Carolyn – your female characters are equally smart and self-reliant despite being young or adult, good or bad. How important is it for you to have strong female characters in a book?

Helen Stringer: It’s very important. When I was growing up, there were very few strong female characters in children’s fiction. The girls in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe series spent an awful lot of time crying and being nurturing. Alan Garner’s heroines had a bit more spunk, but it’s only relatively recently that really strong female characters appeared, who drove the story, rather than followed it. When I was young, my heroine was Elizabeth I – a woman who was fearsome indeed!

Vanadian Avenue: We have to admit that your newest book came as a huge surprise to your fans. “Paradigm” is completely different from everything else you have written so far – it is much more complex, darker and self published!

Helen Stringer: I wanted to go somewhere else for a while. Away from children and more towards the adults they might become. I’m also very interested in things like climate change, fracking, oil exploration, and all the other things that are affecting our planet. In most dystopian worlds, the collapse is the result of a single event, but I’ve always thought that our self-destruction would be slow and many-faceted. The result of negligence more than anything else. It is self-published, not because of any of those things, but because the traditional publishing industry is locked into the idea that “boys over the age of 12 don’t read” (that’s in quotation marks because that is exactly the way one agent put it to me in an email). As a result, they don’t want male protagonists in books aimed at older kids. It was even suggested that I turn Sam into Samantha! I was gobsmacked, really – an industry that is already struggling just giving up on an entire gender! Apart from the fact that if Sam became Samantha, then Alma would have to become a guy, and we’d have that same-old-same-old relationship dynamic that we’ve seen a thousand times before.

Paradigm cover

Paradigm cover

Stack of books - do you have a copy yet?

Stack of books – do you have a copy yet?

Vanadian Avenue: Tell us more about Sam – you gave him very unique talents and a classic car! Was writing about a male leading character any different or harder than before?

Helen Stringer: Not really. I was in rock bands when I was younger and then went to film school, both things that are dominated by guys. So I’ve not only been around them, I’ve also been a genuine friend (as opposed to interacting only in a sexual/attraction situation). I’ve seen how they behave together, how they often conceal their real thoughts and feelings, and what lengths they’ll go to in an effort to maintain an outward bravado while dying inside, particularly when they’re younger.

Vanadian Avenue: Is it true that you filmed a live action book trailer for “Paradigm” with entire filming crew and actors in California? Is so, where can we see it?

Helen Stringer: Yes. I want the trailer to be more like a movie trailer, so we spent three days in LA shooting entire scenes from the book, then an additional day back up in the Bay Area shooting the fabulous ’68 Pontiac GTO. It belongs to a guy who restored it from the ground up and the result is just gorgeous. I haven’t finished editing the trailer yet, but I’ll let know as soon as it is available.

Paradigm trailer clapperboard - picture by Katie Ferguson

Paradigm trailer clapperboard – picture by Katie Ferguson

Paradigm trailer being shot in the California desert - we love the red GTO!

Paradigm trailer being shot in the California desert – we love the red GTO!

Greg Albanetti as Sam and camera. Helen's favourite picture taken by wonderful photographer Katie Ferguson

Greg Albanetti as Sam and camera. Helen’s favourite picture taken by wonderful photographer Katie Ferguson

Vanadian Avenue: “Paradigm” is an excellent stand alone publication but it could also be the beginning of a new series for young adults. Are we going to see Sam again? Do you plan on creating a sequel?

Helen Stringer: It was supposed to be stand-alone, but a lot of people have been telling me they want to know what happens to Sam next. I’m thinking of taking him to the East Coast…which will be largely underwater and raining almost constantly.

Vanadian Avenue: Your next project is entitled “The Gloaming” but it is not a book. Can you tell us more?

Helen Stringer: The Gloaming is another ghost story, but the audience is adults not children, and I’ve decided to produce it as a six-episode web series, instead of as a book. The reason for that is that the more I thought about the story, the more I saw it playing out in my head like a movie. The story is about a man who has been in a coma for over 30 years. He’s in a long term care hospital, but no one ever visits. The only other person in the room is his ghost, Alex, who looks the same age he was when he had the accident. Alex can’t move on until the man in the bed dies. But he doesn’t die. He is suddenly occupied by something that has broken through the dimensional barrier and wakes up. A side effect of this is that the young ghost becomes corporeal again – so now there are two of him, an old version and a young version, only the old version isn’t really him. Alex runs and discovers that even though he’s alive again, he can still see all the ghosts. Now he has to learn to live in a world that’s changed almost beyond recognition from the one he knew, as well as discover what has taken his old body.

Vanadian Avenue: For Kickstarter campaign, you managed to gather an impressive group of collaborators including actress Tinkabell Lovelace, Josef Richardson (FX specialist) and writer David Jackson. Can you explain our readers how the campaign works and what the final product will be like?

Helen Stringer: The first thing we had to do was break down the script and create a realistic budget for the series. Then we had to shoot a video of me explaining what we’re trying to achieve, and anything else that would help people understand the story. That included the lead actor, Greg Albanetti, reading the opening chapter of The Gloaming that I wrote when I was still considering writing it as a book, and a mock-up of the title sequence. Once we’d done that we had to come up with rewards for people who pledge money.

The way that Kickstarter works is that when people are interested in being a part of a project, they pledge money toward the total budget. The money is not charged – it’s held by Amazon Bank until the full amount is raised. If we fail to raise the full amount by November 17th, the production doesn’t get any money and nobody’s card is charged. This system was designed to give the backers confidence that projects they back will actually get produced. Then there are the rewards! There are all kinds of thank you gifts for people who pledge $5 or more, including bookmarks, autographed scripts and books, a personalized ghoulish screensaver, visits to the set while we’re shooting, and even a dinner and séance at LA’s legendary Magic Castle. We were recently able to add an extra reward for everyone who pledges $25 or more: a limited edition Gloaming poster created by Marvel and DC illustrator, Bob Wakelin.

