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
 

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Cover Stars: As Good As It Gets by Fiona Gibson

 
My very first Cover Star of 2015 is As Good As It Gets? by Fiona Gibson
 

Charlotte Bristow is worried about her husband Will. With her 16-year-old daughter Rosie newly signed to a top modelling agency, and Will recently out of a job, things are changing in their household.

As Will dusts down his old leather trousers and starts partying with their new, fun neighbours, Charlotte begins to wonder what on earth is going on.

So when Fraser, Charlotte’s ex – and father of Rosie – suddenly arrives back on the scene, she starts to imagine what might have been…
 
*     *     *     *     *
 
I love the cover for As Good As It Gets as it's so bright and cheerful with its warm blues and pinks. I especially love the green and pink dress that the character is wearing. As she's peering over the fence, I'm wondering what she's spying on and there's only one way to find out what - by opening the pages and diving in!
 
 
If there's a cover you're bursting to shout out about, let us know by joining in Cover Stars!
More details here

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Guest Post: Jenny Kane

Creating, with a Coffee Cup to Hand

Okay- I admit it, I have a serious coffee shop habit! I am addicted- not just to the caffeine- but to the coffee and teashops themselves. I just love them- all of them! I love to watch the people around me, to smile at strangers to see how they respond, to wrap my hands around a coffee mug and inhale the aroma of the drink within. For me, there is something very soothing about these places. Whether they are jammed packed and noisy, or as quiet as the proverbial grave, with myself as the only coffee swiller in residence, I simply feel at home in cafes.

It won’t surprise you to learn then, that every novel I have ever written has taken shape in various coffee shops up and down the UK. I can’t write at home, with the distractions of ironing and dusting, so I pen all my words at cafe tables. There is even a plaque on the wall of my cafe, denoting where I write! It seemed totally natural to me therefore, that when it came to creating my first non-erotic novel, to make a coffee shop the focal point of the story.

This month, I’ve been sat at my usual table in a local coffee shop each day, working on my latest novel, Another Glass of Champagne, the fourth in my Another Cup of... series.

It is eighteen months since the first in this contemporary romance series, Another Cup of Coffee, was released. I never dreamt it would lead to three more books!

Another Cup of Coffee Blurb-

Thirteen years ago Amy Crane ran away from everyone and everything she knew, ending up in an unfamiliar city with no obvious past and no idea of her future. Now, though, that past has just arrived on her doorstep, in the shape of an old music cassette that Amy hasn’t seen since she was at university.

Digging out her long-neglected Walkman, Amy listens to the lyrics that soundtracked her student days. As long-buried memories are wrenched from the places in her mind where she’s kept them safely locked away for over a decade, Amy is suddenly tired of hiding.

It’s time to confront everything about her life. Time to find all the friends she left behind in England, when her heart got broken and the life she was building for herself was shattered. Time to make sense of all the feelings she’s been bottling up for all this time. And most of all, it’s time to discover why Jack has sent her tape back to her now, after all these years…

With her mantra, ‘New life, New job, New home’, playing on a continuous loop in her head, Amy gears herself up with yet another bucket-sized cup of coffee, as she goes forth to lay the ghost of first love to rest...



The coffee shop that features most within Another Cup of Coffee is Pickwicks, a tucked away cafe in Richmond, run by the ever bubbly Peggy, and her husband Scott. It is there that, newly arrived in London from Scotland, Amy Crane finds a refuge from her troubles, a temporary job, a possible future, and a potential friend in Kit.




In my latest work in progress (which should be out in Summer 2015), Amy, Jack, Kit and the Pickwicks crew are all five years older. Life has dealt them each a life changing situation to overcome- all of which should (if things go to plan), lead to the chance to celebrate...

Of course, until I have consumed a great deal more coffee myself, and written at least another 80,000 words, the Pickwicks regulars won’t be getting anyway near that glass of champagne!!

If you’d like to read Another Cup of Coffee, you can buy it from all good bookshops, as well as from Amazon UK and Amazon US




Many thanks to Jennifer for letting me stop by today,

Happy reading,

Jenny xx



Bio-

Jenny Kane is the author the contemporary novel Romancing Robin Hood (Accent Press, 2014), the best selling contemporary romance novel Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013), and its novella length sequels Another Cup of Christmas (Accent Press, 2013), and Christmas in the Cotswolds (Accent, 2014).

Jenny’s third full length romance novel, Abi’s House, will be released in early 2015.

