Thursday 28 June 2012

Retro Review - Rachel's Holiday by Marian Keyes

I love re-reading books and find it comforting revisiting characters and stories I already know. A bit like watching 10 Things I Hate About You 10,000 times (or is that just me?)

I have been re-reading books from my bookcase and have saved the best one until last:

Rachel Walsh has been living in New York for the past eight years, having fun with her best friend and roommate, Brigit. Rachel loves New York, loves going out to parties and meeting men. None of the men stick around for long until she meets Luke Costello. Kind, sexy Luke who really seems to like her.

Six months down the line, everything seems to be going wrong. After an accidental overdose, Rachel is whisked back to Ireland by her overreacting family. She's lost her job, Brigit is furious with her and she's been dumped by Luke.

Rachel finds herself in the Cloisters to tackle her so-called drug additction. She has only agreed to incarcerate herself in the rehabilitation centre to rub shoulders with the celebrity clients and to indulge in the spa treatments. She'll stay in the Cloisters for the required eight weeks and have a break while lounging in the sauna or relaxing with an aromatherapy massage. She'll put up with the real addicts, even though Rachel isn't like them. Rachel isn't an addict. Yes, she takes the odd drug but only for recreational use.

But as the weeks go by, Rachel is faced with her friends and family and is forced to listen to their horror stories of Rachel's drug taking. But they're lying. Aren't they?

How do you take a difficult, unpleasant subject and tell it in an easy, humourous way without losing the serious nature of the story? I don't know but Marian Keyes does. She's done it time and time again. Rachel's Holiday deals with addiction and its effects on the user as well as their families and while it is laugh-out-loud funny, it isn't at the expense of addiction and its sufferers. It doesn't take the piss out of addiction but it is told in Marian Keyes' wonderful style.

Rachel's Holiday is one of my favourte books and I was soon reminded why. I love the way Rachel's addiction is told through her eyes, thinking those around her are overreacting to her drug use before it dawns on her that she does have a problem. We hear the stories from her friends and family, which differ massively from Rachel's recollections.

There is humour throughout, which is hardly surprising as not only is it written by Marian Keyes, who has produced many brilliant, funny characters, it centres around the Walsh family. The Walsh family have also appeared in Watermelon, Angels, Anybody Out There? and will be in Marian's next book, The Mystery of Mercy Close, which is due out in September. I can't wait.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Book 2 - The End is in reach...

... if I reeeeally stretch out.

I've had to add quite a few scenes this week, as I knew I would have to as this part of the book is quite different from the first draft (I seem to like making things difficult for myself). Rather than just new scenes, there have been whole new chapters going in but, as I've weeded out a LOT of crap along the way, the word count is pretty much the same.

I do know I'll need to do another draft after this. It still doesn't 'feel' right as a whole. The changes won't be as dramatic as they were between drafts one and two (I hope not anyway) but it does need a tinker with and I'm hoping to bring the word count down a bit.

I think I should be finished with this draft by the end of next week. I hope so. I've had a sudden slump over the past few days and feel exhausted by it all so I'm looking forward to a little break.

Monday 25 June 2012

Retro Review - Vince & Joy by Lisa Jewell

I love re-reading books and find it comforting revisiting characters and stories I already know. A bit like watching Clueless 10,000 times (or is that just me?)

I have been re-reading books from my bookcase and next up was Vince & Joy by Lisa Jewell:

Vince and Joy are both looking for something...

In their teens, in family holidays and bathroom mirrors.

In their twenties, in messy London flats and messy London relationships.

In their thirties, in marriages that appear stable - and feel anything but.

Seventeen years ago Vince and Joy met, parted and never said goodbye. And soon they are going to have to ask themselves: could it be that they actually found what they've both been looking for, back in the mid-eighties, in a holiday park by the sea?

Vince and Joy first meet as teenagers and fall in love after a brief but intense relationship. An event at the caravan park puts an end to their relationship and both Vince and Joy assumes they will never see their first love again.

But fate and destiny have other ideas.

As Vince and Joy lead separate, not always happy, lives, they are brought together again and again. But will they take note of their destiny or choose a different path?

