Monday, 9 October 2017

A Book Launch & Obscure Loves

I'm so excited to tell you that Rhoda Baxter has a new book out today! I loved Girl on the Run and can't wait to read Rhoda's new novel; Girl in Trouble. 

Just to tempt you, here's the fabulous cover and book blurb:

Girl In Trouble blurb:
Grown up tomboy Olivia doesn't need a man to complete her. Judging by her absent father, men aren't that reliable anyway. She's got a successful career, good friends and can evict spiders from the bath herself, so she doesn't need to settle down, thanks.

Walter's ex is moving his daughter to America and Walter feels like he's losing his family. When his friend-with-benefits, Olivia, discovers she's pregnant by her douchebag ex, Walter sees the perfect chance to be part of a family with a woman he loves. But how can Walter persuade the most independent woman he's ever met to accept his help, let alone his heart?

Girl In Trouble is the third book in the award nominated Smart Girls series by Rhoda Baxter. If you like charming heroes, alpha heroines and sparkling dialogue, you'll love this series. Ideal for fans of Sarah Morgan, Lindsey Kelk or Meg Cabot's Boy books. Buy now and meet your new favourite heroine today.


Now for the challenge:

Walter thinks hydro-thermal vents are beautiful. Strangely no-one else shares his passion. Following on from this Rhoda asked what my obscure love is and why...

The answer is figure skating.


Now, I know on the surface it doesn't really seem all that obscure. After all, what little girl who'd read Noel Streatfeild's White Boots didn't grow up dreaming of learning to skate like Harriet? Or stare transfixed at the TV screen watching Torvill and Dean, and fall in love with the beauty, grace and fabulous costumes?

However, there are several factors that might not be be considered when you're sitting on a nice comfy sofa in the warm:



  1. Early mornings - Skating lessons tend to take place outside general public skating times. In my case this was 7am. On Saturday and Sunday!
  2. It's cold - I know that's an obvious one, but until you've spent two hours at a rink you don't appreciate just how cold it is.
  3. Falling over hurts - Think about it, you're landing on solid ice. It's hard. And despite how easy the professionals make it look, the reality is it took a lot of practice and falls to reach that standard.
  4. Toe picks - These are the spiky bits at the front of a figure skating blade. They're great for fancy footwork and helping you leap into the air for jumps. They're also great for tripping over (refer to 3 above).
  5. The chicken dance - You will undoubtedly see this move at your local rink. You must not laugh. Not until you've tried crossing your feet one behind the other and discovered that flapping your arms and bobbing your head, whilst utterly unhelpful, is apparently essential.
So, basically what I should have said at the start of this blog is: My obscure love is for giving up my weekend lie in to spend hours in the cold, with tiny bits of metal strapped to my feet, whilst attempting to defy logic by taking a literal leap of faith and jumping as high as I can on the assumption that this time I will land on the blade and not my head.

Hydro-thermal vents are suddenly looking far more appealing right now aren't they?

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Redefining Leaving

Do you remember that job I resigned from last October? The one I was supposed to work 3 months notice and then leave at the end of January, but my new and old bosses negotiated a deal where I ended up working both jobs at the same time for 6 months? Guess where I am today... Yep, I'm back!

I'm currently sitting at my old desk, or more accurately the space that used to be occupied by my old desk. The office has been refurbished during my 5 month absence, just to prove that some things have moved on in this strange little time warp I seem to be stuck in.

As you can probably tell from my tone, my return is not my idea. My new and old bosses have been negotiating again. I feel there really should be an expiration date for these kinds of negotiations. Then again, I'm of the belief that some day it would be nice to leave a job and well, maybe actually leave... In the mean time I'm back to help out temporarily.

Disturbingly the time scale of 'temporarily' has not been defined. I'm opting for 1 hour, but fear I may be out voted...

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Heading Back To Fuerteventura

I know I haven't been home from my holiday very long, but I enjoyed it so much I've just booked a return trip. It's not until Christmas, so it feels a long way off yet. Mind you given the amount of Christmas stock I see sneaking onto the supermarket shelves, perhaps it will be here quicker than I think.