Logo used For Gloaming Kickstarter Campaign. The project is now being rewritten and  being prepared for re-launch

Logo used For Gloaming Kickstarter Campaign. The project is now being rewritten and  prepared for re-launch

The Gloaming series photo-shoot: Tinkabell Lovelace (as Veronica)  and Greg Albanetti (as Alex). Picture by Eric Staniford

The Gloaming series photo-shoot: Tinkabell Lovelace (as Veronica) and Greg Albanetti (as Alex). Picture by Eric Staniford

Vanadian Avenue: Is there anything you’d like to tell to your readers and fans? Any other plans for the future?

Helen Stringer: I think I should let all the fans of the Spellbinder books that Belladonna and Steve will be having another adventure soon – I’ve started the third book in the series: “The Lost Lands.” This one was inspired by British legends about mysterious islands that appear and disappear off the coast, and we’ll discover more about Belladonna’s Aunt, the Wild Hunt, Steve’s real mother, and what effect that little piece of Darkness will have on Belladonna.

Vanadian Avenue: Thank you so much for answering our questions and good luck!

Helen Stringer: Thank you!

Useful links about Helen:

HELEN:

Official site: http://www.helenstringer.net/Official Blog: http://helenstringer.net/blog/
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/hcstringer
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Helen-Stringer/21494907202081
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoQSE7pU1jrLmn93L1L8Smg
Twitter: https://twitter.com/hcstringer

WRITING:
MacMillan (publisher): http://us.macmillan.com/spellbinder-1/HelenStringer
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1463193.Helen_
Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Helen-Stringer/e/B001JSFBY2/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

PARADIGM:
Official website:
http://helenstringer.net/paradigm/trailer.html
Article about Paradigm:
  http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/02/prweb11540909.htm

If you have any questions about Helen her projects or books, please drop us a line and we will arrange her to contact you.Helen is known for taking a great care of her fans  so don’t be afraid and contact us at rdabrowicz at yahoo dot com.
No spam, you have been warned :)

As a good friend of ours said “Helen’s writing is the best thing since the invention of the wheel and French sliced bread”
Who can argue with such a recommendation?

xxxx
See you soon,
Rita and Mal

The cat collector or Kat-a-log part 21

Kitty, kitty, kitty!

Awww, time flies when you have a cat! And if you are dealing with an entire collection, it doesn’t just fly, it miraculously disappears!

It’s been two months since we had any update to Kat-a-log, but don’t despair, today we have another great issue for you to enjoy! And that’s not all! We have been working especially hard in the last weeks to bring you something very special dedicated to the collections so come back pretty soon if you are interested. As the old proverb says, curiosity killed the cat, so we know our readers are as curious as the felines themselves.

If you have any comments or information about certain figurines, please contact us at rdabrowicz@yahoo.com Thanks to our readers’ help, we managed to identify the makers of few unknown figurines so we are truly grateful for any tip or hint. Each contributor receives a full mention on the blog (unless they prefer to remain anonymous) and gain a title of Kat-a-log kitten for life :)

Below you can find all previous issues, so let’s get get crazy and start reading:

Kat-a-log Part 1: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-1/
Kat-a-log Part 2: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-2/
Kat-a-log Part 3: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-3/
Kat-a-log Part 4: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-4/
Kat-a-log Part 5: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-5/
Kat-a-log Part 6: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-6/
Kat-a-log Part 7: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-7/
Kat-a-log Part 8: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-8/
Kat-a-log Part 9: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-9/
Kat-a-log Part 10: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-10/
Kat-a-log Part 11: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-11/
Kat-a-log Part 12: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-12/
Kat-a-log Part 13: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-13/
Kat-a-log Part 14: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-14/
Kat-a-log Part 15: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-15/
Kat-a-log Part 16: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-16/
Kat-a-log Part 17: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-17/
Kat-a-log Part 18: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-18/
Kat-a-log Part 19: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-19/
Kat-a-log Part 20: http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-20/

Now let us introduce you to six new kittens. Meow!

Kat-a-log Feline no. 84
Four sides of a cat: Glass and sunshine, Glass and wood, Glass and metal and Glass and stone
Country of origin: Malta, bought in Sliema in October 2010

Kat-a-log feline number 84 is one of the most unique cats that can be found in Olympia’s collection.  The most important thing here is that  Olympia has chosen this cat herself, which is a very rare occurrence. Usually the cats are given to her as presents or are brought to Poland as souvenirs by  her daughters’ work colleagues, family friends and various relatives.
If you look closely at this magnificent kitten, you will notice that it has been made from colorful glass. The cat has a long tail, long ears and sharp muzzle. However, it doesn’t have any whiskers, eyes or legs. This design is very abstract yet absolutely captivating. Some has speculated that this could be a fox, but they are missing obvious feline qualities here: gracefulness, typical pointy ears set far apart, large oval head and the sitting position. The figurine is quite heavy and can serve as a paper weight :)

If you’d like to own a kitten like that, please visit Mdina Glass, a family run business that produces the best decorative glass items on Malta for at least three generations.

Mdina Glass official website:   https://www.mdinaglass.com.mt/
Mdina Glass on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mdinaglass

Each figurine made by the company comes with a sticker places at the bottom with Mdina Glass logo.

Glass and sunshine

Glass and sunshine

Glass and wood

Glass and wood

Glass and metal

Glass and metal

Glass and stone

Glass and stone

Kat-a-log Feline no. 85
Two sides of a cat: Games of thrones and Let me tell you a story
Country of origin: UK, bought as a gift on 14th of January 2011 (Friday)

We remember buying this kitten like it was yesterday! This colorful cat sitting comfortably in an armchair has been hand-made by local artist in Ludlow, an ancient town in Shropshire, famous for its ruined castle. We found it in a souvenir store on Church Street and we were told that the figurine represents a local tale about the King of Cats.