I have read Vince & Joy once before, when it was released in 2005, but although little bits were still familiar and I knew how it was going to end, it was still a brilliant, gripping read. Re-reading Vince & Joy reminded me why I love Lisa Jewell so much and why she is one of my favourite authors. Her stories come to life without being bogged down with unnecessary descriptions, which makes them effortless to read and allows you to enjoy the story and characters.

Vince & Joy is an I'll-feed-my-kids-after-one-more-chapter kind of read, the kind where I'm mole-eyed and one-more-chaptering at 2am (but I promise the kids have been fed by this point). I'm glad I dusted off my copy and was taken in by Vince and Joy once more.

Friday 22 June 2012

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Blog Hop

Today I'm taking part in the Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Blog Hop, hosted by Jaycee DeLorenzo and Victoria Smith.

How it Works:
Interview a heroine of your manuscript, novel, or WIP by a fellow female counterpart also from one of your written works. Your featured heroine can be interviewed by her best friend, a heroine from another one of your written works, a sister, the opportunities are endless!

  • Have your heroine answer at least 3 of the questions recommended below or make up your own!
  • Post a picture of your heroine, the interviewer, or both!
  • Post a song for the theme of the interview or a song that reflects your featured heroine's personality.
  • Follow Victoria and me on our blogs.
  • Post our hop button! (Though not required, feel free to repost on your blog about the hop!)
  • Post your entries on June 22, 2012 and hop around the other blogs through the linky!

For this hop, the interview will have more of a "girls chatting" type feel because after all, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun! So feel free to write it like a short scene in a book!

"So? How was your date with Dan?" Petra was too excited to know how the date had gone to wait until they were seated but Karen took her time replying, first sitting neatly in her chair, ensuring her handbag was tucked away and then taking a long sip of her drink.
"It wasn't a date. I keep telling you, we're just friends."
"And I keep not believing you." Petra smiled at her friend to show she was only kidding. "Where did you go?"
"Just to the White Deer. Like I said, it wasn't a date, just two friends getting together for a couple of drinks at the pub."
"Yeah, yeah. Not a date. I get it." Petra gave a wave of her hand. "But did you kiss him?"
"No!" Honestly, why couldn't Petra get it? She and Dan were just friends and besides, Karen had only been single for five minutes. The last thing she needed was another man to break her heart.
"But would you? If you were dating, would you kiss him - or anybody else for that matter - on a first date?"
Karen took another sip of her drink, allowing herself to mull over the question. It had been a long time since she'd had to ask herself such questions. "No, I think I'd rather play hard to get. Perhaps on the second date?"
"And what would a man have to do to earn himself a second date with you?" Petra would be sure to pass the information on to Dan. Karen may have been in denial about their friendship status but she was sure Dan knew where he stood.
"Good manners are a must. And clean fingernails."
Dan always appeared freshly showered and he had impeccable manners. "And what would turn you off?"
Karen wrinkled her nose. "I wouldn't want to be bored during a date. I was once taken to a poker game on a date, only I wasn't allowed to play. I just had to sit there all night while he lost money."
"Ok... Anything else?"
"Absolutely no smoking."
Fantastic! Dan was a very healthy non-smoker. "And what was your best date?"
Karen thought hard about this. She had been on many fabulous dates so it was difficult to pick out the best. "I suppose it would have to be the time Rick surprised me with a weekend in Paris. We went to the most gorgeous, romantic restaurant with soft music and candlelight and they served..."
Petra nodded along as Karen's eyes glazed over, lost in a wondrous day in the past. She wondered whether Dan had a valid passport and a stomach for snails and frog's legs.
"... and at the end of the evening, Rick took me out onto the candlelit terrace and we danced and danced until the restaurant closed." Karen gave a little sigh before blinking her way out of her daydream. "I'm sorry. I went on a bit too much there, didn't I?"
A bit? Petra had jotted down a few notes on the back of a receipt out of her handbag, ready to pass on to Dan. She hid the pen in her lap under the table.
"Boxers or briefs?"
"Should he wear boxers or briefs?"
Karen gave a shrug. "It doesn't matter what he's wearing. It's what's inside that counts."
Grinning, Petra lifted her glass and clinked it against Karen's. She'd drink to that.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Saved By Cake Challenge - June

I have decided to challenge myself to bake a different cake/biscuit from Marian Keyes' book, Saved By Cake, each month, between March and December. I am a beginner at baking and use the same recipes over and over again so it'll be nice to try something new. I will take photos and post them on here each month - the good, the bad and the ugly.