I'd started working on a new novel when I was away. I know I really should be finishing the edits on my current works in progress first, but what can I say, I was inspired. The words kept springing into my head and obviously I just had to write them down. I'm hoping to feel equally inspired on my return trip so I can find the ending for the novel. So if you think about it, this means that my return trip to Fuerteventura isn't really a holiday at all. It's all research. Every part of it, including sitting on the beach, paddling in the sea, lounging by the pool, exploring the local market and meeting new people. It's absolutely all research for the novel. Honest.

Monday, 18 September 2017

My Favourite Writing Place

I’ve always loved the beach. There’s nothing like the feel of the sand between my toes and my hair blowing in the sea breeze. I have fond memories of my childhood summer holidays when we packed Dads tiny Peugeot 205 full of camping gear and headed to the seaside. The drive always seemed to take forever to get there and the tent felt too small with my whole family crammed in, but it was all worth it to spend long days building sandcastles and swimming in the sea.


My love of the beach hasn’t dismissed through the years, though my standard of accommodation has certainly changed. These days I prefer somewhere with indoor plumbing, a comfortable bed and a solid roof (instead of tents that leak or blow away in the middle of the night during a storm…)

Having just returned from the Barceló Fuerteventura Thalasso Spa Hotel I can safely say whilst I am never going back to camping again, I would love to return to the lovely Barceló. It was a truly wonderful holiday. The hotel was exceptionally clean, the poolside was lovely, spacious and with plenty of sun loungers for everyone.

I would like to say thank you to the wonderful, helpful, friendly staff who helped to make my holiday so enjoyable, particularly Binta, Carlos and Daniel. 

The Barceló was a perfect haven for me to edit my latest novel; a character led thriller. However, sitting on my sun lounger beside the pool basking in the sunshine, okay shade (I burn easily), seems a strange place to write something so dark. Then again, based on the looks I got as I sat scribbling in my notebook each day, I think the general consensus is it was a strange place to write anything at all. A few people asked if I was doing course work, but mostly they just stared. Who knew I was so interesting?

I guess whilst reading a novel by the pool is the norm, writing one isn’t. That said however, it might not be as unheard of as I first thought… Over the last couple of years I’ve met a lot of authors at conferences, events, and through social media, I had however never met one at a pool side before. It was lovely to meet K S Stanley and his wife, who ironically were sitting beside me. Author of The Holmbury County Seat War and The Siege of Morton's Cross, K S Stanley was also busy working on the edits for his latest novel.
Obviously there is something appealing about that particular corner of the pool area for writers. Or more specifically western writers with a keen interest for writing music and lyrics. It’s just goes to show the old adage about it being a small world is true. Or as K S Stanley put it; at all the pool sides in all the hotels in all the world…

Friday, 4 August 2017

Book Review: Everything But The Truth by Gillian McAllister

Everything But The Truth was recommended to me on the basis that Gillian McAllister writes gripping stories with strong emotional character threads running through them. I wasn’t disappointed. Gillian has created rich, layered characters, who I couldn’t wait to read more about as I delved further into their world.

It was fascinating to follow Rachel as one email in the middle of the night causes her to question everything she knows about the man she loves. And love him she does. Through Gillian’s elegant writing style, Rachel’s voice was clear and her emotions were cleverly portrayed throughout in her explicit yet simple descriptions of what she liked and loved, as though Rachel was confiding in the reader as a friend.

Everything But The Truth is an excellent example of how even the smallest of lies can spiral out of control. This novel made me realise that the desire to protect the image that someone else holds of us, can lead to deceit. But one little lie or one simple omission can quickly grow into something more. One lie is never enough, and more and more lies grow around it to protect the original secret, until one tiny question pulls at the threads of even the strongest of relationships, and it all unravels.

It was absorbing to watch Rachel and the lengths she was prepared to go to in order to uncover the truth as she uncovers more and more lies. Throughout the novel, hints about Rachel’s own past helps the reader to understand her motivations and yet at the same time question whether her reactions might also be slightly hypocritical. The mystery isn’t just about what secrets Jack is keeping, but also what Rachel is hiding as well.

Seeing Rachel battle with memories from her past, desperate to escape from the work she loved, and yet unable to find herself without it, gave me an eye opening window into the world of medicine, albeit safety shielded behind an thick layer of double glazing. I knew doctors had it tough, I was aware of the long hours and the tough decisions, of course I was. But until I read this I never really knew. Of course, reading a book is nothing like experiencing it as a reality every day, but it gave me a new appreciation for what they do. I know I couldn't do it, and I'm in awe of those who do.