Before we tell you about the legend, we need to say a little bit about the kitten. It is very light, made of wood and according to the souvenir  store clerk,  the cat wears a traditional 16th century vest. The cat sits on a chair with two roses that symbolizes two powerful English dynasties: The House of Tudors (red rose) and The House of York (white rose). The two houses have been engaged in a bloody conflicts known as the War of The Roses.  The war only ended when Henry VII married Elizabeth of York on 18 January 1486 in Westminster Abbey.

Now Henry and Elizabeth marriage is the beginning of the most fascinating tale. According to tradition, future parents were told by a seer that their first child will bring the gold age to the world. Upon learning that Elizabeth has given birth to a boy, Henry ordered him to be named after the mystical King Arthur of Camelot. Prince Arthur was a very unusual child. He was not interested in battles or court games, but spent his days reading books and learning. His teachers commented that the young prince loved Greek mythology, memorized The Oddyssey and various philosophical texts, and found a great pleasure in history and ethics. He was also an accomplished archer, a good dancer and was extremely good looking. His servants found him to be wise and kind and he was universally loved throughout the land. It seemed that the prophecy was indeed coming true – Prince Arthur received the title of Prince of Wales (heir apparent to the throne) and was engaged to the beautiful Catherine of Aragon.

Arthur was said to have a special love for animals, especially the cats. The Prince protected them and they were always feed at his court at Ludlow. He even allowed them to use all royal properties in his kingdom as their own and many cats were seen sleeping by the fire or lounging in the sunshine in front of royal coaching inn near the castle. People were gossiping that the Prince knew their language and that the cats were bringing him interesting information about the world.  Arthur passed away only at 15 years old, killed by sweating sickness and was buried in Worcester Cathedral. During his funeral procession all cats from Ludlow came to the streets and meowed sadly as the coffin passed them. Prince Arthur has never became the king but his early death didn’t remove the royal edits given to cats. All Ludlow cats have the right to be treated with the highest respect and can use all royal properties. Each year on the longest day of the year, the King of Cats comes to Ludlow and sits before the inn on a special armchair. You can talk to him if you are lucky. His name is either Tom or Peter. The royal coaching inn in now a popular pub known as The Rose and Crown, located on Church Street.

You can read another story about the King of Cats here:

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Folk-Lore_Journal/Volume_2/Two_Folk-Tales_from_Herefordshire#The_King_of_the_Cats

The Rose and Crown is open every single day and they offer a wonderful service.
Their address is:

8 Church Street
Ludlow
Shropshire
SY8 1AP

Telephone (01584) 872098

 

Game of thrones

Game of thrones

Let me tell you a story

Let me tell you a story

Rose and Crown Inn entrance

Rose and Crown Inn entrance

Kat-a-log Feline no. 86
Two sides of a cat: Salute! and I’m a philosopher
Country of origin: Malta, rescued in 2007 from Birkirkara

Honestly, we do not know much about the feline number 86. This cat is a real enigma, but we love it non the less. Olympia has personally rescued it from an old flat that Malicia has been renting in Birkirkara, long time ago. In 2007, Rita and Olympia came to Malta for the first time to visit Mal. She was living in a beautiful house of character with a very weird flat mate near St. Helen’s Basilica, in a front of a bar. The house was not in a top condition, it needed a lot of love and renovations, especially the kitchen. Since Malicia has been working long hours, Olympia and Rita prepared all meals and cleaned a little bit. During the cleaning, Olympia found a cat shaped magnet lying behind the cooker! Poor little creature was not only extremely dusted and dirty, also one of his paws was damaged. We have asked the owner of the flat if the magnet belonged to her but she was not interested in it and Olympia took it to Poland with her. She restored this little beauty to his former glory and now the cat is attached to Olympia’s fridge.  This is, ladies and gents, what we call a story with a happy end!

Salute!

Salute!

I'm a philosopher

I’m a philosopher

Kat-a-log Feline no. 87
Two sides of a cat: Madame Butterfly and Diva
Country of origin: UK, bought at Camden Market in February/March 2009

In February – March 2009 we have spent two weeks in London. We have already mentioned about that incredible time on our blog as we have covered the trip to Tower Hill in our One Castle A Day corner. But London is not only about places where heads were rolling. Large amount of time in the capital was spent arts and crafts shopping. Our stay in Camden was very fortunate because we were just few minutes away from Camden Lock and The Stables Market. We got our mom two items for her collection there. One was an amazing painting from Kenyan seller; the other was a fridge magnet from the Rachael Hale brand collection.

We will write about the Kenyan painting some other time, let us tell you about the lovely magnet. We found it in a curiosity shop, full of extravagant gadgets on 23rd February 2009, on the outskirts of the Camden Lock. The shop had a beautiful black toaster in the window and we absolutely fell in love with it. Unfortunately, it cost a small fortune, so we had to skip it, but we left the store with a bunch of feminist post cards (they were later sent as late Valentines), jewellery and the mentioned magnet. We don’t remember the name of the lovely store but here’s the window picture; if somebody recognizes it; drop us a line and a proper credit will be given.

Rachael Hale brand is known to be the home of “the world’s most lovable animals”. It started out as a family business of a female photographer based in Auckland, Australia around twenty years ago and soon became one of the most recognizable brands that use stock photography on wide range of accessories. The magnet we bought for our mom has a beautiful black cat portrait on it – mom loved it as it reminded her of her cat Salem.

Rachel Hale is flagship part of Dissero Brands – a rival of Swedish Ikea on the home décor front. Over the years, they have worked with many photographers and designers and it’s quite hard to tell who, was the artist behind the photo on our magnet.

The original photographer is now known as Rachael McKenna. In 2007 she has left the company and moved to France to work again as a freelance artist and book author. She is currently in NYC working on her new project “The New York Dog”. You can visit her LinkedIn profile here:

fr.linkedin.com/pub/rachael-hale/18/127/926

You may also want to see the links to her previous company:

http://www.disserobrands.com

http://www.rachaelhale.com

https://www.facebook.com/rachaelhalebrand/

Or visit her official page at: http://rachaelmckenna.com/

 

Madame Butterfly

Madame Butterfly

Diva

Diva

Camden gadget shop where we purchased the magnet. If you know the name of it, let us know!

