Wednesday 31 August 2011

Book 1 & Titles

Versions one and two of my current project had a title. It was one of those rare moments (for me) where the book had a title before I'd even put pen to paper - or fingers to keyboard.

However, as I started version three, it became clear the title no longer suited the book I was writing so I was back to the same old problem I usually have; what the hell do I call the thing?

Why are titles so difficult? Why can I write an 80-100, 000 word novel but those few words that will (hopefully) be displayed on the front cover are beyond me?

Now, I know titles can change. It would more than likely be in my best interests if somebody did change mine because I clearly suck at it but that initial title has to grab the attention of an agent. It has to stand out on the slush pile but it also has to be suitable for the book.


My book had no title for a while but then I was 'forced' to come up with a title when I entered it into in this competition. It isn't a brilliant title but I don't think it is the worst I have ever conjured up. It does the job so for now it will be a working title.

Monday 29 August 2011


Crazy as it sounds, my favourite part of a book is the acknowledgements. Not only do you get the tiniest of insights into the writer, you also see that a real person has wrote the book. A person who, like me, has sat at a computer, has had people swirling around their mind in a non-mental type of way and has sent off their work. For them, it has been sucessful and I hope it will be for me one day.

The acknowledgements are an inspiration to me. I read them, give a little sigh and think 'one day'. One day I might have the chance to thank people for helping me on the road to publication. I'm always disappointed when there isn't an acknowledgement and for some reason, I prefer them to be at the beginning of the book rather than the end (shrugs).

So I would like to thank the writers for thanking those who have helped them. Keep thanking!

Competition has a competition to win a copy of The Empty Nesters by Nina Bell.

The competition is open to UK residents and all you have to is fill in the form.

Good luck

Sunday 28 August 2011

The Radleys by Matt Haig

Life with the Radleys: Radio 4, dinner parties with the Bishopthorpe neighbours and self-denial.

Teenagers Rowan and Clara have no idea they are vampires until the night of a party when Clara is attacked and her instincts kick in. Their parents made the decision to abstain from drinking blood in order to bring up their children as 'normal' human beings in a quiet village but their carefully planned life is about to crumble when the truth comes out.

I've only read the Twilight series and Ann Rice's Interview With The Vampire on the subject so it isn't my usual read but I really enjoyed it. Although there is obviously blood in it, it isn't too gory for a wuss like me and I connected with the characters of Helen, Peter, Rowan and Clara and wanted it all to work out for them.

I found the book to be a good, light read (in that it wasn't bogged down with too many unnecessary details and descriptions). There was subtle and tongue in cheek humour as well as laugh out loud moments, my favourite of which was describing sex as 'a hug in motion'.

The short sections of the book were a blessing for me. As a mum, it helps to be able to pick up a book and read it in small chunks before I have to dash off to stop the girls from battering each other or to turn the potatoes down before they boil dry so The Radleys was ideal.

I was quite disappointed when it came to an end this afternoon, which is always a good sign.

Verdict: Didn't think it would my cup of tea but I was wrong. Great read

Friday 26 August 2011

Week 5 of the Summer Holidays

Mixed bag of weather this week so we did both indoor and outdoor activities this week.

Last week, we made toppers for cakes so this week we put them to use. We melted chocolate, poured it onto cakes and added pink glitter sprinkles before adding the toppers.

We then pulled out the dressing up boxes and had a Princess Tea Party with the cakes, biscuits, fruit salad and juice.

We made good use of the park on one of the good weather days and had a walk down to the library on another. The Jellyfish completed the Summer Reading Challenge. There was also a clown show on at the library. It was horrendous.

The show was supposed to start at 2pm but the clown decided to set up at 2 and it took him nearly an hour! The kids were bored. I was bored. The 'show' lasted until 4 and was dire. I lost the will around ten minutes in.

On another sunny day, we did painting in the garden. The Jellyfish likes watching Backyard Science so we got the idea from there: mix cornflour with water so it looks like milk, then add food colouring. You can then paint on the ground because it washes away with water (or rain in our case).

