Thursday, 22 December 2016

My Trip To London, Christmas 2016

As a writer, I spend most of my time at home, sitting with my laptop. But occasionally, I get to venture out and on Monday I went to London for my publisher's Christmas party. Last year, I got horribly lost and stressed, so I was determined to battle my geography issues this time.


I set off early so that I could spend the afternoon having a mooch around Tower Bridge (and to wander around aimlessly should I get lost again) before the party. It was a bit of a gloomy day, but I kept warm with a gorgeous hot chocolate with whipped cream and fudge pieces from the Christmas market.



There was a great Christmassy vibe, with loads of Christmas trees (which I kept stopping to take photos of), the market, an ice skating rink at the Tower of London, and a brass band playing carols as it grew dark.


On my way to the bar where we were meeting before the party, I saw the Shard, which looked pretty cool as it beamed lights into the sky. But, the best part was, I didn't get lost and made it to the bar without any hiccups!


The party was fantastic and I got to chat with some of the authors I 'speak' to online - as well as meeting some new authors. There was one final tree to take a photo of, plus the book cover for The Wedding Date on the big screen set up with a slideshow of everyone's latest cover.

There was lots of Prosecco and nibbles to enjoy while looking out over London from 17 storeys up and we even got a goody bag to take home! I was exhausted by the time I made it home after a two-hour train ride, but it was well worth it! Now I just need to find out where to pick up my 'I didn't get lost in London' badge...


Monday, 12 December 2016

Book News: New Book Deal & A Cover Reveal!



I'm absolutely thrilled to share the news that I've signed a new book deal with HQDigital (HarperCollins) and not only that, I can share the cover with you too!




From fairy cakes to first dates!

Maddie Lamington’s dreams are crumbling around her. If she doesn’t come up with a plan to save her little teashop on Sweet Street soon, it might be too late…

So when she sees how the perfect apple crumble brings together her lonely father and faithful customer Birdie, inspiration strikes: she’ll set up a dating night involving all her sweetest bakes.

Luckily, seriously gorgeous Caleb is on hand to help sprinkle a little magic – and a lot of sugar! Could one night of scrumptious first dates fix Maddie’s heartbreak and save her beloved teashop, too?


Isn't she a beauty? I think she's gorgeous and I hope you do too!

The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts will be published on 8th February 2017, but it's available to pre-order on Amazon right this second here!

7 of My Favourite Christmas Films


One of the BEST things about Christmas is settling down to watch a Christmas film (or two, or three) so I thought I'd share a few of my faves...

1



Ah, Arthur. He's such a sweetie. I love that he faces his fears and proves everyone wrong (both about his abilities and the logistics of delivering the forgotten present in time) so that little Gwen doesn't miss out. And let's not forget Grandsanta, who is HILARIOUS.




2



Elf is HILARIOUS as Buddy, a grown-up human who's grown up believing he's one of Santa's elves, searches New York for his real father. I cheated and watched this on my way to Florida back in October - it was on the inflight entertainment so I couldn't refuse!



3



It isn't Christmas without watching Kevin McCallister torture burglars Harry and Marv! I still wince every time Marv puts his foot on that nail - ouch!


4



Sometime film sequels aren't as good as the original - but Home 2: Lost in New York is AMAZING. I even spent a Christmas in New York because of this film!


5



I probably find this Home Alone-style made-for-TV festive film far more entertaining than I should, but I regret nothing.

[I couldn't find a gif for this. Wah.]

6



This is my FAVOURITE Christmas film. It's good, old-fashioned cheesy fun and I love it!


7



The Santa Clause is a brilliant family festive film. It's fun and magical - what more could you ask for?



So those are 7 of my favourite Christmas films. I'd love to know yours - let us know in the comments below!

Monday, 5 December 2016

7 Things I've Learned From Christmas Films

I love settling down with a good Christmas film (or a whole marathon of them) so I thought I'd share a few things I've learned while watching them over the years...



1



Magic is real, whether it's a wish that comes true or three ghosts playing This Is Your Life by travelling through time and showcasing your most memorable moments.


2



Santa is real (although didn't we already know this?) and the answer to that old question 'how does he deliver all those presents in one night' is his faithful pals the elves. Santa may take all the glory, but those little dudes prep most of the job for him while Santa kicks back with a mince pie.


3



A kid always wins against two idiots. Even if they're psychotic, gun-wielding, want-to-bite-off-your-fingers-one-by-one idiots.


4



Arnie can pull off cheesy festive fun really, REALLY well.