Camden gadget shop where we purchased the magnet. If you know the name of it, let us know!

 Kat-a-log Feline no. 88
Two sides of a cat:  Classic tea-set (with a cat) and Reflections
Country of origin: Poland, bought as a gift in 2009

Slim, sleek and shining – this beautiful kitten was bought by Rita in March 2009. We have mentioned this before in an earlier issue of Kat-a-log, that Rita has spent 8 months working for a video game company in Wroclaw. During her stay, she discovered a shopping gallery with an entire floor dedicated to hand painted Polish pottery. Sadly after so many years, we do not remember the name of this  store, but Rita recollects that it was located somewhere near the main square. This particular cat figurine is known as a “mother cat” and could only be purchased along with another porcelain feline, a small kitten. Meant as a set for the customers, those two figurines are not a true match – they represent two different styles and probably have been made by two different companies. There are no signs or names on the bottoms and we cannot give you full details who made them. If you recognize the maker, please contact us and we will be able to investigate further. It is worth mentioning that figurines painted in blue, with dense patterns like those you see on the pictures below, were traditionally made to decorate kitchens and dining rooms. Rita did some research online and this pattern could be ether fleur de lis or a peacock. What do you think?

Classic tea-set (with a cat)

Classic tea-set (with a cat)

Reflections

Reflections

Kat-a-log Feline no. 89
Three sides of a cat: Grand champion, Royal pottery and Time is eternal
Country of origin: Poland, bought as a gift in 2009

Now, we will take a closer look at the baby kitten that Rita was forced to buy. Don’t get us wrong, the kitten is lovely and has been placed in Olympia’s kitchen along with its “mom” described just above. To tell you the truth, it was a lucky coincidence that somebody decided to match both cats together as Rita probably would have never purchased two very similar looking figurines that day. The baby kitten is obviously smaller, lighter and sounds hollow. Its blue floral pattern covers the entire figurine except for the cat’s face. It has blue ears and tiny whiskers. Again, there is no name or a logo on the bottom and we cannot determine who made this figurine. Both Kat-a-log kittens (number 88 and 89) has been photographed at Marianne Dabrowicz’ house (our grandmother) and she demands a mention on the Internet in return for her kindness. Antiqued silver mirror tray, tea set, decorative plates and clock used in this photo-shoot are from 1950′s.  Marianne has turned 90 this year so let’s have a collective “Helloo!” in her name.

Grand champion

Grand champion

Royal pottery

Royal pottery

Time is eternal

Time is eternal

 

Wow! What a great update it is! And a long one as well.
We love telling stories behind each figurine and we hope you enjoy reading them.

Please come back very, very soon as we have an excellent special edition of Kat-a0log coming right up!

Have a pleasant day and don’t forget to pet your own kitties.

XXX
Olympia, Rita and Mal Dabrowicz (with Marianne as a super-special guest :D)

 

 

One castle a day: A trip to London part 2

Ahoy travelers!

Welcome on board, welcome! Please sit down comfortably, fasten your seat-belts and be prepared for another adventure. We might not be traveling through space and time but still, amazing places are waiting to be discovered. Our photographer-in-chief, Malicia is signalling that we are ready for a take off. London, here we go again!

If you have not seen the first part of our review from the trip to London, please click on the link below and our excellent board computer will display all information on your personal screen:

http://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/one-castle-a-day-a-trip-to-london-part-1/

Coat of Arms at at the Main Entrance to The Tower of London

Coat of Arms at at the Main Entrance to The Tower of London

As you know, Tower Hill offers so many attractions and ancient nooks that you can wander around for ages and you won’t see everything that’s truly worth viewing. We remember spending there so much time, that our feet got sore from walking and we had to sit down to take a rest. Since resting is boring and walking is fun, let’s not waste anymore time and take a closer look at the most impressive building in the neighborhood: The Tower of London!

1. Tower of London

Don’t be fooled by the name – The Tower of London is not just a single tower. This is a majestic castle constructed on the north bank of River Thames and is formally known as Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress. In direct opposition to the castles we have seen before, Tower of London isn’t ruined – it is a fully functional museum opened for visitors. If you ever have a chance to see it, please take a full guided tour.  Be prepared to pay a lot of money, especially if you are traveling with friends or family, but it is so worth to see it all!

The Tower of London - be afraid, be very afraid...

The Tower of London – be afraid, be very afraid…

The castle has been founded sometime around 1066 during the Norman Conquest of England by William the Conqueror. To fully celebrate his new found victory and strengthen his rule over Britain, the new king and his advisers undertook what the historians call the most extensive castle building program in Europe’s feudal history. William is credited with founding more than 47 castles; another 30 probably have been built by his generals and knights. The majority of castles survived to our times but many have fallen into disrepair or were taken down. One thing is worth mentioning here -bricks and stones used to constructs William’s castles were of excellent quality, they were re-used in creation of other buildings even several centuries later!

Designed to become a symbol of power and authority, The Tower of London was considered to be the most important castle by the new ruling elite. Its thick defensive walls and tall steeples dominated the surrounding area and brought fear and respect to local residents. Popularly known only as a prison, the castle consists of a complex of several separate buildings within two rings of walls. A 50 meter (160 ft.) moat is also included. We can easily call it a multi functional building: a fortification, prison, status symbol and splendid royal residence constructed to the newest and most luxurious standards in one.

All along the Watchtower!

All along the Watchtower!