We also made good use of the bad weather by staying in and watching episodes of The Secret World of Alex Mack.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Book 1...

... is still on hold. It's been eight days (is that all? Feels like eighty at least) and in that time I've only done a tiny bit of planning for the next project and one measly short story. I'm sure it would have been more if I hadn't joined Twitter...

On a more positive note, I can now boast more than 5% on my sky plus box.

Teen & Pre-Teen Books

I have just had a look at Booktrust's Best Books Guide for 2011 and the teen and pre-teen books and my first thought was children's books have changed since my day. But have they?

The Pre-teen books these days cover some serious issues, such as cancer, religious sects and the death of a parent. Only recently, The Jellyfish has read Jacqueline Wilson's The Longest Whale Song, which is about a girl whose mother is in a coma (I've been there, although I was an adult at that time and it is still upsetting to think back at that time, even though my mum did come round).

When I was a pre-teen, I was reading The Babysitter's Club and Sweet Valley Twins. But then I remember Caroline B Cooney's The Face on the Milk Carton which told the story of a girl who had been kidnapped as a small child and had grown up with the kidnapper's family until she starts to remember her past. I was hooked on this book and I think it was my first experience of being unable to put a book down. I'd even set my alarm early so I could read before school!

The teen books contain more harrowing situations; sleeping rough because your father has died, more cancer and honor killings.

Looking back on my teen years, I see Sweet Valley High and Point Romance but if I think hard enough there was more than the fluffy teenage stuff. What about Dear Nobody about a teenage girl who falls pregnant and has to face termintation and adoption?

Maybe the books aren't so different now then they were back then...

Sunday 21 August 2011

The Woman He Loved Before by Dorothy Koomson

First of all, please excuse the gushing that is about to commence.

Second of all, wow. And I really mean it.

The Woman He Loved Before tells the story of Libby and Jack and Jack's first wife, Eve. Libby fears Jack can never love her the way he loved his late wife and will never be able to let Eve go and when Libby discovers more and more about Eve, she begins to understand why.

The book was given a great review on Novelicious so I was looking forward to reading it. As soon as I began, I could see why it had been so highly praised.

Dorothy Koomson is a beautiful writer who manages to describe the simplest things so perfectly. You are drawn into the story straight away and there is intrigue throughout, compelling you to keep reading even though it is one am and you know your two year old will come bounding into your bedroom at stupid o clock in the morning.

Both Libby's and Eve's stories are touching - heartbreaking at times - and through the writing, you feel for them and join them on a rollercoaster of emotions.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough and urge anyone who hasn't read it yet to do so. This was the first Dorothy Koomson book I have read but I will be searching out her previous ones.

Verdict: Best book I have read in a very long time

Friday 19 August 2011

Week 4 of the Summer Holidays

I can't believe how quickly these last few weeks have gone. The hoildays will be over soon and it'll all be down hill from there; dark nights, cold weather, snow. Best make the most of the holidays while we have them.

We've had a mixed bag of weather this week so we have been able to get out and about a bit more than last week. Some of the things we have done are:

  • A walk to the park to run around (the kids, not me. I make it a rule to never run) and roll down the hill (again, not me)
  • A trip to Gulliver's World
  • Spent the afternoon at my sister's house. Kids played with their cousins while I had a quiet cup of tea
  • Made toppers for cakes which we are going to use tomorrow
Will have to go shopping next week to finish off school uniform etc. Luckily I only need to get shoes and PE kit now.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Book 1 - First Draft Is Complete!

Word count: 78, 000

Completed the first draft last night. In time for Big Brother too (coincidence?)

It isn't quite the 80, 000 words I was aiming for but there is so much to do when I edit it that I am not worried about the wordcount.

It's a strange feeling having the whole story down, however rough it is at the moment. When I went to bed last night, I put my head down on the pillow and my mind automatically went to Kate and what she would be up to next, as I always do. Except she isn't under my control anymore. She has her own life to lead that has nothing to do with me.