Millionaire's Shortbread

This month I gave Millionaire's Shortbread a go. I've never made shortbread or caramel before so it was going to be a bit of a challenge. A challenge, I'm afraid to say, I lost.

I ran into my first problem while making the shortbread (you know, the very first bit). I measured out the ingredients and started to rub in the butter but it went a bit wrong somehow and all the butter stuck to my hands - I looked like I'd been involved in a chemical spill with melty hands. So I thought I'd add a bit more flour and sugar and it seemed to work. The butter stopped sticking to me and I carried on with the recipe.

After the shortbread came the caramel layer, which I'd been a bit scared of. And, as it turns out, rightly so. I didn't just burn the caramel - I burned it to smithereens. I couldn't use it and I didn't have another tin of condensed milk to make more. Oh, crap.

Like my old friend Stephanie from Lazy Town says, there's always a way. So I scrapped the caramel (straight into the wheelie bin) and made chocolate covered shortbread instead. To cheer it up a bit, I added the sprinkles left over from my Jubilee Cupcakes.

Then, when I took the shortbread out of the tin, it turned out parts of it weren't cooked through. So all in all, it was a bit of a disaster. I hope I have better luck next month!

For more Saved by Cake Challenges click here

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Book 2 - 82% Done

82%! How did that happen? It only feels like a couple of weeks ago that I started the second draft but I'm getting closer and closer to The End. I should imagine I'll be done in a couple of weeks and then I'll put it to one side for a few weeks before I have another read through. If all is ok, it'll be time for another round of submissions *gulps*.

I'm still waiting for the wanting-to-put-my-fist-through-the-computer-screen slump that I felt with Book 1's second draft but it hasn't come yet. And at least if it does creep up on me, I'll only have to deal with it for 18%.

Monday 18 June 2012

Retro Review - What's New Pussycat by Alexandra Potter

I love re-reading books and find it comforting revisiting characters and stories I already know. A bit like watching 13 Going 30 10,000 times (or is that just me?)

I have been re-reading books from my bookcase, one of which was What's New Pussycat by Alexandra Potter:

Why, why, Delilah?
Delilah has made a big decision. In fact, she’s made several. She’s leaving Bradford, leaving her boyfriend Lenny, and taking her Tom Jones collection, her pet whippet, Fatso and herself to the bright lights of the big city…
My, my, Delilah…
And now that she’s here, it seems that down-to-earth Delilah is just what the big city was waiting for. But whatever she does, Delilah is determined finally to make the right choices for her future, in love and work. So whether Charlie, the wealthy media boy, or Sweet Sam in his cafĂ© are right for her is something she needs to decide – on her own. And then she can really start to live …

Delilah once had a dream to go to college and become an interior designer. But then she met Lenny and her dreams were forgotten when they moved in together and Delilah had to drop out of college to earn some money to pay the bills.

Ten years later, Delilah is still with Lenny and still waitressing to make ends meet. When Lenny proposes, she realises how unhappy she is with the way her life has turned out. A brief encounter with tv producer Charlie Mendes forces her to take action. Packing her belongings, including her treasured Tom Jones record collection, Delilah leaves Lenny and their life behind and moves to Notting Hill to try to track down Charlie.

While in London, Delilah meets flamboyant Vivienne and sweet Sam, a cafe owner with aspirations of becoming a chef.

Will she track down Charlie and, if she does, will they live happily ever after?

I bought What's New Pussycat back in 2000 and it was one of the first chick lit novels I read. I was probably first attracted by the cartoon cover and they are still my favourite kind of covers.

Although I'd already read What's New Pussycat, it was a long time ago and it was like reading a new book. What's New Pussycat is a light read full of humour and I found myself more and more fond of Delilah's new flatmate, Vivienne. She is funny, a little bit crazy and most definitely kinky!