The Tower of London has been extended several times, especially in 11th, 12th, 14th and 17th century, additional works were also necessary to fix the damages suffered during the London Blitz. During Williams’s reign, the castle was a center of politics, cultural events and administration. In later centuries, the Crown used this massive castle almost exclusively as a prison or defensive post which greatly contributed to the poor reputation of this magnificent structure. Throughout the medieval period (especially during Tudor times when many people have been imprisoned there) the Tower was a mere symbol of oppression. Londoners bitterly hated it and were afraid to even mention the castle by name. At some point, discussing the Tower was forbidden in local pubs and inns as it was spoiling the moods of the patrons.

We do not intend to write a historical essay about the castle. If you require more information, please refer to Wikipedia or visit the official site of The Tower of London at: http://www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/

The old walls surrounding the Tower of London

The old walls surrounding the Tower of London

However, there is a few very interesting facts that you might want to hear. The first person ever to become imprisoned in the Tower was Bishop Ranulf Flambard. Ranulf was kept under the lock and key after he demanded high taxes from the local inhabitants circa 1100. This unlawful act earned him a luxurious cell with two personal servants and a right for a party once in a while. Bishop didn’t enjoy his golden cage and bribed his captors to help him escape. During an official evening meal with the security guards on 2nd of February 1101, Bishop managed to dissolve a sleeping medicine in wine and escaped on a rope through the window when everybody fell asleep. This act of bravery earned him his freedom but also accusations of witchcraft and selling his holy soul to the devil.

In the 14th century, Margaret de Clare, Baroness Badlesmere spent a full year in the Tower after the assault on Queen Isabella. When Isabella arrived with her royal guards to Leeds Castle, Baroness not only refused her the admittance but also ordered her archers to shoot at the Queen. Isabella’s guards protected the monarch but six of them have lost their lives. Please don’t judge Margaret de Clare too harshly. Queen Isabella is popularly known as She-Wolf of France. Extremely well educated, highly intelligent and ambitious, she has met her match in Margaret. Both women have a lot in common: they were married young for political reasons and were expected to follow and serve their husbands. They had to live in turbulent and unstable times and fought hard to find their own place in the world. Historians believe that Isabella’s unexpected arrival at Leeds Castle during pilgrimage to Canterbury was a clever plot to attack Margaret’s husband, Baron Badlesmere who fell out of royal favor. Margaret knew that allowing the Queen into the castle would not only disrespect her husband’s direct orders but also give Isabella a chance to destroy the plans for rebellion against Edward II. Margaret paid a dear price for her loyalty: she and her children were imprisoned and  Bartholomew de Badlesmere, 1st Baron Badlesmere was killed. Isabella’s victory was short-lived too. Her own son, Edward III ordered the execution of her lover Roger Mortimer, removed her from the court and kept her away from politics and power.

The famous Torture Chamber

The famous Torture Chamber

And if we are mentioning Roger Mortimer, we have to say that he was the  main hero of another famous escape from The Tower that took place in 1322 when Sir Mortimer, 1st Earl of March was sentenced to imprisonment in the lower part of the castle. Thanks to generous bribes handed to the sub–lieutenant and his men, Earl escaped the royal prison in a boat, but spent several hours digging his way out through a wall with a shovel.

It is worth mentioning that The Tower was not only the place of torture. Joan of England (1321–1362), known as Joan of the Tower was born there on 5th of July 1321. The youngest daughter of Isabella of France and Edward II was connected to the fortress throughout her entire life. As a princess, she visited the Tower repeatedly over the years and was given her own private quarters. Later, when her husband, David II of Scotland has been imprisoned there by Edward III, Joan was granted the rights to visit him in hopes to produce an heir to the Scottish throne. As you can imagine, sex was not enjoyable and Joan never got pregnant.

According to popular beliefs, The Tower is haunted by several ghosts: the murdered Princes (Edward V and Prince Richard), Catherine Howard, Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford and even a grizzly bear!

A perfect gift card. Let's go shopping!

A perfect gift card. Let’s go shopping!

2. The White Tower

In the heart of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress stands a massive white building commonly known as The White Tower. Again, despite the name, White Tower is not technically a tower at all – it is a keep, also known as a donjon. In medieval castles, the keeps were always the strongest structures designed to withstand prolonged sieges and attacks. As the rest of the fortress, The White Tower served several purposes. As a self reliant building, the keep offered a solid protection in case of a war. Thick stone walls rising nearly up to 30 meters could survive not only cannon balls but also mortar fire, the most advanced weapon known to a man in the middle ages. The keep had a luxurious interiors suitable for a the royal couple, several administrative rooms, garrison, servants quarters, a chapel and towers that offered a perfect look out points.

Even by today’s standards, The White Keep is a gigantic building, strikingly impressive. It has been founded in 1065, but the construction started more than a decade later, sometime between 1075 and 1079. Archaeological testing also proved that at least two long breaks in construction occurred:  the first in 1080′s and later around 1090–1093. We do not know the reasons for the pauses but historians debate that they were probably caused by financial difficulties. Constable of the Tower, the oldest existing military title in Britain, was usually given to the most senior soldier stationed in the castle. The Constable was in charge of the  entire fortress when the King was away. The position was especially prestigious as it came with personal lodgings, servants, royal grants of land or money, fantastic salary and sometimes a noble title. Not to shabby, eh?

The White Tower

The White Tower

We visited the tower several years before it underwent a 2 million pounds restoration in 2011.  Right now the monument is a sparkling gem as the pollution gathered during the centuries has been successfully removed. The frontal facade has been restored to former glory and was bleached with traditional technique used to whiten walls since the reign of Henry II.

3.  St. Thomas Tower and The Traitor’s Gate

St. Thomas Tower is one of 21 towers constructed around The Tower of London as an additional protection to the White Tower and the inner walls. Constructed around 1270 on orders of Edward I, St. Thomas Tower lies in the heart of the great fortress. Along with two other neighboring towers, the Wakefield Tower and the Lanthorn Tower, they are known as the Medieval Palace as they served as royal lodgings for Edward and his father, Henry III. Historic Royal Places charity managed to reconstruct Edward’s private bed chamber withing St. Thomas Tower and it is now open to visitors. It consists of 13th century furniture (four post bed, chests, table and chairs), beautifully painted fireplace and wall decorations. St Thomas Tower can be rented for wedding receptions through May to September and will accommodate a party of 40 guests. Just be warned, the price to pay will be royal!