Overall, this was an exceptional debut. A gripping page turner, full of suspense, intrigue and characters who compel you to want to know more about them.

Monday, 24 July 2017

The Diminishing Word Count

Inspired by last week’s RNA conference, I returned home eager to finish the draft of my novel ready for submission to the NWS for critiquing. One week later, I have a newly written synopsis, a clearer sense of my characters, a revised structure, oh yes, and a novel that’s about 30,000 words less than I started with.

The latter is not quite what I was intending to achieve.

However, all is not lost. The cut sections are now patiently residing in a new file marked ‘book 2’. There’s just one small snag… A book 2 requires a book 1 to precede it.


Just over one month to go till the NWS deadline and 30,000 words to write. I can totally do this, right?

Monday, 17 July 2017

Book Review: Girl in Red Velvet by Margaret James

Rating:

Book Summary:

Girl in Red Velvet is a novel about friendship and impossible choices. When Lily Denham met two boys on her first day at Oxford University, she never imagined that she would fall in love with both of them, or that one day she would have to choose between them.

Review:

Beautifully written, Girl in Red Velvet had me hooked from the start as I wondered who Lily would choose. Harry and Max are both intriguing, well rounded characters who are complete opposites, but equally appealing in their own individual ways. I found myself sharing Lily’s dilemma as I wondered who I would choose myself: safe and dependable Harry, or exciting and adventurous Max.

At the start of the novel, Lily is a strong willed, independent woman with her own distinctive style. She doesn’t care what other people think or whisper about her behind her back. How I would love to be that bold!

However, Lily discovers that as hard as making a decision can be, living with that choice can be even harder. Lily’s choice leads her to a life so different from the one she had imagined, and in the process her distinctiveness fades into conformity. To me, this novel was a reminder of how easy it is to let the choices we make cause us to loose ourselves, and how difficult but essential it is to find the courage to turn our lives around again.

A wonderful, inspirational novel that reminded me it’s never too late to follow your dreams.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Rediscovering the Theatre

As a child I loved going to the theatre. It was something that my parents and I could enjoy together. The same however can't be said for the pop concerts my poor mother drew the short straw of having to take me to. I don't think she'll ever forgive me for the Jason Donovan concert. Not because of a lack of appreciation for the music, but more from a distinct aversion to being surrounded by hordes of screaming kids. Who can blame her?

The theatre however was much more refined and dignified. Which, to be honest, was half of the appeal for them and I. It seemed such a grown up thing to do sitting on those posh red velour seats, before a huge stage with elaborate sets and costumes. The stories came to life in a way that watching a film on TV never did. It was like being part of something special.

My childhood was filled with shows like; Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, Annie get your gun and the Buddy Holly Story (ok that one was Dad's choice). And then I grew up. I went to college, and University and the theatre was forgotten.

Then last Christmas I went to see the Nutcracker and it was like rediscovering an old friend. Despite my years of absence, it was still just as wonderful as I remembered. Though I have made a few small adjustments... There's something indulgent about a trip to the theatre, and it seems only fitting to turn it into a day long event. A morning spent shopping, a leisurely lunch and then an afternoon matinee. It all helps to enhance the experience, honest.

Last week I went to see Billy Elliot at the Birmingham Hippodrome. Utterly brilliant. The sets and costumes were incredible, the cast was fabulous and the choreography amazing. The dancing clothes still make me smile whenever I think of them.

Next week I'm taking my parents to see Dreamboats and Petticoats. I figured it was about time I let Dad choose one again...

The trouble is every time I leave the theatre, still chattering and laughing about the show I've just seen, beneath the excitement is a wistful daydream. If only I'd carried on with my dance lessons...



Monday, 10 April 2017

Who Do You Think You Are?


Last week I went to the Who Do You Think You Are? exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham. Having never been to this kind of event before I wasn't sure what to expect, other than a lot of walking and a crowd of people. I wasn't disappointed.

Researching our family history has become a family affair. Turns out learning where you come from is a contagious pastime. Mum's cousin started on it a couple of years ago when she started compiling names and creating our family tree on www.ancestry.co.uk. Then her daughter joined in and their family holidays started including visits to view parish records. Another cousin sparked our curiosity by asking who these people really were. Where did they live? What did they do? Suddenly we were all scouring the genealogy websites searching for answers. The more information we found, the more it inspired us to dig deeper. Which is how I ended up at what is pitched as 'the worlds largest family history show'. It's big. My feet can attest to that.

