Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Book of the Month: March

The Vintage Guide To Love and Romance
by Kirsty Greenwood

Jessica Beam is a girl who knows how to party. Only lately she's been forgetting to turn up for work on time. Or in clean clothes. Down on her luck, out of a job and homeless, Jess seeks the help of her long-lost grandmother.

Things aren't going well for Matilda Beam, either. Her 1950s Good Woman guide books are out of print, her mortgage repayments are staggering and her granddaughter wears neon Wonderbras.

When a lifeline from a London publisher arrives, the pair have an opportunity to secure the roof over their heads - by invigorating the Good Woman guides and transforming modern, rebellious Jess into a demure vintage lady.

The true test of their makeover will be to capture the heart of notorious London playboy Leo Frost and prove that Matilda's guides still work. It's going to take commitment, nerves of steel and one seriously pointy bra to pull this off . . .
*     *     *     *     *
I've been eagerly (read: impatiently) awaiting the publication of Kirsty Greenwood's new book, The Vintage Guide To Love and Romance, so I was so excited when I received an early review copy. I couldn't wait to get stuck in and I soon realised that the wait had been so worth it. Jessica Beam is such a wonderful, vivid character and I adored her story. Jess has her flaws (she isn't very organised and she drinks like a dehydrated fish) but they only made me love her more. Plus, she knows all the best swears (we all know swearing is cool, right?)

The Vintage Guide To Love and Romance is an hilarious read packed with laugh-out-loud moments. Kirsty Greenwood is an uber-talented writer and I will be eagerly (again read: impatiently) awaiting her next book!
My full review of The Vintage Guide To Love and Romance will be here on the blog on Thursday 9th April.
Click here to view all Books of the Month

Friday, 27 March 2015

March #FreebieFriday - The Final Giveaway

Throughout March, I've been hosting giveaways every Friday on Twitter. The final giveaway will take place here on the blog and the prizes are:
A handcrafted 'Make A Wish' bookmark,
inspired by Everything Changes But You

A box of SweeTarts
(A Beginner's Guide's Ruth's favourite American sweets)

To enter, fill in the Rafflecopter form below.
The giveaway will end on Tuesday 7th April.
Rafflecopter will randomly select a winner, who will be notified by email before being announced here on the blog on Wednesday 8th April.
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Guest Post: Nadine Matheson

"I told you people only run away from bad relationships and debts and Lucinda’s running away from both."

The idea for my book ‘The Sisters’ came to me after watching ‘The Real Housewives of…’ honestly, fill in the blanks with any city you like). I would return home from my job as a criminal defence lawyer, just in time to watch the latest episode. Every time I watched an episode I would tell myself that I had a very challenging day and I could comfortably not use any of my brain cells for the next 60 minutes. Who was I kidding? It was my guilty pleasure. 

So, there I was watching an episode of Real Housewives when it dawned on me that one of the characters, we shall call her ‘Stella’, had no money. She was driving the flash car, had the Hermes bag dangling on the crook of her arm but beneath all of the glitter it was obvious that I probably had more money in the Quality Street jar under my desk than ‘Stella’ had in her bank account.

I thought that ‘Stella’ would be a good basis for a character. A woman trying to keep up appearances. A woman trying to keep up with the Joneses when in fact the Joneses had packed up and left the city.

Once the episode was finished and I stopped shouting at the telly ‘It’s a lovely bag but you have no money’, I started to plan my book ‘The Sisters’.  

Lucinda, Jessica and Beatrice are sisters who become Euterpe, one of the most successful British R’n”B bands of the 1990’s. At the height of their success, Lucinda makes the dramatic decision to leave the band and seek her own fame and fortune in New York City. Lucinda was living the life of a real housewife. She had the money, the cars and was part of the social elite until divorce and being a lady of leisure for far too long sends her down the path to near financial ruin. Lucinda has to make the decision to return back home to London her children and Louis Vuitton luggage in tow. Unfortunately, this is not a happy reunion. She returns to find that her father is ill and that her sister’s lives have changed. Her younger sister, Emma, suspects that there is more behind Lucinda’s return and Jessica would be happier if Lucinda took the next flight back to New York.