A gate build underneath St Thomas Tower is known as the Traitor’s Gate. It was built by Edward I to provide an easy water gate access to the tower straight from the river Thames. Originally intended to deliver food and weapons , the Gate  gained a sinister reputation in Tudor era.  Royal prisoners were brought to Tower on a barge, passing under the  London Bridge where they could see the heads of killed prisoners displayed on pikes. Both, Queen Anne Boleyn and Sir Thomas More, entered the Tower by Traitors’ Gate.

St. Thomas Tower and The Traitor's Gate

St. Thomas Tower and The Traitor’s Gate

3. Tower Bridge

Located near the Tower of London, The Tower Bridge has been named after the fortress. Built between 1886 and 1894, it was officially opened by Prince of Wales (future Edward VII) and Princess of Wales (Alexandra of Denmark) on 30th of June 1894.
The Tower Bridge is one of the instantly recognized symbols of the capitol and is universally known. There is little need to describe it as the bridge is as famous as the Queen, red phone boxes or The Beatles. We can add that it took 5 architects to oversee its construction, nearly 500 engineers and thousands of workers. The bridge is 244 meters long and its twin pillars anchored in the river bed weight 70.000 tones each.  Tower Bridge is extremely popular with tourists and sometimes it’s hard to pass on the other side of town without stopping because somebody wants to take a picture! Expect  larger crowds in 2014 as the bridge will be 120 years old!

The bridge serves also an an art gallery. Please check the official website at: http://www.towerbridge.org.uk/TBE/EN/

Lower view of Tower Bridge

Lower view of Tower Bridge

Tower Hill panorama with The Tower Bridge.

Tower Hill panorama with The Tower Bridge.

Tower Bridge as seen from River Thames

Tower Bridge as seen from River Thames

4. The battle of Canary Wharf

As you know, Rita and Mal are huge fans of Doctor Who. Being in London, we just couldn’t resist visiting one of the locations used in the show. For “normal” human beings, Canary Wharf is an important business district and second  financial center in the capitol (the other being City of London). For a respectable Whovian, it is a site of a deadly battle between Daleks and Cybermen, with humanity trapped in a crossfire (July 2006). Thanks to the Tenth Doctor and several of his associates, mankind survived this horrendous experience but many lives has been lost. It is here that The Doctor also lost his beloved companion Rose after she became trapped in an alternative universe without the ability of ever coming back again.

We have paid our respects to brave Torchwood operatives and the common men and women of London who sacrificed everything for the sake of our planet. Enjoy the pictures and don’t forget to watch an excellent documentary about the battle entitled “Doomsday” produced by BBC with memorable performance by David Tennant (as Tenth Doctor) and Billie Piper (as Rose Tyler) among others.

Canary Wharf just two years after the battle

Canary Wharf just two years after the battle

The site has been known to Whovians simply as Doomsday

The site has been known to Whovians simply as Doomsday

Our trip to London Town is slowly coming to an end. We hope that you have enjoyed this strange mix of history, modern photography and a bit of science-fiction!

Our next destination will be a true castle again, so stay tuned!
We will see you shortly.

Don’t leave anything on board (except for tips for the captain and the crew!)
XXX
Rita and Mal

 

One castle a day – A trip to London Part 1

Hello, hello!

Welcome dear travelers! What a busy period of time we have had! The February is here already, UK is enjoying a spring-like treatment and Mal is having a stormy weather in Malta with loads of hailstorms, torrential rainfalls and cold winds. After the wettest winter in living history (or in the last 250 years), United Kingdom is enjoying some well deserved break and it seems that Malta has packed her bags and sailed away to visit some relatives near The Puget Sound :) (if you didn’t know, Malta is twinned with the beautiful Bain Bridge Island in Seattle!)

Cherry blossom tree in early March - classic Gothic spring

Cherry blossom tree in early March – classic Gothic spring

We are trilled to tell you that the travel series entitled “One castle a day” proved to be a real hit! Two-part review of our recent visit to Brecon Cathedral brought a lot of traffic to our little shrine. We are now seriously considering updating this series on a monthly basis – there’s so much we have seen and we desperately want to share our voyages with you. You can expect reports on Tintern Abbey, Worcester, Brockhampton Estate, Chepstow Castle and many more in the next weeks to come so don’t be lazy and visit Vanadian Avenue as quickly as you can!

Inspired by our success, Malicia checked our archives and started looking for some fascinating stories we could tell you straight away. Our visitors seems to like cathedrals, old churches, medieval effigies and thrilling tales filled with blood, murder, rivalry, plots or tragedies. We have asked ourselves a question – is there a place near us that could have it all? Of course there is! The answer was so obvious that for a moment, we felt silly that we have never thought of it before. London, the capital of Great Britain, is one of the most beloved cities on the planet. Millions of people travel half the world just to spend a couple of days there.  On the other hand, some visitors say that London seems to be completely deprived of mystery and romance. It is so well known, that literally almost every attraction can be seen online from every angle. All tourist friendly places have been reviewed so many times by so many people, that it’s really hard to find something new.

All Hallows By The Tower Roman portal

All Hallows By The Tower Roman portal

Still, Londinium remains very special to us. We might not be the most original bloggers on the World Wide Web, but we have to add our two pounds to the existing blogosphere about the capitol. Don’t you worry, we will not take you on a tour around the Buckingham Palace (maybe not yet but we certainly plan to go there one day!). We have chosen something dark and sinister, especially for your enjoyment. Believe us, there are still places in London that can scare the living daylight out of you and blow the socks off your feet – like Tower Hill. We traveled to London quite some time ago, in 2009 but the memories are still alive. If you love Doctor Who, this enthralling but a bit creepy atmosphere, like something bad is about to happen, then you will love this review as well.  So, lets take a walk around a place where heads rolled by a dozen.