Jenny is also the author of quirky children’s picture books There’s a Cow in the Flat (Hushpuppy, 2014) and Joe’s Letter (Coming soon from Hushpuppy)

Keep your eye on Jenny’s blog at www.jennykane.co.uk for more details.

Twitter- @JennyKaneAuthor

Facebook -https://www.facebook.com/JennyKaneRomance?ref=hl 

Jenny also writes erotica as Kay Jaybee.


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 February 2015

Book Crafts: Stationery Pot

 
 
One book proof. One year. What can I make?
 
Stationery Pot
 
Like any normal (ahem) stationery-obsessed person, I have a lot of pens and markers and scissors and - well, you get the picture. So, as I am also pretty bookish, I decided to make a book-themed stationery pot for my desk.
 
 
 
It was really easy to make (and all those years of watching Art Attack has paid off. Thanks, Neil). I washed and dried an empty tin and covered it in sections of book using Art Attack paste (or PVA glue and water if you've never watched Art Attack). Then all I had to do was leave it to dry and then fill it with stationery! I'm pretty sure I should have bought more for the occasion though...
 
 
Click here to see all Book Crafts
 



Friday, 13 February 2015

Short Story: The Valentine's Day School Disco



The school hall erupted with excited chatter as the Year 11 pupils burst forth, bringing with them the scent of designer perfume, musky deodorant and the fruity alcopops that had been glugged down on the sly before the party. It had been the same back in Heather’s day, but it had been Exclamation perfume for the girls and the boys hadn’t bothered much with grooming. The smell of alcohol came from bottles of vodka swiped from home. These days the girls were wearing short bodycon dresses or full-on prom dresses whereas back in the late 90s, Heather and her friends had sported combat pants and t-shirts or attempted to look grown up in spaghetti-strapped black dresses and wedged sandals. Heather didn’t usually show off much flesh but, keen to finally entice Paul out of the ‘friends zone’, she’d allowed her best friend to talk her into wearing a tiny cropped vest top with her baggy trousers. Very All Saints.
Heather had spent the evening feeling practically naked and it hadn’t worked anyway; Paul had ended the evening sucking the face off a prettier, more popular girl. Almost two decades later, she and Paul were nothing more than mates. Close mates, but mates all the same.
‘Hey, Miss Mitchel.’ One of Heather’s pupil’s staggered past on painfully high heels. She’d obviously been a participant in the alcopop-smuggling. ‘Mr Vickers is looking for you.’
‘Is he?’ Heather glanced around the room but she couldn’t see the PE teacher anywhere. Mr Shepherd was over by the DJ, trying to coax him into playing something with better lyrics, and Mr Hollows was searching the bag of one of the more unruly pupils, determined to find evidence of underage drinking. But no Mr Vickers.
‘Yeah, Miss.’ The girl’s friend nodded vigorously before turning slyly to her partner-in-crime. ‘I think he fancies you.’ The girls spluttered before grasping their stomachs as they shook with laughter.
Oh, ha ha. As if Mr Vickers, their hot PE teacher, could fancy nerdy Miss Mitchel.
The girls stumbled away, still giggling at their hilarity. Heather scanned the room again, just in case. He was supposed to be chaperoning the party too but Heather couldn’t see him in the dense crowd. She reached into the handbag looped across her chest, her fingers finding the sharp edge of the Valentine’s Day card that she’d found slipped under her classroom door that morning. Part of her – a tiny, delusional part – hoped that Mr Vickers had penned the note inside, even though it wasn’t his handwriting.
‘Don’t you wish you were young again?’ Valerie Kitts, head of maths, gave a sigh as she stopped next to Heather, folding her plump arms across her ample bosom. ‘Mind you, you are still young. What are you? Thirty? Thirty-One?’
‘Thirty-Two.’ Heather’s classroom was next door to Mrs Kitts’ but they rarely conversed. Mrs Kitts preferred to keep to herself, only leaving her classroom for comfort breaks or to head home. She didn’t gather in the staff room with the other teachers during breaks and she’d never accepted their invites to join them for a drink in the nearby pub to celebrate the end of term.
‘Thirty-Two.’ Mrs Kitts gave another sigh. ‘My oldest son isn’t much younger than you, though he still acts like he’s a teenage boy. I keep telling him it’s time he settled down and gave me a grandchild or two.’ Valerie narrowed her eyes at Heather, her head tilting to one side. ‘Are you married?’