5



Sad shit still happens at Christmas - and to children. Never ever befriend a flying snowman, kids - it'll only end in tears. Or a puddle.


6



Grumpy old bastards can change their ways. You just need to scare them half to death with ghouls and their impending, lonely death first.


7



And finally, the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear. So go on, stick some festive tunes on and go nuts!

Friday, 2 December 2016

Book Group Read: The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes

I belong to a book group that meets at my local library at the end of each month. Last month's book was The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes.



I've only ever read one book by JoJo Moyes - The One Plus One - but I absolutely loved it so I couldn't wait to dive into The Girl You Left Behind. I was quickly drawn into Sophie's story as the book opens in occupied France during the First World War, feeling for Sophie and her sister as they do their best to look after the younger ones in appalling conditions. There are bleak times, but there are also some humorous moments that offered some light relief (the pig and grandfather clock were my favourites).

The book then moves onto the present day, with Liv about to lose something precious to her: the painting her husband bought for her during their honeymoon. I was intrigued by the connection between Sophie and Liv, born almost a hundred years apart and in different countries and I found myself hooked on their stories, Sophie's in particular. I knew almost immediately that The Girl You Left Behind would be one of my favourite reads of 2016 - but what would the others in the book group think?

While there had been mixed opinions of the previous book, we all agreed that we enjoyed The Girl You Left Behind. We had a great discussion of the book, picking out our favourite moments and the parts we weren't so keen on. While I adored the book, there are some moral questions in there, which provided a great discussion point!

I loved JoJo Moyes' writing. It has such a warm flow that can be at times light and fun and at others touching or poignant. I definitely need to catch up on more JoJo Moyes books!


We're going a bit darker with our next read - Into The Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes. As the book group is on a little break over Christmas and we won't be meeting until the end of January, I'm going to read a few Christmassy things before diving in!


Thursday, 1 December 2016

Happy December


Ho ho ho, merry Christmas!

Still too early? Seriously? But it's December!

I LOVE Christmas and have been busy pinning Christmassy things. I've also been bothering my family with festive music for almost a month now (Isobel has already told me she's sick of them and we're only just entering Christmastime. Tough luck, lady).

We went to our town's annual reindeer parade a couple of weeks ago and we've already eaten the giant marshmallows from Manchester's Christmas market, which has become a Joyce family tradition (the actual marshmallows, not the eating-them-early). The John Lewis and Coke adverts have been on and I've swapped my boring socks for festive ones in the drawer, but we've still got lots to look forward to over the next few weeks:

The Christmas tree

Although I start getting giddy about Christmas as soon as we blow out the candle in our Halloween pumpkin, we don't put our decorations up until mid-December. I've already been to the Christmas shop nearby (pretty much as soon as it opened back in September. I'm not ashamed of this) so I have some new decorations to put on the tree, plus some new Yankee Candle melts. I also bought a few decorations from Florida in October, so that'll bring back some lovely, sunshiney memories. We also have decorations from our Christmas in New York back in 2011, so it's always nice to pull them out of the box and remember the brilliant time we had there.

Loki

Loki is our Elf On The Shelf, who visits from 1st December until Christmas Eve. This will be his third year with us and I'm looking forward to his fun and mischief. I'll be sharing our Loki photos over on Twitter and Instagram.

Christmas TV Guide

Confession: the Christmas TV guide is one of my favourite parts of the festive season. I like to take my time reading the magazine before circling what I want to watch, deciding what I'll record (and figuring out whether I'll have to catch up on a +1 channel if there are too many clashes). Some people covet presents - I'm happy with a TV guide and a pen!

Panto!

This has become another family tradition for us over the past few years and it's something we all look forward. Rianne, Isobel and I put on our Christmas jumpers for the occasion too, which makes it even more fun. This year we'll be watching Sleeping Beauty, and I can't wait!

Christmas Films

I love a good Christmassy film and even though the Crimbo decs aren't out yet, I do have my DVDs lined up the shelf ready. My favourites include Jingle All The Way, Home Alone (1 and 2) and Arthur Christmas.

Christmas Reads

Like Christmassy films, I love a good festive read (cheeky plug alert: I also have a couple of festive reads out myself: The Mince Pie Mix-Up and free festive short, A Beginner's Guide To Christmas). I've been meaning to read A Christmas Carol for the past few years. I love watching the films (and especially the musical versions) but I've never got round to reading the book. This year, however, that is going to change as I've finally bought myself a copy!

Christmas Eve

This is my favourite day of the season (yes, even more so than Christmas Day). I love the anticipation of the big day to come, but it's also far more relaxed than C-Day. It helps that I'm not stuck in the kitchen cooking for hours!