1. All Hallows-By-The-Tower

In middle ages, All Hallows-by-the-Tower was known as All Hallows Barking. The name was taken from the Saxon Abbey at Barking where the church was first established in 675 AD. Before the church was constructed, the place has been carefully picked up by the builders – there is some historic evidence that an earlier building once stood at the top of the hill that now overlooks the Tower of London. The archaeologists discovered house foundation dating back to 4th century in the church’s crypt, but we are not sure if the building was a place of worship or maybe just a small Roman fort. Whatever has been built before the church, the perfect location made it difficult to be conquered and allowed the inhabitants to scan the surrounding area for any possible threats.

All Hallows By The Tower gates

All Hallows By The Tower gates

The crypt is worth visiting as it serves now as a museum and bears the name of The Undercroft Gallery. You can find there a nice (but rather small) collection of Roman pottery, artifacts and religious objects, complete collection of church registrars, remains of beautiful Saxon cross from the 7th Century and model of Roman Londinium. The registrars are worth taking a closer look at as they go back to 1558 and include the baptism documents of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania (from 1644), marriage certificate of John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of United States and Louisa Johnson (from 1797) and the burial of poor William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury (who has been beheaded in the Tower in 1645 and laid to rest in the church for more than 20 years. His body has been then moved to St. John’s College in Oxford). Accountants will be delighted to find a rich collection of annual accounting books, ledgers, journals and churchwardens’ notes dating back to 1628 – those document along with church administration books (from 1629) are giving us a good insight into parochial and secular affairs during the turbulent times of Tudor Dynasty.

 Angel relief on the exterior of All-Hallows-By-The-Tower church

Angel relief on the exterior of All-Hallows-By-The-Tower church

Two smaller chambers: St Francis Chapel and Oratory of St Clare are also available for viewing. Please be mindful of others during your exploration as both chapels are open for private prayers and many Londoners are using them. If you are alone, don’t forget to look for three Saxon coffins and an impressive stone altar that according to legends has been bought from Richard I’s Castle Athlit in Palestine by Crusaders sometime in 12th or 13th century.

We could spend hours describing all the wonderful things that the church has to offer. Apart form the crypts and the museum, visitors are encouraged to see the 7th century Saxon arch doorway with unique Roman tiles that once formed a pavement, 16th century effigy and tomb of an Italian merchant named Hieronimus Benalius (he died in 1583), brilliant Tate Altar Panel from 1500, collection of 17 medieval memorial brasses, Mariner chapel (with ships of different sizes and shapes donated by church goers) and the priceless baptismal front cover carved in 1682 by Grinling Gibbons for £12 (a fortune by 17th century standards!)

Back view of All-Hallows-At-The-Tower

Back view of All-Hallows-At-The-Tower

All Hallows-By-The-Tower is not only a true pearl among the London’s churches, but it also has a fascinating history to match its extraordinary interiors. Located near the infamous Tower of London, the church has long been associated with the Crown. Kings and Queens of United Kingdom came to the church for services; one of the chapels even became a royal chantry during the reign of Edward IV. The bloodiest link between the church and the Royals has been established during the 16th and 17th centuries. The bodies of people tortured and murdered in the Tower were usually stored and prepared for temporary rest in the main crypt. Among almost 40 brutally murdered individuals, we  can find famous writer and philosopher Thomas More (beheaded for refusing to sign Henry VIII’s Act of Supremacy and buried in 1535), John Fisher (Catholic Bishop and Chancellor of Oxford University) and the mentioned earlier William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury.

And another beautiful shots of the church

And another beautiful shots of the church

The church has miraculously survived two accidents that nearly destroyed the whole neighborhood.  In 1650, several barrels of gunpowder stored in the churchyard were set of fire and exploded destroying the church west tower and more than 50 houses around. Sixteen years later, The Great Fire of London threatened the church and admiral William Penn had to  sacrifice several row of houses to create a firebreaks. During the WWII, All Hallows sustained heavy damage from German bombardment of London, but even the Blitz was not enough to destroy the building. Renovated to the highest standards in 1950′s, All Hallows-By-The-Tower is enthralling each visitor. To see the church in all its splendid, you have to came and see for yourself.

Official website: http://www.allhallowsbythetower.org.uk/
Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ahbtt

2.Malta Siege Memorial

Continuing our journey around the Tower Hill, we discovered a small memorial dedicated to Maltese nation. Again, just like the church, this simple stone monument is sadly overlooked by tourists despite its huge historical significance. Luckily for us, Malicia has been living on Malta since 2006 and everything related to this lovely Mediterranean island is quickly picked up on her natural radar.  The monument is officially known as the Malta Siege Memorial and has been built to commemorate the sacrifice and bravery of Maltese women and men.

Malta Siege Memorial

Malta Siege Memorial

A short reminder to those who have slept through WWII history lessons in high school: Malta, one of the smallest countries in Europe and a member of the Commonwealth, survived the longest and most brutal bombardment of WWII. The naval and aerial battle between The Allies (UK, America and their partners) and The Axis (Nazi Germany/Fascist Italy and satellite states) is now known as the Siege of Malta. The constant bombardment started on January 1st and ended on 24th of July 1942. There was only one period of just 24 hours when the bombs were not falling down. In total, Malta had to endure astonishing 154 continuous day and night time bombings. The results of the prolonged siege were catastrophic: nearly 7000 civilians were killed and 30.000 buildings were destroyed including many architectonic gems like medieval palazzos, theaters and museums. Hundreds of churches and works of art were damaged or lost.  If you weren’t aware, Malta in its entirety is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is protected for future generations. The bombardment may have shattered buildings and flattened the landscape but could not break the nation. In April 1942, the people of Malta have been honored with the award of the George Cross by King George VI.