It will feel even stranger when I don't open my word document tonight. Whatever will I do with my time? The plan is to leave the book for a month and then go back and edit it (aka rip it to pieces). I'm going to use this opportunity to write some short stories as I want to stay in the habit of writing but don't want to start anything major, scrapbook the millions of photos waiting to be scrapbooked, clear my Sky Plus box and read through the pile of books that seems to have crept up on me.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Gulliver's World

The four us went on a trip to Gulliver's World today and, despite a bit of rain around lunch time, we had a really good time. The theme park is aimed at children between 2 and 13 so it was ideal for us. Most of the rides were small and tame and there were lots of little play areas for the smaller ones. My favourite was in the Western World where, alongside the slides and climbing frame, were miniature buildings from a western town; a saloon, bank, jail, church etc which the children could go inside.

There were plenty of places to eat as well as picnic areas, which we used as we'd taken our own packed lunch. As it was raining by then, we used an indoor seating area.

While we waited for The Partner and The Jellyfish to go on one of the slightly bigger rides, Boo and I sat and watched an elephant dance on the stage (she wasn't real, you know. Just pretend, I was informed by Boo).

I will say that some parts of the theme park needed a good dust, sweep and a lick of paint but the kids didn't seem to notice. They were too busy having fun.

Just adding Ms Cow because I like her. She's
off centre because we were in a
moving tractor ride

A Big Thank You

A big thank you to Debs Carr for sending me a copy of Dorothy Koomson's The Woman He Loved Before, which arrived today. Can't wait to start reading it!

Monday 15 August 2011

Writing Competition

Writing competition here

It's £15 to enter and first prize is £1000 and £100 for the runners up.

Closing date is 30 September 2011

Sunday 14 August 2011

From Notting Hill With Love by Ali McNamara

This is the perfect book for me as I love watching films (though not to the extent of Scarlett) as well as reading.

From Notting Hill With Love... Actually tells the story of Scarlett, a movie-obsessed woman who is taking a break from her life to house sit in Notting Hill. There she meets Oscar and Ursula who decide to help her quest to prove that life can be like the movies. They rope in Scareltt's temporary neighbour to help too and although he annoys Scarlett to begin with, it's quite clear things will change rapidly.

From Notting Hill With Love... Actually was a good read. It was fun and didn't take itself too seriously (how can it when Scarlett keeps ending up in move scenarios) and I loved the film facts at the end. Geek confession here but when I've watched a film I always check on for the movie facts.

I enjoyed the read and would recommend it to anyone who likes both chick lit and chick flicks.

Verdict: My cup of tea

Saturday 13 August 2011

Book 1 & Baby Steps

Word Count: 68, 000

Not far to go now before the first draft is completed. I didn't think I would get this far with this book. It was so disheartening when I had to scrap my previous two versions (particularly version one which was 50, 000 words in) and the whole book had changed. The same premise was there but I'd taken the bare bones and shifted the focus. I'd worked on the original two versions and knew them so this new version was a stranger to me.

I'll let you in on something... I nearly scrapped the whole thing. I'd put too much work in and now this new book didn't feel like 'my' book. So I gave myself three 'baby steps', three little goals:

  • Complete Chapter One
  • Write Three Chapters
  • Write 10, 000 words
I felt like I had a mammoth task ahead of me and it was daunting but what harm would writing one chapter do? Then after that three chapters wasn't such a leap. I decided I would write 10, 000 words and then reassess my feelings on the book.

By the time I had completed the baby steps, I was into the book and related to my main character and I was actually enjoying writing it so I carried on. I still make baby steps for myself. I don't need them in the same way as I did at the beginning but they do help keep me motivated. Instead of seeing 50, 000 words ahead of me, it is never more than 10, 000 on my goals.

It always feels great to cross out a goal.