I enjoyed rediscovering What's New Pussycat and I really should catch up with Alexandra Potter's other novels.


Thursday 14 June 2012

Marian Keyes - The Mystery of Mercy Close

Due to be published 13th September 2012:

“I employ this thing I called The Shovel List.”
“A shovel..?”
“No, a shovel list. It’s more of a conceptual thing. It’s a list of all the people and things I hate so much I want to hit them in the face with a shovel.”
Helen Walsh doesn’t believe in fear – it’s just a thing invented by men to get all the money and good job – and yet she’s sinking. Her work as a Private Investigator has dried up, her flat has been repossessed and now some old demons have resurfaced.
Not least in the form of her charming but dodgy ex-boyfriend Jay Parker, who shows up with a missing persons case. Money is tight – so tight Helen’s had to move back in with her elderly parents – and Jay is awash with cash. The missing person is Wayne Diffney, the ‘Wacky One’ from boyband Laddz. He’s vanished from his house in Mercy Close and it’s vital that he’s found – Laddz have a sell-out comeback gig in five days’ time.
Things ended messily with Jay. And she’s never going back there. Besides she has a new boyfriend now, the very sexy detective Artie Devlin and it’s all going well, even though his ex-wife isn’t quite ‘ex’ enough and his teenage son hates her. But the reappearance of Jay is stirring up all kinds of stuff she thought she’d left behind.
Playing by her own rules, Helen is drawn into a dark and glamorous world, where her worst enemy is her own head and where increasingly the only person she feels connected to is Wayne, a man she’s never even met.
Utterly compelling, moving and very very funny, The Mystery of Mercy Close is unlike any novel you’ve ever read and Helen Walsh – courageous, vulnerable and wasp-tongued – is the perfect heroine for our times.

Who's looking forward to Marian Keyes' latest novel, The Mystery of Mercy Close? Me, me me! I adore Marian Keyes (not only does she write brilliant novels, she bakes fab cakes too). I'm especially excited because this will be another Walsh family novel. So come on, September. Hurry up. We're all waiting for you.

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Book 2 & Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

I'm almost a quarter of the way through the second draft and still not hating it. I've been busy cutting, moving scenes and writing in extra ones so it all makes sense and am still hovering around 86,000 words. I'm just about to get to the point where this draft will be quite different from the first draft so still lots to do.

I'm planning on taking part in the Girls Just Wanna Have Fun blog hop next week, which focuses on the heroine of your novel. Details here.


It'll be good to see what other people are working on but I'm also looking forward to writing a scene between my main character, Karen and her best friend for the blog hop, getting to know her a bit more outside of the book.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Bonus Saved By Cake Challenge

I have decided to challenge myself to bake a different cake/biscuit from Marian Keyes' book, Saved By Cake, each month, between March and December. I am a beginner at baking and use the same recipes over and over again so it'll be nice to try something new. I will take photos and post them on here each month - the good, the bad and the ugly.

Before I started my challenge, I made a list of the cakes I wanted to bake over the months, to make sure I tried a bit of everything and didn't wimp out by making the 'easy' cakes each month.


Consistently Reliable Cupcakes

This month I'd chosen to make Millionaire's Shortbread (eek) but then it turned out I needed to make some cupcakes for the Jubilee party at my daughter's Brownies. So I turned to my Saved By Cake book and chose the Consistently Reliable Cupcakes. When it came to decorating them I used red, white and blue sprinkles (anything can be made 'Jubilee' by adding red, white and blue sprinkles - we had Jubilee Ice Creams this way too).

The buttercream in this recipe was so much nicer than the recipe I usually use. So much so, I chucked the old one away (it was scribbled on a piece of paper - I didn't hurl a cookbook in the bin or anything).

*  *  *  *

Vicky over on Books, Biscuit and Tea is also baking her way through Saved By Cake. She's made the Sweet and Simple Strawberry Cupcakes and they look delicious.