The Sisters is available on Amazon.Com and Amazon UK. You can find out more about me and I’m always happy to have a chat over at:


Facebook: www.facebook.com/nadinemathesonwriter

Twitter: @nadinematheson

If you would like to appear here on the blog via a guest post, email me at jenniferjoycewrites@gmail.com
More details here

Monday, 23 March 2015

#AmWriting Draft Three

So I finished the second draft of Book 3 (aka the A Beginner's Guide To Salad sequel) and after pausing momentarily to celebrate (aka do the school run, cook, think about doing some housework - which totally counts, btw), I dived straight into Draft Three.
The second draft took a lot of work - I ended up cutting over 20,000 words from the first draft, which meant re-writing some scenes and writing new ones from scratch. Somehow I still ended up increasing my original word count by almost 8,000 words. Luckily the third draft shouldn't be quite so drastic (I hope).
I'm a lot happier with the second draft (let's be honest, the first was shit), so all the hard work was worth it. I've loved getting to know one of my new characters. She was supposed to be a quite minor character but she wasn't happy with that and has muscled her way into the whole book and has become one of the main characters - how cheeky is that?
I've also started thinking about the cover for this new book. As it's a sequel of A Beginner's Guide To Salad, I want the cover to reflect that, so I'm going to design something quite similar. I'm looking forward to getting stuck in as making the covers is something I enjoy doing - when they go right. If I can't quite manage to get what's in my head onto the screen, that's not so good!

Friday, 20 March 2015

Blog Tour: His Other Life by Beth Thomas

Today I'm delighted to be part of the blog tour for His Other Life by Beth Thomas, with a review of the book.
To the outside world, Grace and Adam have the perfect marriage, with their lovely suburban house and cosy nights in. But Grace doesn't know very much about her husband prior to their meeting. He's secretive and doesn't seem to trust Grace at all.
But one ordinary night, Adam disappears and as Grace tries to track him down, she begins to piece together her husband's past and discovers who the man she married really is.
I was intrigued by the blurb of His Other Life and couldn't wait to get stuck into the book. I was immediately wary of Grace and Adam's so-called perfect marriage as Grace is already suspicious of her husband's activities (and who wouldn't be when their husband refuses to reveal anything but the very basic facts about themselves?). Grace has become quite obsessed with Adam's phone, itching to get her hands on it to have a snoop, so it is obvious that all is not well within their household.
I warmed to Grace immediately and thought she was a fantastic character. She's so warm and funny, despite the circumstances that she finds herself in and I couldn't help feeling sorry for her as the details of her marriage unfold. I could feel the hurt and disappointment she feels over her marriage and I was hoping that Adam would be found so that he would be forced to face up to what he has put Grace through.
As well as Grace, there are lots of brilliant character in the book, from her best friend and fellow costume shop employee Ginger to Ginger's policeman brother, Matt and Grace's parents. One of my favourite aspects of the book is the relationship Grace has with her siblings, Lauren and Robbie. As soon as she returns home, they seem to revert back to their old teenage selves, with name-calling between them, which I found hilarious.
For me, His Other Life was almost a cross between a psychological thriller and chick lit, with suspense, twists and turns as well as plenty of warmth and humour. It isn't as dark and intense as you would expect from a thriller to be but there was enough intrigue to keep me turning the pages. I really liked Beth Thomas' writing style and found myself devouring the pages. It's a witty but intriguing read and I enjoyed it very much.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Guest Post: Claire Dyer

The writer’s life: raw material, nothing is ever wasted

I’m often asked about the research I do for my novels and, in trying to answer this I’ve come to realise that for me, at least, there are three main types of research: planned research, research I didn’t realise was research at the time and completely fortuitous research.

Obviously with my latest novel, The Perfect Affair, eyebrows have been raised amongst my nearest and dearest, but I have told them that although some of my research takes a very tangible form, some is, of necessity, left to the imagination! However, I have undertaken some very planned and deliberate research for the novels I’ve written which haven’t as yet been published as well as for those which have.