Friday 12 August 2011

Week 3 of the Summer Holidays

What has happened to the weather this week? Has summer been and gone?

Hang on, why am I so surprised? This is England. Of course it's going to rain in August!

We haven't been able to go and out and do much this week due to the weather so we have:

  • had one visit to the park and almost froze in the process but at least it didn't rain for a while
  • made Chocolate and Sultana Rice Krispie Cakes (with added sprinkles and glitter)

  • Made an I Spy Sticker game

    I got the idea from 
    here but I made little cards with things to find for The Jellyfish and Boo (making them easier for Boo as she's only two). I also laminated it so they wouldn't wreck it in five seconds!

  • made chocolate and sprinkles covered strawberries and bananas, which we froze

I can't believe the summer hoildays are half way through. It's going so quick!

Wednesday 10 August 2011

My Babies Have Arrived

I am so happy I could do a little dance - if there wasn't a laptop on my knee.

I bid on some Farthing Wood figures on eBay the other day and won and they arrived this afternoon!

Although I allowed myself to be a little excited when I was the winning bidder, I tried not to get my hopes up because I was the winning bidder on these same figures (well, the same kind of figures, it was a different seller) a couple of years ago but they never arrived. I was gutted.

But they are here now so I can be excited like a little kid. I've waited 18 years to own these figures. I remember them being a prize on Blue Peter and I wanted them so badly. And now I own them and can add them to my little collection.

Boo wanted to play with them but she can keep her gorgeous little mitts off them. They've never been out of the box and they are never coming out. I'm thinking I need a shelf to display them on...

Monday 8 August 2011

Top Ten Chick Lit Books

This one was a difficult list to compile. There are loads of books that I love so choosing just ten was difficult. Most of the books I chose are older ones but then I think to become a favourite of mine, time is needed for me to read it a few times.

Here goes:

1)  Rachel's Holiday by Marian Keyes

I loved this book. It was so good the way Marian Keyes told the story from Rachel's point of view, thinking her family are overreacting. I first read this book after borrowing it from the library and enjoyed it so much, I bought my own copy.

2)  Thirty Nothing by Lisa Jewell

I've lost count of the number of times I've read this book. I love it just as much now as I did when I first read it. I don't think it will ever get old.

3)  One Hit Wonder by Lisa Jewell

Another Lisa Jewell book. I always feel quite sad when I read this because of the lost relationship between the two sisters but that doesn't affect my enjoyment of the book. It's another that I read again every year or two.

4)  Babyville by Jane Green

I think this book will always have a special place on my bookcase. I read this while pregnant with The Jellyfish and I read it for the millionth time a couple of weeks ago.

5)  Come Together by Josie Lloyd and Emlyn Rees

For the first time, I actually read the first in a line of books. Usually I pick up new (to me) authors several books in and have to play catch up but with these I started at the beginning.

6)  The Bad Mother's Handbook by Kate Long

Loved this book and, quite surprisingly, the tv version was good too

7)  Snap Happy by Fiona Walker

Couldn't put this book down! I had a copy for months and months (back in the days when I had piles of books to get through - sigh) but kept putting it off. I'd been interested enough to buy it but couldn't muster any enthusiasm to read it until one day I ran out of books. And it was fabulous. A great read

8)  Just the Three of Us by Clare Dowling

Another author who I picked up late. I read Just the Three of Us and loved it. The writing flowed nicely and was witty. I then read Going It Alone and have a copy of Amazing Grace waiting to be read.

9)  Mummy Said the F Word by Fiona Gibson

The title of this one pulled me in and I'm glad as I enjoyed the book. Having just looked at her website, I have a few to catch up on!

10) Kiss Him Goodbye by Victoria Routeledge

I've had this book since I was 17. Before going on holiday with my mum, I bought myself three new books from WH Smith. They were the first 'grown up' books I'd read. The three were Bookends by Jane Green, What's New Pussycat by Alexandra Potter and Kiss Him Goodbye by Victoria Routeledge.