Monday 11 June 2012

Retro Review - Kiss Him Goodbye by Victoria Routledge

I love re-reading books and find it comforting revisiting characters and stories I already know. A bit like watching You've Got Mail 10,000 times (or is that just me?)

For the past few weeks I have been re-reading books from my bookcase and first up was Kiss Him Goodbye by Victoria Routledge:

Kate Craig has many pet hates but top of the list is London. She's managed to steer clear for twenty-one years until her boyfriend, Giles, convinces her to visit his palatial Chelsea home. Kate's week of indulgence is idyllic until Giles drops his bombshell: he's off to Chicago on a four-month training course. Kate is challenged - either she retreats back North or she stays and takes on London.
Feeling dazed and confused, Kate discovers herself cleaning the cupboards in the first flat she sees. Filthy cupboards Kate can cope with but in this case, there are flatmates that come with them.

Kate Craig has never had the desire to visit London but ends up living there to prove a point when her boyfriend leaves for Chicago. She ends up sharing a grotty flat with Dant, a troubled young man who doesn't appear to care about anything or anyone and his sweet best friend, Harry. She somehow wrangles herself a job at publishing house Eclipse, counting down the days until Giles returns to London and sweeps her away to start their new life together.

Kate's plan is to sit out the sixteen weeks, keeping to herself until she can escape but she finds herself integrating with Harry and Dant and their friends and socialising with Dant's sister, Cress. She gets to know her small part of London and slots into her new role at Eclipse. Will she be the same Kate that Giles left behind? And will they be able to pick up where they left off?

I bought Kiss Him Goodbye when I was 17 - it was one of the first chick lit books I read - and I find myself picking it up again every few years. I love sinking back into the life of Kate and her watching her grow again and it doesn't matter that I know how it's all going to end. I love the quirkiness of Eclipse and the squalor of her flat and its residents.

Kiss Him Goodbye is probably my most re-read book on my shelf and I think it will continue to be read again and again over the years.

Thursday 7 June 2012

Book 2 - Finally Shrinking Word Count

This draft seems to be flying by now. Can't believe I've reached 61% but I hope the pace continues.

Last week I was worried about the size of the word count as it didn't seem to be shrinking. This week I have the opposite problem - I've cut huge chunks out at a time this week, sometimes up to 2,000 words at a time. If I carry on like this I'll end up with half a novel.

The total word count at the minute is 85,000 words so it's fine but I suspect I've got more cutting coming up. Let's hope it isn't too severe!

Before I started this draft I expected to hate Every Single Second of it as I did with the 2nd Draft of Book 1 but that hasn't happened (yet). And not because it hasn't been hard work. So far I've cut around 19,000 words (I really can write crap) but only lost 8,000 from the word count. I've had to add a prominent character, which means tinkering with the majority of scenes and I know I'm going to have to add quite a few new scenes very soon and completely change the ending.

But I'm enjoying it and actually look forward to starting a new chapter each evening - well, some evenings I'd rather relax in front of the telly (I'm not a saint) but once I've started I'm fine. I don't dread working on this draft and hope I don't in the next few weeks.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group - June

The idea of the Insecure Writers Support Group is for writers to blog on the first Wednesday of the month about their fears, struggles and triumphs they have experienced with their writing.

Before I started submitting Book 1, I made a list of suitable agency that represented my genre and had similar types of books in their list. I've been submitting to the agencies in my list one or two at a time (mainly because I'm too much of a wimp to receive millions of rejections all at once).

Now I only have a few more agents to submit to and have reached over 50% of the second draft of Book 2. Do I widen the net of agencies for Book 1, which I would do if Book 2 wasn't anywhere near being finished? Or, once I've submitted to all the agencies on the list, do I concentrate on submitting Book 2?

I'm not sure how my poor little brain would cope with juggling submitting Books 1 & 2 and writing Book 3. But then am I ready to 'give up' on Book 1 (for now at least)?

I'm really not sure. It's something to think about over the next few weeks while I finish Book 2, I suppose. But any advice would be greatly appreciated :-D

Tuesday 5 June 2012


I hope you've all had a great (very long) Jubilee weekend.