Heather gave a tight smile. ‘No.’
‘Engaged? Co-habiting?’
‘No.’ Not even close. ‘I’m single.’
‘Single? That is a shame for you. Would you like my Tommy’s telephone number? He’s quite sweet, really.’ His insatiable need to pick up girls in clubs aside. ‘A sensible girl like you would be good for him.’
How could Heather say no thank you without causing offence? It was bad enough when her own mother, best friend and younger sister interfered in her failing love life without adding colleagues to the mix.
‘Heather! There you are! A quick word, please.’ Mr Vickers swooped in to save Heather’s mortification, sweeping her away from Mrs Kitts and her unanswered question. He stopped once they were out of ear-shot and his serious expression softened into its usual grin. ‘That looked intense. You haven’t been slipping booze to the kids, have you?’
Heather batted him on the arm. ‘Of course not.’ She cringed. ‘She was trying to set me up with her son.’
Mr Vickers bit his lip in the vain attempt of controlling his laughter. ‘Her son? The one she brought to the Christmas party with the hunchback and greasy hair?’
Heather gave a shrug. ‘I have no idea but this isn’t funny. It’s alright for you – you have women flinging themselves at you all the time. Nobody feels the need to set you up on ridiculous dates.’
‘That isn’t true.’
‘It’s very true.’ Heather had lost count of the number of dates he’d been on since Christmas alone.
‘Well, maybe a teeny bit true.’ He gave a shrug. He couldn’t help it. ‘But none of them are more important to me than you.’
Heather rolled her eyes. She’d heard that line from him before, mostly when she was being cast aside for a hot date.
‘I’m serious. You’re my best mate. You know that.’
Best mate. Yes, Heather knew that. And she also knew that was all they’d ever be. Heather and Paul, Paul and Heather. Best mates. Nothing more, nothing less for the past twenty years.
Heather decided to change the subject. She’d humiliated herself at one school disco, she didn’t need a repeat performance. At least she was properly dressed this time and wasn’t showing off her midriff.
‘Do you recognise this handwriting?’ She pulled the Valentines card out of her handbag, its corners now slightly crumpled due to the limited space. She opened the card and flashed the message at Paul.
‘What’s this?’ Paul grabbed the card and studied the front. ‘A Valentine’s Day card, eh?’ He opened the card, a frown on his face as he read the message. ‘Not very romantic, is it?’
That teeny bit of hope that Paul had sent her the card evaporated.
Heather snatched the card back, a mean little part of her hoping it caused a paper cut. ‘It’s not overly romantic, no. But it’s quite exciting, isn’t it?’
Meet me outside the maths block after the disco x
It was full of possibility!
‘Who’s it from?’
Heather gave a shrug. ‘No idea. It isn’t signed.’
Paul grinned. ‘Maybe it’s Valerie Kitts’ son.’ Heather gave him a nudge. A hard one. ‘I was only kidding before, about the hunchback and greasy hair. I’ve never even met the dude. Valerie doesn’t even go to the parties herself, the miserable old crow.’ Paul rubbed at his arm. Heather was only small but she was feisty. ‘You don’t think it’s a pupil, do you?’
Heather’s eyes widened. She hadn’t even considered that possibility but she was now. What if it was a pupil?
‘The handwriting’s a bit girly too. Maybe one of the girls has a crush on you.’
Heather shoved the card roughly into her handbag. ‘That’s it. I can’t go now.’ The possibility of finding love vanished into the air, mingling with the scent of designer perfume, teenage laughter and the terrible music that the DJ insisted on playing despite Mr Shepherd’s protests.
‘Of course you have to go. I was only kidding about the pupil crush.’ Paul gave his friend’s shoulder a squeeze. He’d only been teasing her but could see now that he’d gone too far.
‘But it could be, couldn’t it?’ Let’s face it – who else could it be? None of the male teachers fancied her and who else would slip a card under her door at school?
‘It could also be the man of your dreams. The bloke you’re supposed to be with. The One and all that guff. Please, Heather. You have to go. I’ll feel awful if you miss out because of me.’
‘But what if it is a pupil?’ Heather didn’t know who would be more mortified – herself or the poor kid she’d have to turn down. Gently, of course. She’d been turned down enough times herself to know how much it stung.
‘Then you’ll deal with it.’
‘Will you come with me?’
Paul barked out a laugh. ‘Absolutely not. How would it look if the man of your dreams rocks up and finds me standing there?’