As well as the big ancestry websites and magazines, there were stands representing different regions, various workshops to attend and even experts on hand to answer questions where I'd got stuck with my research. Sadly there simply wasn't time to do everything that I would have liked, but three hours later I had a bag of leaflets, a couple of books to help me with my research and a notebook full of scribbled web addresses and people to contact.

All of this research has a dual purpose, as it's inspired a new novel. It seems writing has a way of creeping into every aspect of my life. Even the past.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The Reluctant Gardener: Lingering Effects of Storm Doris

This has been the view from my kitchen window ever since storm Doris uprooted a tree. Yes, I know that was over a month ago. Yes, I know that was too long to neglect the tree lying across my lawn. Have you noted the title of this blog series? Reluctant is putting it mildly when it comes to my gardening abilities. I will do almost anything to avoid even the simplest of task such as mowing the lawn, so when it comes to anything that involves actually getting my hands dirty and digging, my ability to procrastinate is truly impressive. Although, I have had a good excuse recently – did you see my post about my two jobs? See, I have been busy. Very busy. Far too busy to venture out into my garden with a spade…

To be fair I’d known for a while that the tree was a little wobbly and needed to be replanted much deeper, but it’s one of those things I hadn’t quite got around to. After all, it was still standing. It may have swayed frantically even in the slightest of breezes, but it was fine really.

In a way storm Doris was just doing me a favour by saving me the hassle of digging the tree out myself. Not that I particularly saw it that way when I looked out of my window to find a tree sprawled across my garden. Nor have I seen it that way as I’ve clambered over said tree on the rare occasion that I’ve had to venture down the garden path. Call me ungrateful, but I would have preferred it if the tree had been left standing, swaying gently (uh hum) in the breeze. Instead, it’s forced me (eventually) to take action and deal with something that I had been very successfully avoiding until its interference.

So yesterday I grudgingly headed outside, dusted the cobwebs of my scarcely used spade and dug a hole, before battling with a tree that is a lot heavier than it looks. If my neighbours find my attempts at mowing the lawn entertaining, goodness knows what they thought of the crazy women holding a conversation with a tree, issuing instructions and directions to guide it into its new home, which for the most part it chose to completely ignore.


As I stood in my kitchen last night nursing my aching back, thinking how much larger my garden looks without a tree occupying half of the lawn, I gazed contentedly at my now upright tree only to discover it still sways. A lot.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Sometimes Leaving Is The Hardest Thing To Do

Getting a new job was one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time. My old job required lots of extra hours. The new job is part time, leaving a whole day for writing. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? It just a shame it hasn’t quite worked out that way.

Now don’t get me wrong, my new job is great. The people are lovely, the work is interesting and challenging (in a good way, mostly). Even the slightly antiquated building with its unreliable lifts and an office on the 4th floor isn’t so bad. Just think how fit I will be after climbing all those stairs each day. Multiple times a day. Ok, so that part isn’t actually that great…

The problem however, isn’t with my new job, but with the old one. Or more accurately, the problem is leaving it. When you get a new job it’s customary to leave the old one, right? I’d just hand my notice in, work my 3 month notice period, clear my desk and say goodbye. Simple. That was the aim anyway. Turns out the reality was somewhat different.

For the last 5 months I’ve been working two jobs. For someone looking for less hours in the office, this move has definitely not gone to plan.

As I'm simply moving to a new department, albeit in a different building, my new and old bosses negotiated my start and end dates between them. With a 5 month overlap! To be fair, splitting my working week between them seemed like a pragmatic solution. Of course you can’t actually do either job in just part of a week. In the end, the beginning of the week was spent at the old job, the end of the week at the new job, with evenings and weekends consumed by whichever was running the furthest behind. My novel has been on hold, along with the rest of my life, whilst my clever plan to create more spare time, ended up eating up every single moment of it.

My colleagues tell me that I should be flattered that my old department was so reluctant to let me leave, and the fact they haven’t been able to fill my post shows how irreplaceable I am. Of course it could just be that no one else is insane enough to want that job.

But all that changes today.


Finally, I have made it to my last day in my old job. 