Apart from the not-so-good weather, we've had a great time. On Saturday there was a Jubilee celebration at our local park with animals, rides, food, stalls and face painting and crafts as well as a live band playing everything from Oasis to Tom Jones.

The park is only a 5-10 minute walk away so it was ideal for us to pop over and have a wander round. Part way through the afternoon, a fire engine arrived and the children could have their photo taken on it. The kids had a great time and it didn't start raining until we were back on our street!

On Sunday we went to the party that The Jellyfish's Brownies and church were holding. Everyone took some food to make a huge buffet so - any excuse to bake - I made some Jubilee Cupcakes. I used one of the cupcakes recipes from Marian Keyes' Saved by Cake but used red, white and blue sprinkles to make them 'jubilee'.

Monday 4 June 2012

About Last Night by Adele Parks

In this compelling novel of friendship, family and trust, Sunday Times bestselling author Adele Parks asks: how far would you go to save your best friend?'I need you to say that I was with you.' For thirty years, best friends Steph and Pip have been through thick and thin. There's nothing they would not do for one another. Until these simple words change everything. Steph, eternally solid and dependable, is begging her friend to lie to the police as she's desperately trying to conceal not one but two scandalous secrets to protect her family. Pip, self-consigned to the role of scatty hot-head, is overwhelmed; she's normally the one asking for help in a crisis. It's a big ask. So what would you do?

About Last Night is set over five days but, despite the short time frame, we get to delve into the lives of best friends, Steph and Pip. The women grew up together but their lives have taken completely different paths; Steph lives in a large house with her successful husband and their three sons and never has to worry about money while Pip is a struggling single parent who relies heavily on her best friend.

At the beginning of the book, Pip's life is starting to take a turn for the better with a revival of a career and the possibility of a love life on the horizon while Steph's idylic world is starting to crumble.

One night something terrible happens and Steph asks her friend to lie to the police and provide her with an alibi.

What is Steph hiding? And will Pip lie for her?

There is a bit of a mystery in About Last Night but I think the book is more about friendship, loyalty and trust. Steph and Pip have been best friends for thirty years but their friendship is put to the test when Steph asks Pip to lie for her. Pip begins to question Steph and what she is capable of so can their friendship survive her lack of faith?

My favourite character in the book was Kirsten. I probably shouldn't have liked her but her trains of thought were so amusing that I looked forward to the chapters centred around her. As a person, she is incredibly self-centred, dismissive and 'a bit thick' but being in her head was fantastic.

About Last Night is an enjoyable read that makes you question how far you would go to protect your friend - and your friendship.

Friday 1 June 2012

Sunshine Award

I've been spoiled with awards this week - first the Versatile Blog Award and now a Sunshine Award!

Huge, sunny thanks to Kate from Me, My Books and I for giving me the award. Me, My Books and I is a lovely blog full of wonderful reviews and Kate genrously shares posts from fellow bloggers via twitter.

The rules of the award are:

Write five things about yourself

Include the award’s logo in a post

Nominate five other bloggers

Link to your nominees

Link the person who nominated you

Now for my five facts:

  1. I once touched Simon Cowell's car. A group of us had tickets to watch the auditions for Britain's Got Talent in Manchester but we didn't get in (they give out far more tickets than they have room for to ensure all seats are taken - bastards :-P ). Simon's car was outside so I touched it and bring it up every time it's shown on BGT or X Factor (it's probably a different car by now but meh).
  2. I'm a rubbish swimmer. Even my 9 year old is better than me and on Sunday, she kindly offered to help me practice swimming on my back.
  3. My first job was working in a filthy cafe in my town's indoor market. It still makes me itch thinking about it.
  4. I've never seen the Mary Poppins film all the way through but have seen the stage show on Broadway.
  5. I don't like Pringles.
I would like to pass on the Sunshine Award to:

Talli Roland - a blog full of fun and writery things. Talli is friendly, both on blogs and twitter

Rebecca Leith - another aspiring writer, who is also lovely on twitter too

Debs Carr - aspiring writer and book reviewer whose shed I am extremely jealous of

The Romaniacs - a group of writers who share their love of writing and cake

Teresa Morgan - another aspiring writer sharing journey to publication