Friday, 27 February 2015

Everything Changes But You: Extra Scene - Karaoke Night

In Everything Changes But You, Ally and her friends meet up for a weekly karaoke night, so I thought it would be fun to write an extra scene during one of these nights. It’s set before the book begins, so don’t worry – there aren’t any spoilers!

*     *     *     *     *
Ally pushed her way into The Farthing. The familiar chatter of its patrons and the jubilant blast from the fruit machine as it chugged out the ten pound jackpot greeted her as she scanned the pub for her friends. She was late as usual and the others were already seated at a table towards the back of the pub, a good distance away from the sweaty karaoke host. They were already working their way through a bottle of wine but a fourth empty glass awaited Ally’s arrival.

‘You finally made it then.’

Ally plonked herself onto a stool, looking from her sister to her watch and back again. The karaoke host was still setting up his gear so she wasn’t that late.

Not by Ally’s standards anyway.

‘What’s up with you?’

‘Nothing.’ Freya, her face twisted into a grimace that was never usually in place for a night out, grabbed the bottle of wine, glugging a good measure into Ally’s glass before topping up the other three. ‘It’s just that we’ve been sat here waiting for you.’

‘But you do that every week.’ Ally glanced at the others. Francine and Dee didn’t appear to have taken offence at her lateness in the slightest.

‘Exactly!’ Freya dumped the now empty bottle on the table and rose to her feet. ‘We need more wine.’

Ally watched as her sister marched away from the table. ‘I’m sorry, guys. I didn’t mean to be late.’

‘Don’t worry, chick.’ Francine stretched across the table to give Ally’s hand a squeeze. ‘It isn’t you she’s upset with.’

‘She broke up with Steve.’ Dee wrinkled her nose. ‘Again.’

‘Oh no.’ Ally looked back towards Freya, who was now at the bar chatting while she waited to be served. ‘She must be devastated. She was sure it was going to work out this time.’

‘She says that every time.’ Dee shrank under the glare of Ally and Francine. ‘What? She does. They’ve been on-off for three years now.’

‘So she must really like him to keep giving it another go,’ Francine pointed out.

‘Poor Freya. Why didn’t she tell me?’

‘It only happened this afternoon. We only found out twenty minutes ago.’ Dee’s eyes darted towards the bar. ‘But shh, she’s coming back.’

Ally, Dee and Francine adopted an air of nonchalance as Freya approached the table, striking up an impromptu conversation about the weather.

‘It has been unusually warm today, hasn’t it?’

‘You’d think it was summer.’ Ha ha ha.

‘I’ve been sweating like a pig all day. Oh, hey Freya. We didn’t see you there.’

‘Yes you did.’ Freya placed the new bottle of wine on the table and took her seat. ‘You’ve also told Ally about Steve.’ Freya placed a hand on Ally’s arm. ‘Sorry I was a bit of a cow with you.’

Ally gave a shrug. ‘It’s ok. I’m sorry about Steve.’

Freya gave a wave of her hand. ‘Don’t worry about it. I’ve decided to stop moping and move on.’

‘Good for you, chick,’ Francine said. ‘That’s the spirit. You’ll find someone else in no time.’

‘I already have.’ Freya grinned at her friends. ‘I’ve just met the funniest guy. Seriously, I just nearly wet myself.’

‘You’ve met somebody else?’ Ally was gobsmacked. She knew her sister had had more than her fair share of boyfriends – the girl was a walking relationship disaster – but that was seriously fast work, even by Freya’s standards.

‘Yep. Just now at the bar.’ Freya scanned the pub, wriggling her fingers in a wave towards a table full of men. ‘His name’s Rob and he is gorgeous.’

‘Ooh, does he have a friend who’s single?’ Dee strained her neck, trying to get a good look at the table across the pub.

‘Who knows? Probably. I’ll ask him when we go on our date.’

‘You have a date lined up already?’ Ally didn’t know whether she should be impressed or horrified.