For example, I’ve done a pottery course (for The Moment), travelled to Athens just to get a taste of the place (for The Perfect Affair), drunk cocktails with a friend in various bars in London (now that was a hardship!), spent an evening with a fire crew and a day with a florist, walked around the streets of Newbury town centre to find just the right place to open a coffee shop and then passed a very enjoyable day with the lovely people in my local Costa learning how their Lisa 3 Espresso Machine worked; I’ve interviewed a doctor, a pharmacist, visited the Sea Life London Aquarium, been driven through the leafy lanes of Surrey with a notebook on my lap, asked my cousin a hundred questions about her sewing business and a local carpenter a hundred questions about wood, studied Opie’s Scrapbooks for references to the 50s and 60s and even sent my parents a questionnaire asking them what washing powder was used, how much a leg of lamb cost and what contraceptive methods they employed when they were young (a question which caused yet more raised eyebrows!).

However, I’ve also mined experiences and the memories of places which when I lived through them or visited them I did not know they would, in time, become useful or indeed, necessary, references for plot points or settings in my novels. For example, I stumbled down the steps at my local cinema after a showing of The Great Gatsby and was rescued from falling by a stranger (almost a year later this experience became the genesis for my short story, Falling for Gatsby) and I love watching murder mysteries on TV (as my family will attest I am almost always half-way through an episode of Morse, Lewis, DCI Banks, Poirot, etc.,), a love which transferred itself into my character Myles’s fictional detective, DCI Derek Pletheroe, in The Perfect Affair. However, there are other, more nebulous experiences and memories; there is childbirth and grief, the places I lived as a child, holidays I’ve had with my family in a wonderful former fishing village in Turkey, the smell of baking in my grandmother’s kitchen, the way salty air can sting my cheeks when I’m by the sea. All these can get put into the mix too.

And then there’s fortuitous research, when I realise that the thing I’m looking at, the place I am, the experience I’m having RIGHT NOW is just what I need for the next sentence I am going to write. So, the day I found myself on Newgale Sands in Pembrokeshire I knew I’d arrived at the place my character Eve needed to be at the end of The Perfect Affair and, when I was looking for a piece of music for another character to hear in her head at a very significant moment in her life, I clicked on Google and it just happened to be Debussy’s birthday and the very special people at Google had posted an animation of Clair de Lune as that day’s Google Doodle, music that proved the perfect choice for both me and her, and then finally, just the other day I was having a facial (it is very tough being a writer sometimes!) and when the beautician touched my temples I knew I’d found the lost memory of her mother my character was searching for and about which I needed to write the very next day.

So, for me the word ‘research’ is a very broad church but that’s what’s wonderful about the writer’s life: whether it be a word, or a sunset or being taken for a power boat ride by a handsome man in a tuxedo, nothing is ever wasted!

You can find out more about Claire and her books at www.clairedyer.com or on Twitter: @ClaireDyer1

If you would like to appear here on the blog via a guest post, email me at jenniferjoycewrites@gmail.com
More details here

Monday, 16 March 2015

Book Crafts: Bookmark

Everybody needs a bookmark (unless you're one of those folding-down-the-corners kinds of readers. In which you need a bookmark more than anybody else *tsk*)
And what better way to recycle a book proof than to make one?
Making the bookmark was easy and all you need are a pair of scissors, double-sided tape or glue, card, a bit of ribbon, hole punch or pencil-and-blu-tack combo (highly recommended) as well as your book proof.
Cut out a strip from the page (I kept the page number at the bottom but you don't have to) and stick it onto your card. I used cream card, but you can use any colour you want!
Leaving a small border, cut around the strip.
Using a hole punch or pencil-and-blu-tack combo (place the blu-tack underneath the bookmark where you want your hole and push the pencil through the card), make a hole in the top of the bookmark for the ribbon. I didn't and simply pushed the end of my scissors through and caught my finger (which I knew I would). It hurt. Seriously, hole punch or pencil-and-blu-tack combo.
Fold your ribbon in half and then push unlooped ends through the hole (from the back of hole through to the front of the bookmark) and then pop them through the loop and pull until it's secure.
And you're done! You have a book-themed bookmark.
As an added extra, I drew a thin line of gold pen around the edge and put some dots on, but you could do whatever takes your fancy. Go wild! Or not. Entirely up to you.
If you do make a bookmark, I'd love to see the spin you put on it!
Click here to see all Book Crafts