The memories of those terrible times inspired a group of retired Navy officers to share their experiences with young people of Malta and Great Britain. In July 1987, Capt. E.A.S Bailey and Navy officer Fred Plenty founded the George Cross Island Association. The organization quickly became internationally known and other former soldiers joined in. Soon GCIA included members of The Navy, British and Maltese Army, Air Force, Merchant Navy, nursing and Civil Defense personnel. Nowadays, the organization has several branches around the world and holds an annual meeting on Malta and In London. The current President of the GCIA is Judge Dr.Joseph Galea Debono B.A., L.L.D.

Second  plague on the Memorial with description of the bombardment in 1942

Second plague on the Memorial with description of the bombardment in 1942

Malta Siege Memorial on Tower Hill has been inaugurated on August 15th 2005 in the presence of then President of Malta, Edward Fenech Adami, Prince Philip and nearly 500 invited guests. The monument is 3 meters tall and has been carved from a stone from Gozo, as Maltese lime stone was too soft to withstand the rainy English weather.  Each of the four sides has a carved slate slab: two first give information about the Siege of Malta, the third side contains details about the George Cross award and the tribute by President Roosevelt and the fourth side contains a map showing the theater of operations in the Mediterranean.

Malta Siege Memorial  - the frontal description and the Cross

Malta Siege Memorial – the frontal description and the Cross

The Front of the memorial reads:

“Malta G.C. The Siege of 1940-43. In 1940 the sinister shadow of Fascism spilled across Europe and into North Africa. Malta, under the protection of Great Britain, found herself alone in a hostile Mediterranean 800 miles from her nearest allies in Gibraltar and Alexandria. Besieged by enemies Malta became a fulcrum on which the fate of the war balanced for the next three years. If Malta fell the rest of North Africa would follow. Opening the door to the oil fields of the Middle East and for the Axis Powers to join in Asia and threaten India. The allies knew this. So did the Axis Powers. Malta, besieged, became and remains the most bombed place in the history of War. Supplied only by Sea, at great cost, Malta was defended not only by her own people but by forces drawn from the whole free world. Fighter aircraft delivered by the American and Royal Navies were piloted by Britons, Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders. Convoys crewed by British, American and Commonwealth seamen were supported by the free forces of Greece, the Netherlands, and Poland. Free Norwegians added their merchant fleet to the Allied cause. In April 1942 King George VI awarded to the People of Malta the George Cross, the highest decoration for civilian courage and heroism. By summer 1942 only weeks of food remained and the Allies mounted operation Pedestal as a last attempt to save Malta. After a five-day running battle the Convoy’s four remaining merchant vessels and the immortal Tanker Ohio, all that was left of the fourteen that set out, entered the Grand Harbour. The date was 15th August, 1942, the feast of Santa Maria. The siege was broken; within months North Africa was retaken and the first steps of European liberation begun. This stone taken from Malta was presented by the Maltese Government on the 60th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War to commemorate all who participated in the siege and defence of Malta, 1940-43. Placed by the George Cross Island Association, 15th, August 2005.”

Map of Mediterranean during WWII

Map of Mediterranean during WWII

A sister monument, known as The Siege Bell, guards the entrance to the Great Harbour in Valletta.  It was erected on 29th of May 1992 thanks to generous donation from Maltese and British governments, private donors and all GCIA branches. The memorial has been designed and sculpted from Gozo stone by artist Michael Sandle and has a form of a classical open temple. The heavy bell that hangs inside was cast in United Kingdom and its chimes were donated by the Cologne Cathedral in Germany.  We have visited the Siege Bell in April 2011 to pay our own tribute to those affected by war.

Siege Bell Memorial in Valletta, Malta

Siege Bell Memorial in Valletta, Malta

Official site: http://www.georgecrossisland.org.uk/

3. Baron Soper Memorial Plague

Socialists of the world, unite! We have something a tiny bit more entertaining now for you dear readers. Tower Hill is not only about the atrocities of war or terrors at the Tower of London. Boys and girls, if you haven’t heard about Baron Soapbox, you have yet much to learn!

Donald Oliver Soper, Baron Soper was a legendary street preacher, Methodist minister, socialist and pacifist. And when we say legendary, we truly mean it. This extraordinary man took preaching from the dusted parochial meeting rooms into the big wide open and turned it into spectacle of wit, humor with a huge dose of controversy. Equally loved and hated for his sharp tongue, Baron Soper left no soul feeling passive or neutral. You either agreed with the man wholeheartedly or rejected everything he said. There was no middle ground and Lord Soper knew it well.

Born on 31st of January 1903 and educated at Cambridge and London School of Economics, Lord Baron was genuinely trying to make the world a better place. As a minister, he was actively helping those marginalized by the big city: single mothers, runaways, homeless or alcoholics. A vivid supporter and member of the Labour Party, he harshly criticized the conservative politics in 1980, calling Margaret Thatcher as “inherently incompatible with Christianity”. During the WWII, he joined the Peace Pledge Union and preached pacifism so effectively that the BBC Council has banned him form broadcasting!

The Memorial dedicated to Lord Donald Soper

The Memorial dedicated to Lord Donald Soper

He is probably the best known for his 70 year tenure as an outdoor preacher on Tower Hill and Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park. Standing on an old soapbox, he would lecture the crowds about Christian values, importance of being true to yourself, taking care of others, social justice and many other issues he considered to be of great importance to the society. Even after becoming seriously ill and bound to wheelchair, he would still arrive to preach, meet with London youths and have a laugh (or an argument!)
Lord Soper passed away on 22nd of December 1998 at the advanced age of 95. He will be missed for many, many generations to come. A commemorative plague has been placed on Tower Hill to inform the passer-byes of his contribution to democracy.

You can find more information about Lord Soper here:
http://www.ppu.org.uk/learn/infodocs/people/pst_soper.html

Well, we have reach the end of the first part of our review. Please return quickly as we have more to tell you about the dreadful Tower of London itself!
Take care  and see you around.
xxx
Rita and Malicia