‘We’re meeting up on Friday night.’ Freya gave her hair a self-satisfied flick. ‘Anyway, looks like Keith’s set up. What are we singing?’

Ally picked up her glass and raised an eyebrow at her sister. ‘The Lady Is A Tramp?’

Freya picked up her own glass and clinked it against Ally’s. ‘She sure is. But what are we singing?’
Everything Changes But You is available from Amazon now

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Book of the Month: February

Ivy Lane
by Cathy Bramley

From spring to summer, autumn to winter, a lot can happen in a single year . . .

Tilly Parker needs a fresh start, fresh air and a fresh attitude if she is ever to leave the past behind and move on with her life. As she seeks out peace and quiet in a new town, taking on a plot at Ivy Lane allotments seems like the perfect solution.

But the friendly Ivy Lane community has other ideas and gradually draw Tilly in to their cosy, comforting world of planting seedlings, organizing bake sales and planning seasonal parties.

As the seasons pass, will Tilly learn to stop hiding amongst the sweetpeas and let people back into her life – and her heart?

*     *     *      *      *

I'd heard a lot of good things about the Ivy Lane series (the book was originally published in four parts as an ebook) so when the complete novel was released as a paperback, I knew I had to read it and I wasn't disappointed. Cathy Bramley writes with such ease and warmth that I was quickly drawn into Tilly's world. You may think that working on an allotment would be quite sedate and peaceful - but not at Ivy Lane! With the seasonal events, parties and bake sales, Tilly is kept busy and the Ivy Lane allotment is jam-packed with fun and drama. There are lots of quirky, vibrant characters to get to know (Gemma was my firm favourite) and I loved every page of it.

My full review of Ivy Lane will be on here on the blog soon, plus I'll be taking part in the Novelicious Book Club on Wednesday 4th March (more details here)

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Blog Tour: Stranger Child by Rachel Abbott

Today I'm delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Rachel Abbott's Stranger Child, with an interview with DCI Tom Douglas from the novel!

1. Tell us a bit about growing up in Manchester, Tom. What’s your family background?

I grew up in the north of Manchester, in a small industrial town. My dad was a blue-collar worker, and we lived in three-bedroomed terraced house. I don’t suppose my parents had much money, but they never made us feel that we were either rich or poor. We seemed to have enough, and that was all that mattered. I attended the local comprehensive school until I was eighteen, and then went to Manchester University.

2. You say ‘us’ in that sentence. Tell me a bit about your siblings.

I have – or rather had – one brother, Jack. He was a few years older than me, and a genius. He had his own computer company by the time he was in his late teens, and his business went from strength to strength. Jack and I got on okay – I was a bit in awe of his brain, to be honest. Sadly he was killed in a freak accident while out in his speedboat in the Adriatic Sea a few years ago.

3. I’m sorry to hear that. You often speak about your daughter Lucy; do the things that you see in your work in the police make you worry more about her?

They do, I’m afraid. I’ve just been dealing with a particularly difficult case involving a girl of around Lucy’s age, and it struck me – as it always does – how vulnerable children are. It’s not just to the menace we can see, but the menace that’s hiding. The fear of physical attack obviously worries me – as it does every parent. But I know what goes on in some homes, and I have to try not to be over-protective in how Lucy chooses her friends, because although I don’t want her exposed to some of the harsher realities of life, I know that I can’t protect her forever.

4. Can you tell me what made you want to join the police in the first place Tom?

A sense of justice, I suppose. My family, with the possible exception of Jack who lived in his own world, were great supporters of the underdog, and some of it rubbed off on me. And I have to say that I do love the mental challenge of trying to solve the worst of the crimes.

5. You have worked on a number of murders. Do you think we all have it in us to commit murder in certain circumstances or do you think it takes a certain type of person?

I am increasingly convinced that good people can, under certain circumstances, be forced to do bad things. And there are times when I think the victim is the guilty party, and the perpetrator is innocent – although of course the law wouldn’t uphold that. I’ve never felt inclined to murder somebody, but I have seen cases where I have understood what has driven a perfectly ordinary, sane person to commit murder.