I must admit, I read the others first as the covers appealed more with their cartoon people but, having read this book over and over, it is definitely one of my favourites, though I haven't read any others of Victoria's.

*  *  *  *  *

So that's my top ten. How did I do? What are your top ten chick lit books?

Friday 5 August 2011

Week 2 of the Summer Holidays

Another week has passed - it's going by fast!

The weather hasn't been as good this week, though there have been some sunny days, which is a rarity in Manchester.

This week we have:

  • Watched a ladybird in the back garden, letting it run along our hands and watching it climb up the grass and leaves. It's amazing how such a tiny thing can keep kids occupied
  • Had another trip to the library where we read books, coloured in Peppa Pig pictures and played with the toys and jigsaws
  • The Jellyfish spent the day at her friend's house
  • Made a bottle of treasure like this but mine wasn't as fancy. I used an empty water bottle. Did the trick though and it was fun searching the house to find little items to put inside and the kids enjoyed playing with it too
  • Went to Messy Play where we played in sand, crunched cornflakes and painted with food. The Jellyfish took part in a mini dance session while Boo and I played with the animal figures
  • Made sandpaper pictures
  • Made Teddy Bear Crayons:

The idea came from here but, as we don't have a car, we did ours in the oven, set at 150C and I just checked on them every few minutes. They turned out really well and the kids were excited when I popped them out of the mould. The only problem was, Boo thought she could them as they'd been in the oven!

Thursday 4 August 2011

The Animals of Farthing Wood

What was your favourite book as a child?

Mine was The Animals of Farthing Wood. It was the first book I ever bought myself - and at £3.99 it was a month's worth of pocket money. I knew it was worth it though. My teacher had already read it to the class and he would let us watch the BBC TV series to coincide with the chapter we had just read. The magazine Farthing Wood Friends was out then as well and he would buy the magazine and bring it into school, lining them up along the chalk shelf on the black board and we were allowed to read through and play with the sticker board whenever we had free time.

I loved The Animals of Farthing Wood and Mole was my favourite because he was so cute in the cartoon. Now Adder is my favourite because he's sarcastic and a bit evil.

I've read TAOFW many times over the years, usually every year or two. When The Jellyfish was a baby, I bought an omnibus of books of White Deer Park (where the animals journey to) and waited seven years to read it with her.

Before that, we obviously read the original, starting with an illustrated, condensed version I'd bought when she was around five. A year later we read the proper version, reading a chapter each night before bed.

I still love TAOFW as much now as I did as a ten year old and I loved sharing the story with my daughter. I've also become a bit obsessed. Remember the magazines I mentioned? A couple of years ago I started collecting them from eBay and have most of them now. A couple of weeks ago I bought a set of 100+ stickers from eBay and am considering bidding on a jigsaw.

It's a great story and the best £3.99 I've ever spent.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Book 1 - Version 3

Word Count: 49, 000
I started my current project a couple of months ago. It was going well and I reached around 55, 000 words.

Then I started to think. Is it really going well? The story had swerved away from my initial plan, which isn't always a bad thing but, looking back, the way in which I had told the story was dull. There were good bits in it, bits I would have loved to have kept but it wasn't the right style and so I made the brave decision to stop.

At this point, I still wanted most of the book. It needed a good tinker with but most of it was written. A bit of cutting and pasting, delete a few scenes, write a few more and then I'd be able to continue to that 80, 000 word mark.

I reached around 7, 000 words on version 2 when I realised it wasn't working.

So I stopped again. Completely this time and started Version 3 from scratch.

The focus of the book has changed and it is much closer to the orignal plot. The characters have been given a overhaul (in that they actually have a character now). Some have been scrapped, others added. It's a book I would want to read now.

It was scary starting again after so much time and effort had gone in but it was the right decsion. The plot, focus and characters have improved. I also kept the 'good bits' from the previous versions to recycle at a later date.

But now I have almost caught up with Version 1, I hope I do not start to think again...