So there was still a possibility that it could lead to a viable – and legal – relationship?
Throughout the evening, Heather wavered between going to meet her mystery admirer and forgetting the whole thing and going home to her warm flat and comfy pyjamas. In the end she had to go. Whoever it was – pupil or not – they didn’t deserve to be stood up and ignored. Like Paul had said, she would deal with it.
The disco ended with the obligatory slow dance and snog-a-thon and then the tidy-up began. It was late by the time the teachers could shuffle off home but Heather hung around, making sure they’d all left before she scuttled around to the maths block. She was relieved when she found Paul, leaning casually against the orange bricks.
‘So you decided to be a good friend and give me some moral support after all.’ She joined him at the wall but she was too pent-up with nerves to lean, casually or otherwise.
‘Nope.’ Paul pushed himself off the wall. He didn’t seem quite so laid-back without the support of the wall and didn’t know what to do with his hands.
‘Then why are you here?’
‘Why do you think?’
Heather didn’t dare think. Thinking was dangerous. Thinking gave you hope and the potential to be let down spectacularly. An image of Paul sucking Tara King’s face off at their school disco popped into Heather’s mind.
‘The card.’ Paul pointed towards the handbag still looped across Heather’s chest. ‘It was me. I sent it.’
Heather’s heart raced. It was happening. It was actually happening. She’d waited seventeen years for this moment but it was actually happening.
Why hadn’t she been more prepared for this moment?
‘You sent it?’ Heather was surprised she could speak - she could barely breathe.
‘Yes.’
‘But why?’ Clammy hands. Fuzzy head. Weak knees and racing heart. Yep, Heather was rushing ever closer to passing out.
Paul grinned at her. ‘Why do you think? Because I like you.’
It was the grin that broke the spell. The grin, Paul’s trademark, cruelly popped Heather’s bubble. Paul was always teasing her and this was just another example. She never should have shown him the card!
‘You didn’t send it.’ Heather dragged the crumpled card from her bag and shoved it under Paul’s nose. ‘It isn’t your writing.’ Heather had studied Paul’s handwriting. She’d studied everything about him over the years.
‘No, it isn’t.’ Heather expected Paul to burst into laughter. To nudge her and say ‘gotcha’. But he didn’t. ‘It’s my mum’s.’
‘Your mum’s?
‘Yep. My mum’s.’
Heather folded her arms across her chest, guarding her heart from further torment. ‘You got your mum to write out a Valentine’s Day card?’
Paul nodded. ‘I couldn’t write it myself, could I? You know me too well. So I got my mum to do it.’
Your mum?’ Heather was horrified. She’d always got on well with Paul’s mum (not well enough to recognise her handwriting, clearly, but still) but she was in on the prank too?
‘I don’t normally involve my mum in my love life, but I needed help. She’s always on at me about what a great girl you are so she was the obvious solution.’
His love life?
Heather shook her head. She didn’t understand. ‘What are you saying, Paul?’
Paul took a step forward, peeling Heather’s arms away from her chest and taking her hands in his. ‘I’m saying that I like you. That I’ve liked you for ages but have been too scared to say anything in case it ruined our friendship. Why do you think I took a job at this school?’
‘I thought it was because it was closer than St. Joseph’s.’ That was what he’d said at the time. ‘You said you’d be able to stay in bed for an extra half an hour if you took this position.’
 ‘What was I supposed to say? That I was madly in love with you and taking this job would mean I got to see you every day?’
Madly in love? With her?
‘You’re my best mate, Heather. You know that. But I want more and I hope you do too.’
Heather’s eyes darted around them, expecting to see faces peeping around corners, sniggering at Paul’s little joke. Mr Stott, Paul’s fellow PE teacher, would definitely be in on it.
‘There’s nobody here but us, Heather. I’m not kidding.’
‘How do I know that?’ Heather’s voice was a whisper. She didn’t want to break the spell. ‘How do I know you’re serious?’
When Paul kissed her, Heather was transported back to 1998. She was at the school disco, The Spice Girls playing in the background, her midriff on display despite her best efforts to cover the exposed flesh with her hands. And Paul was kissing her, not Tara King. The boy she had secretly fancied for over a year, who she thought she’d burst into a million pieces if he didn’t fancy her back, was kissing her.
 