6. You seem to enjoy a good working relationship with Becky – why do you think that is?

There’s something really sparky about Becky. She’s got a slightly cheeky edge to her, and she makes me smile. She’s a very smart young lady, and she challenges my thinking. I’m not particularly fond of sychophants, and she could never be called that. Her driving, however, puts the fear of God into me.

7. We hear you are a great cook! What is your favourite recipe?

I love to cook Indian food – but not just curry. I have a few great Indian cookery books that don’t have a single curry in them – just delicious dishes like spiced monkfish in a tomato and coconut sauce. But a lot of these dishes take all day to cook, so I have to be practical. My favourite quick dish is chicken in mascarpone and white wine sauce. I can make that in about ten minutes, and let it cook for another ten.

8. What music do you like to listen to at home?

Thanks to Jack I have very eclectic tastes in music. He was into Whitesnake and the like at a time when I was more interested in pop music. He used to drag me into his bedroom to listen to “the good stuff” and as a result I will genuinely listen to anything. As long as it’s not Michael BublĂ©, that is.

9. In a recent well-known crime case, you ended up in Alderney - how did you find the island?

I wish I could have stayed for longer, and I’ll certainly go back there with Lucy for a holiday. The beaches were just incredible – it was like being in the tropics when I looked out of my hotel window at the white sand and the turquoise sea. The people are incredibly friendly too, and it’s virtually crime free – so I’d have to find a different job to live out there. But I can certainly see the attraction.

10. What about your personal life, Tom? As I understand you’re divorced, so you must be quite a catch for some young lady. Is there anybody on the scene at the moment?

Am I allowed to smile at that question? I’m afraid my answer has to be ‘no comment’.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Review: Charles_HRH's Guide To Great Britishness

Popular parody account, @Charles_HRH has been unleashed beyond Twitter with his very own guide book, giving advice on all things British. The Royal family, London Underground and Britain's diverse culture is covered within the pages.
I've been following 'Prince Charles' on Twitter for quite a while, so I was excited to learn that there would be a book released and hoped it would be as funny as the tweets - and I wasn't disappointed. The book is hilarious (unless you're French. Charlie likes to poke fun at the French at every opportunity) and I laughed out loud A LOT.
The book is divided into seven chapters, covering everything from the history of Britain, the royals and government, culture and daily life, capital cities and the best of British, so there is plenty of scope for a good old piss-take. Some of the facts and advice were questionable but it is all very tongue in cheek and made for such a fun and witty read. I read the whole book in a couple of (immensely enjoyable) days.
Great Britishness isn't my usual kind of read (it doesn't have an actual storyline, which is usually pretty important to me) but I loved it.  The book is divided up into bite-sized sections so you can easily dip in and out (but I found it difficult to put down and read pages and pages at a time). It's such an amusing, quirky read.If you're a fan of the Twitter account, you'll love the book. And if you're not following @Charles_HRH, why not? Go and follow and then enjoy the book!

Monday, 23 February 2015

#AmWriting Weddings

Three of them, in fact. If I add another and a funeral, I'll have myself a Richard Curtis film!
Book 3 - aka the A Beginner's Guide To Salad sequel - is centred around all things wedding-y. Ruth and co will be back, along with some newbies. I'm over half-way through the second draft now and I'm loving being back in Ruth's world again and finding out what she and her friends are getting up to two years after we left them.
Although this is the second draft of the book it sometimes feels like the first all over again as it needed a complete overhaul. I wasn't happy with the way the first draft turned out, so I had a looooong think about where I thought it had gone wrong and how I could change it. This meant cutting out almost a third of the book (ouch) and I'm busy rewriting new scenes with a character that started off pretty minor but has shoved herself into the limelight.
This book will follow the same format as A Beginner's Guide To Salad with the three narratives, but this time it's going to be an all-female narrative. Ruth will be one of them, but I'm not going to tell you who the other two are just yet.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Everything Changes But You: The Cast

One of the fun parts of writing a book is imagining who the cast would be if it was adapted for film or TV (hey, I can dream, can’t I?) I usually do this after the book is finished, but occasionally I’ll see someone on TV and think to myself that they would make an excellent *insert character name* This happened last year while I was watching Mr Selfridge and I thought that Amy Beth Hayes (Kitty Hawkins in Mr Selfridge) would make an excellent Clementine in Everything Changes But You.