So there's still plenty to look forward to this December. What plans do you have for Christmas? And what are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below 😊


Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Planning Book 7: Pinterest

I love Pinterest and spend far too much time filling my boards. I have boards for Christmas pins (several, actually. I love a Christmassy pin), films, crafts and even a board for my blog. I also use Pinterest to collect information, images and links to each of my books and for Book 7 I'm going one step further and using Pinterest to help plan the book!



I've set up a new board and, like a digital mood board, I've been pinning images of the kind of location and themes I'm thinking of for the book. As you can see, I'm going for a summery, British seaside vibe - which is strange as we're nearing winter and Christmas!


I'm enjoying using Pinterest as it's helping me to really visualise the ideas I have floating around in my head. It's especially helpful seeing the sunnier pins as I sit shivering in my jumpers!


Do you use Pinterest to help plan your books? Are you a pinner at all? Let us know in the comments below!


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Oldham Reindeer Parade 2016

Every year, Santa and his reindeer come to Oldham town centre, bringing a parade of festive characters and music with him. It's one of the things I most look forward to during the run up to Christmas!

We go to the parade every year and we've had snow (which was nice as it added to the festive atmosphere), pouring rain and thunder. This year, although it had been quite rainy beforehand, it stopped in time for the parade. The town centre was packed with families waiting to see the big guy and his reindeer.


This year there was a Christmas film theme, as well as different bands to entertain the crowds.


Festive characters, snow and characters from the local panto also added to the Christmassy atmosphere.




And then of course we had Santa and his reindeer 😊


It's lovely to see so many families gathered together for the parade and although we haven't had the Coke advert yet, the festive season has definitely begun for me!

Monday, 14 November 2016

Curl Up With A Romantic Comedy This Christmas


I know it's only November, but I've definitely caught the festive bug; I've started my Christmas jigsaw, stockpiled Christmas magazines and I've even dabbled with a bit of jolly Christmas music. It was the reindeer parade in my local town at the weekend, so out came the Christmas socks (it seemed rude not to bring them out for the occasion) and I've even managed to do a bit of Christmas shopping (although the dreaded wrapping phase won't come until much later).

I love this time of year as the festive momentum builds. We've already had the John Lewis advert (which I LOVE as it's sweet and funny and kicks the man on the moon's arse - it was a bit crap, wasn't it?) and the shops start to sparkle with baubles and tinsel. It's too early to deck our homes in the sparkly stuff, but we know it's jut around the corner.

One of the things that really gets me in the Christmas mood are festive reads. I love a cosy Christmassy story to curl up with, a cup of tea or hot chocolate by my side and perhaps a mince pie or two. I love festive reads so much I wrote my own, packing it with festive baking, family fun and a dash of Christmas magic. I loved writing The Mince Pie Mix-Up and I hope its readers will experience the same joy and festive sparkle!



‘I wish I could live your life. I’d happily swap lives with you.’

’Tis the season to be jolly but for Calvin and Judy the usual festive bickering has already begun! Judy’s convinced that her husband has it easy – no glittery wrapping paper, no playground gossip and absolutely no Christmas baking.

Calvin wishes he could trade in his obnoxious boss and dull nine-to-five job to spend more time kicking back with his kids – how hard can Judy’s life really be?

But after a magical mince pie mix-up, one thing’s for certain – by Christmas Day, life for Judy and Calvin will never be the same again. Perhaps the grass isn’t always greener after all…


🎄 The Mince Pie Mix-Up is available from Amazon now 🎄


Monday, 7 November 2016

Planning Book 7: Blank Pages & Pens


I'm at one of my favourite stages of the writing process again: planning a new book. I love this stage as ideas and characters float around, waiting to be grabbed and put down onto paper. I have a pile of blank pages to fill, an array of different coloured pens to jot down notes (it just wouldn't be the same without the different coloured pens) and my trusty (and now tatty) baby names book.


I have a vague idea for a story but it's all a jumble at the moment and there are gaping holes, but this is my chance to tell myself the story, to create and get to know a whole new set of characters. I don't even know the name of my main character yet, but I'm looking forward to finding out about her. There are no word counts yet, just fun and possibility.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Book Group Read: Geezer Girls by Dreda Say Mitchell

I've recently joined a new book group at my local library, which meets on the last Friday of the month. Our first read was Geezer Girls by Dreda Say Mitchell.



This isn't a book I would normally pick up as I was put off by the title as it sounds a bit... cheesy. But I gave it a go - and I'm glad I did! It took me around 70 pages to get into the book, but once I did, I really enjoyed it.