 
I hope you enjoyed my Valentines short story. If you did, why not have a read of my other short stories? You can view them all here

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Fall In Love With... Jason This Valentine's Day

 
On the surface, Jason Jackson is a bit of a ladies man. With his flashy car and designer suits, you could mistake Jason for being arrogant. But dig a little deeper and you'll discover the real Jason.
 
Jason puts on a bit of an act. He struts about the office, flirting with anything that moves (he's probably tried flirting with a pot plant in the past, but gave up when he didn't receive much of a response) but underneath it all, Jason is a bit of a softie. He can be romantic and has a soft spot for his sisters and little niece.
 
Jason can be found in Everything Changes But You, raising the temperature within the office - and also maybe the basement filing room.
 
 
Everything Changes But You is available from Amazon now
 
 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Fall In Love With... Jared This Valentine's Day

 
 
Jared Williams hasn't always been lucky in love and, with his heart still broken from his last relationship, it will take a very special lady to turn Jared against his love no-go-zone.
 
Jared is close to his family (even though they can be overbearing in their matchmaking at times) and enjoys spending time at the gym. Jared would look hot in a bin liner, so you can just imagine how he looks while working out (go on, imagine it. I certainly am).
 
Jared is very down-to-earth. He's lovely and caring but he needs somebody to show him that taking a risk with love can be worth it.
 
Jared can be found in A Beginner's Guide To Salad, buddying up with Ruth as she attempts to lose weight in time for her school reunion.
 
 
A Beginner's Guide To Salad is available now
 
[Amazon UK     Amazon US]
 
 
 


Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Fall In Love With... Gavin This Valentine's Day

 
Gavin Richmond is just your average bloke. He works hard as a mechanic and likes nothing more than relaxing in the pub with a pint or two and if you throw a kebab in on the way home, that'd be perfect.
 
Gavin is loyal and family-orientated and can't wait to start a family of his own. He doesn't need glitz and glamour in his life - as long as he has his family and friends around him, Gavin is happy.
 
Gavin can be found in Everything Changes But You, living happily with his wife Ally. But when Ally makes a birthday wish for a more exciting life and it comes true, what will happen to Gavin?
 
 
 
Everything Changes But You is available from Amazon now
 


Monday, 9 February 2015

Fall In Love With... Billy This Valentine's Day

 
Billy Worth is a bit of a puppy dog. He's kind and loyal and he can cook too! Billy works in IT, which is an important part of his life. If you can put up with his love of computers and gaming (hello, geek chic), then Billy could be the man for you.
 
Billy has a bit of a shaggy look about him with his curly brown hair but the great thing is, you'll never have to fight him for the bathroom. He isn't into hyper-grooming and doesn't possess a scrap of arrogance. In fact, Billy is quite low on the whole self-confidence thing. He needs a woman who can show him special he is!
 
Billy can be found in A Beginner's Guide To Salad, supporting his best friend and housemate, Ruth as she attempts to lose weight in time for her school reunion. I'll let you in on a little secret - Billy thinks Ruth is lovely just the way she is. That's the kind of guy he is.
 
 
 
A Beginner's Guide To Salad is available now
 
[Amazon UK     Amazon US]
 
 


Friday, 6 February 2015

Everything Changes But You: Fun Facts Part 2

 

I’m a huge fan of stories with a sprinkling of magic and a lot of films and TV shows inspired the themes of Everything Changes But You (you can see my 'inspiration from film and TV' post here). As a homage to these, I tried to put a bit of each film or TV show into the book.
 
  • The Wizard of Oz: There are several references to The Wizard of Oz, from the tagline ‘There really is no place like home’ to Oz the cat. In the original version, the cocktails Ally takes a liking to were called Yellow Brick Roads, but I decided to remove the name in later versions.
 
  • 13 Going On 30: In 13 Going On 30, the rival magazine to Jenna’s Poise is called Sparkle, which I named the salon in the book.
 
  • Big: In the book, Ally and Gavin live on MacMillan Road, which was named after MacMillan Toys, the company Josh works for in Big.
 
  • Eve’s Christmas: Ally and Gavin’s neighbours are Eve Simon and her son, Drew. Eve and Drew Simon are characters from Eve’s Christmas.
 
  • Freaky Friday: Ellen Andrews is the mum in Freaky Friday and there is also a character of the same name in the book. I won’t say who she is as it’s a bit spoilerish.
 
  • Liar Liar: Ally works at a coach tour company and its MD has a secretary called Greta, who was named after Fletcher’s secretary in Liar Liar.
 
  • A Christmas Carol: Marley House features in the book, which is an apartment block named after Scrooge’s deceased partner, Jacob Marley.
 