When I was writing the first draft of the book and I came to the scenes with Martine, her dialogue came to me in the style of Eva from Coronation Street (played by Catherine Tyldesley), which has never happened to me before. It was quite bizarre, but of course I’d have to cast Catherine Tyldesley as Martine now!

The rest of the characters were matched up later. If you look at the cast, you may think I’ve just poached most of the actors from Coronation Street. And you’d be right. I can’t help it – I’m a northern girl with northern characters!

Ally: Lucy Griffiths

Gavin: Tom Ellis

Kelly: Paula Lane

Jason: Marc Baylis

Martine: Catherine Tyldesley

Clementine: Amy Beth Hayes

Francine: Anna Maxwell Martin

Everything Changes But You is available from Amazon now

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Book Nerds Unite: Jennifer Joyce

Flaunt your book nerdiness and join in
As I set up the Book Nerds United feature, I thought I would kick it all off by taking part myself! If you'd like to take part, you can find the questionnaire and all the details here
So let's go!

When did you set up your blog? And why?

I set this blog up in July 2011 as I couldn’t find the kind of blog I was looking for (chick lit writers – which I since found!) so I set up my own. I thought I’d give it a go to see how easy/difficult it would be. I’ve been blogging ever since!

What is your favourite genre?

Chick lit

Do you have a favourite author(s)?

I’m a big fan of Dorothy Koomson. I only discovered her wonderful books a few years ago, but I’ve almost caught up on her backlist and am eagerly awaiting her next book.

I’m also a huge fan of Marian Keyes, Lisa Jewell and Jane Green.

Do you re-read books? If yes, what is your most re-read book?

I love re-reading books and reacquainting myself with familiar characters. I have a few books that I go back to over and over again (mostly the early Jane Green and Lisa Jewell books, which introduced me to chick lit) but my most re-read of all is probably Thirty Nothing by Lisa Jewell. I don’t think I will ever get tired of reading it!

 What was the first book you ever bought yourself?

The Animals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dann. I still have the book on my bookshelf and read it every few years. I read it to my 12-year-old daughter when she was younger and can’t wait to read it to my 6-year-old. The book cost me a whole month’s pocket money, but it was definitely worth it!

Where is your favourite place to read?

I’ll read anywhere, but I do like a good soak in the bath with a cup of tea and a book. If I haven’t topped up the hot water at least twice, I haven’t been in long enough.

What were the last 3 books you read?

We Shall Remember by Emma Fraser, Another Cup of Coffee by Jenny Kane and Prince Charles_HRH’s Guide To Great Britishness.

You’re hosting a dinner party and can invite 3 fictional guests. Who do you invite?

Nadine and Dig from Thirty Nothing because I’ve read the book so often, it feels like I actually know them, and Mammy Walsh from Marian Keyes’ books because she’s hilarious.

What do you look for in a book heroine?

I want someone strong but who also has a vulnerable side so that I can root for her. I don’t want her to be perfect – that’s just annoying! I also like a laugh-out-loud read, so if she’s funny, that’s great too.

What do you look for in a book hero?

Good looks are ok, but I’d rather he was funny and sweet and kind to his granny.

What was your favourite book to movie adaptation?

Bridget Jones’s Diary *whispers* I actually prefer it to the book.

Which book do you wish would be made into a movie?

The One Plus One by JoJo Moyes because I loved the characters and would love to see them brought to life.

Finally, what are you reading at the moment?

Ivy Lane by Cathy Bramley. I would now like to be part of a community-spirited allotment!

You can find me rambling about bookish stuff here on the blog or on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Remember, if you'd like to take part, you can find the questionnaire and all the details here