When I handed my notice in I felt quite sad to be leaving the department I have worked in for so many years. Five months later, all I feel is relief that the nightmare of juggling two jobs is finally coming to an end. Instead of a sad, tearful farewell this evening, I think it's more likely to be a case of making a bolt for the door.

My old post is still vacant. It’s now being covered by temps until an appointment is made. My old boss has already asked if I could return to train my replacement when they eventually start. My compassionate heart feels obliged to help. My head however is screaming, run! 

Monday, 6 February 2017

Common Ground

I’d always thought of writing as rather a solitary pursuit. It was just me and my notebook. No-one I knew would have understood. My friends went home after a long day in the office to watch TV and unwind, not spend hours at a computer typing. Sure they enjoyed a good book or film, but did they ever think about what went into writing them? Probably not. They didn’t need to.

Then I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association and everything changed. That solitary pursuit that had once made me feel like somewhat of a recluse, became the key to a world of sociability. People brought together by their common quest to create a story so compelling that it just has to be read.

People like me.

Of course it didn’t happen overnight. It started slowly. I joined the RNA facebook group and met Morton S Gray. She was the first fellow Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers Scheme member I knew. In one of those ‘isn’t it a small world’ moments, it turned out Morton was part of the Birmingham RNA chapter that I was thinking of joining. I headed off to that first meeting reassured that no matter how out of place I felt, there would at least be one friendly face there. It turned out there were many.

I went back for the next meeting, and the next. I went on courses, attended conferences and pitched my novel to agents and publishers. Being part of the RNA opened doors to events and opportunities that I would never have had otherwise. But mostly, being part of the RNA led me to create friendships that gave me the courage to not let those opportunities pass me by.

I’ve never known a group quite like this one. We’re all striving towards the same goal, yet there’s no undercurrent of rivalry or jealously. Published writers share their wisdom and advice with the newcomers. Writers dreaming of publication critic one another’s work to help each other edge just that little bit closer to making that dream a reality. And we all celebrate when one of us makes it, because we know better than most just how much work went into making it happen.

I’m delighted that Morton, my first friend in the RNA, has made that journey from hopeful dreamer to published writer. Her novel, ‘The Girl on the Beach’, won the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition last year and we have all been eagerly waiting for it to be published.


‘The Girl on the Beach’ is out now and I’m thrilled to be able to share my review.

Book Review: The Girl on the Beach by Morton S Gray




Rating:


About the Author

Morton S. Gray is a writer from Worcestershire, U.K. A member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, she recently graduated from their excellent New Writers' Scheme. Her debut novel, ‘The Girl on the Beach', was the winner of the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition and was published in January 2017. Morton writes romance stories with a mystery to solve.

Website and blog www.mortonsgray.com

Facebook author page : Morton S.Gray

Twitter : MortonSGray


Book Summary:

When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon there’s something familiar about him. He reminds her of someone she used to know. There’s just one problem; he’s dead.

Right from the beginning The Girl on the Beach is full of mystery and intrigue. We follow Ellie and Harry from their first meeting, as Ellie tries to figure out why Harry seems so familiar, and Harry wonders why a woman he’s never met seems to know him.

Review:

Morton’s easy to read writing style kept me turning the page eager to find out more about who Harry was and how the gentle and sweet Ellie could have been part of the dark and troubled world that he was fleeing.

Morton has a knack for creating multi-layered characters, not just for the two main characters but for the friends and family that surround them. Ellie’s son, Tom, is a typical moody teenager, but at the same time he’s trying to cope with the memories of what he witnessed as a child. Nicholas is the tough misfit, yet Morton cleverly gives us a glimpse in to his harsh life and enables him to grow with Ellie’s encouragement.

I loved the contrast between the beautiful idyllic seaside town that Morton created, and the suspense and intrigue of her storyline as Ellie and Harry’s shared past catches up with them.

Congratulations on your fantastic debut novel, Morton. I can’t wait to read your next!


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Foyles Blogger Brekkie

What better way to start the day than surrounded by books?

This morning kicked off the first of Foyles monthly Blogger Brekkies in Birmingham's Grand Central bookshop.

We spent an hour before the store opened chatting about books and blogging over cups of tea and croissants. Does it get any better?

Well, possibly...

Over the coming months Foyles events team are planning to have guest bloggers and authors attend the Blogger Brekkies to share their wisdom and tips. Something tells me I'm about to start spending a lot more time in Birmingham...