  • Samantha Who?: Samantha Who? is a TV series where the main character loses her memory and starts to discover she wasn’t a very nice person before her accident. I named the beauty therapists/hairdressers at Sparkle after three of the characters: Samantha, Andrea and Dena.
 
  • Being Erica: Being Erica is another TV series that I loved, in which Erica goes back in time in pivotal periods of her life to rectify mistakes. In the series, she lives on Palmerston Avenue, which is where Marley House is situated in the book.

 


 
Everything Changes But You is available from Amazon now
 



Thursday, 5 February 2015

Blog Tour: As Good As It Gets by Fiona Gibson

 
 
Charlotte used to be a happily married mum of two. But ever since her husband Will was made redundant, their marriage has been slipping. Will doesn't seem very interested in Charlotte anymore and she begins to doubt that he even likes her anymore, never mind loves her.
 
Charlotte's 16-year-old daughter is spotted by a modelling agency while out shopping and begins an exciting new career, changing the dynamics of the household even further. But Charlotte's family could be thrown into even further turmoil when she's contacted by Fraser, Rosie's biological father. Fraser walked away from Charlotte shortly after she found out she was pregnant and hasn't been seen or heard of since. With Charlotte's marriage seeming weaker by the day, she begins to wonder what might have been if Fraser had stuck around.
 
I really enjoyed As Good As It Gets, which had me laughing out loud within the first couple of pages - which is always a promising sign! I liked the character of Charlotte, who was very down to earth and doing her best for her family, despite the struggles she and Will are experiencing. There were times when I really felt for Charlotte as the life she has built seems to be moving further and further away from her, but despite all of this she remains quite positive and always full of humour. I liked that Charlotte was an everyday kind of woman; a mum who isn't quite as perky as her younger self who is juggling family and work life. I found her to be a relatable character and I warmed to her immediately.
 
My favourite character from the book has to be Ollie, Charlotte's 11-year-old son. He's a smart and cheerful and I thought he was hilarious. I loved the scenes with him and his older sister, Rosie, who is a typical moody teenager. I didn't always agree with Rosie's actions but they were true and realistic for her age.
 
I thought As Good As It Gets was a thoroughly entertaining read with plenty of humour and warmth. The writing was light-hearted and the varied characters kept me engaged throughout.
 


Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Guest Post: Anne L Harvey

I’m pleased and proud to announce the publication of my debut novel A Suitable Young Man. The book has been a long, long time in gestation but I’m so excited that I’m finally seeing it being published, as an ebook and as a print book via Createspace.

Self-publication was a deliberate decision on my part rather than go the traditional publishing route of seeking an agent who, in turn, would seek a publisher on my behalf. This can be a drawn-out process that can take anything from a few months to a few years following which is the actual publishing process, possibly another year. Quite frankly, being in my 70s, I don’t have that much time to wait, especially if I want to get my second novel out there as well. Another aspect of choosing self-publication is that I get to keep complete control over my book and that definitely appeals to me. Of course, there’s the burden of having to do all the marketing and promotion of my book myself but even traditional publishers expect their authors to do marketing and promotion these days. I’m quite proud of the fact that I drew up a marketing plan several months ago and even as I write this, I have it printed as a poster by my screen. It’s got lots of scribblings-out/handwritten additions but it’s all there, including approximate dates. And I’ve made myself available to give talks to various community groups if they’re interested, hopefully to sell print copies. I’ve already got one date booked for August next year!

So what’s the book about? Basically, it’s a nostalgic tale of friendship, family, love, loyalty and loss, set in a Lancashire mill town in the new Elizabethan era of the mid-1950s. One dark December night, Kathy Armstrong is rescued from two thugs by Nick Roberts, whom she’d known as a schoolgirl. But Nick is a Teddy boy, hell-bent on having a good time in the pubs and dance halls of the era. Shortly after, she meets accountant John Talbot at a party and is captivated by his middle-class charm. To the background of the new rock and roll, a mounting crisis over the Suez Canal, family and personal crises, Kathy struggles with a wayward attraction to Nick and her incubating love for John. But which one is ‘The Suitable Young Man?’


You can find me on www.annelharvey.blogpost.com where I frequently post memoirs as well as pieces about my writing. I'm on Twitter @annelharvey1 and www.facebook.com/anneharvey.10. All visitors and comments welcome.

 
A Suitable Young Man is available now
[Amazon UK     Amazon US]
 
 
If you would like to appear here on the blog via a guest post, email me at jenniferjoycewrites@gmail.com
More details here