The book is set in the East End underworld, so it can get pretty grisly at times. I don't have the stomach for too much violence (or peril - I'm a proper wuss) but it was only sparingly graphic and I was actually cheering some of it on by the end. In fact, my favourite moment involved a gun and I was almost leaping off the sofa cheering at it!

I did find some of the rhyming slang cheesy, but the overall story grabbed my attention and kept me entertained. It's true what they say: you shouldn't judge a book by its cover (or title).


Our next read is JoJo's Moyes' The Girl You Left Behind, which is completely different to Geezer Girls. I dived straight into the book on the day of our book group meeting and have already finished it, but I'll share my thoughts next time...

Monday, 31 October 2016

Happy Halloween!


It's one of my favourite times of year! I love, love, LOVE Halloween and have been busy making little paper sweets packets for the trick or treaters. I'm looking forward to giving them out tonight and am always disappointed if we don't get many kids knocking.



I also love writing Halloween short stories (although they're always fun, rom-com-style as I'm not one for scary Halloween stuff). I haven't had time to write one this year, but you can have a read of my previous stories by clicking on the following links:





*     *     *     *

I'd love to know how you'll be spending Halloween. Do you love it? Hate it? Somewhere in the middle? Let us know in the comments below!

However you're spending Halloween, I hope you have a great evening :)

Friday, 28 October 2016

Our Holiday To Florida 2016


On Saturday 15th October, the Joyces (that's me, Chris, Rianne and Isobel, not every Joyce in the land) dragged our stuffed suitcases to the airport (with the help of a taxi - handy) and flew to Florida. It was our second visit, as we went back in 2014, but this time, instead of the Universal Studios parks, we wanted to enjoy Disneyland.

We stayed in a gorgeous apartment at Wyndham Bonnet Creek, which was about fifteen minutes away from the Disney parks.


As you can imagine, we had a lot of fun at the parks. The fun starts before you even get to the Magic Kingdom as you can either travel there by ferry (pictured above) or the monorail - we had a go at both!


The girls got to meet loads of Disney characters, from the must-see Mickey and Minnie to their furry friends and Disney Princesses. They both had an autograph book that all the characters signed, so they've got a lovely memento of the trip.


We went on lots of rides, including family favourites It's A Small World, Dumbo, the carousel and Ariel's Undersea Adventure (which we went on twice as we enjoyed them so much).




Another huge hit was the Animal Kingdom's safari, where we got to see elephants, lions, crocodiles and giraffes, plus lots more. We had to queue for around 45 minutes, but it was worth it!


As well as the rides, there were shows to enjoy. Our favourites were the Finding Nemo Musical, which was told using puppets, and Mickey's 4D PhilarMagic.


And then, of course, there is the parade which takes place every day at 3pm. We only managed to catch it on our last Disney day and I'm so glad we didn't miss it as it was fantastic!


As we went in October, the park was decked out for Halloween, which I loved as there were pumpkins EVERYWHERE. As it started to grow dark, the Mickey pumpkins lit up, which looked lovely.


When we weren't at the Disney parks, we spent time at the hotel where there were five swimming pools to choose from, plus two lazy rivers. Isobel also enjoyed the little playground and on our last full day there, we took a picnic to eat by the lake where we had a duck visitor. We also saw a little turtle crawl out of the water, which was cute.

One day we also went to IHOP for breakfast, where Isobel created her own scary face pancake.

The following Saturday, it was time to head back home. We all had a brilliant time in Florida and didn't want to leave!

Monday, 3 October 2016

If You're A Writer, It's Totally Okay To ...


... light cinnamon-scented candles and listen to festive music during a sweltering August heatwave while you work on your snow-filled Christmas book. Equally, you can dream of sunny, beach-filled days to the soundtrack of the gritters trundling past as you pen your summer-themed book during the darkest depths of winter.


... think of your characters as real people. You probably spend more time with them than your family, so it's only natural.


... ignore all the housework. It just is, okay?


... read magazines/watch TV or films and call it research.


... work in your pyjamas. As long as you're working from home. It isn't quite as acceptable if you've decided to work in the library or a café.


... eavesdrop. This is also research.


... stare out of windows and daydream. In fact, it's encouraged. How else are you supposed to plot/develop characters and storylines?


... eat cake at every opportunity. Research, okay?


... fall a little bit in love with your hero.


... snack on chocolate. It helps with creativity. Or something.


... drink so much tea, your blood type is now PG Tips.


... take naps during the day. Research? No? Time to restore creativity and mull over ideas? Brilliant. Let's go with that.