Sunday, 16 March 2014

Spring & World Book Night

It's Spring. I love this time of  year, even though it's sometimes difficult to find the time to simply sit and 'be' to appreciate everything. It's probably my second favourite time of year - I adore the summer - and I love watching everything come to life, especially after a long, wet and windy winter. As well as the new season, I'm also starting a new job and I've begun writing a new book. So, I'm moving into a new phase personally, too. Exciting stuff!

I can never understand people  complaining about having nothing to do in their spare time. "Spare time, what's that?" I hear you ask. I always seem to have too many things to do each day, never mind not enough and even if I'm not writing, I'm reading someone else's book. Which reminds me, I'm going to be a World Book Night Giver again this year - 23 April - and the book I've been allocated is Jeffrey Archer's, Four Warned. It wasn't my first, or even second choice, but I love taking part. This will be the second time I've been a giver and I'm looking forward to it. I'm also going to be a Community Giver and will give out a book of my choice.

What are you enjoying, or looking forward to this Spring?

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Classic Makeover Story

Today, I'm welcoming a good friend, wonderful writer and fellow Novelicious team member, Jennifer Joyce, to the shed to tell us about her hilarious book, A Beginner's Guide to Salad.

There are loads of makeover films and books out there. You know the type: geeky/plain/overweight girl is madly in love with the hero. He isn’t interested. He’s probably got a stick-thin, beautiful girlfriend anyway.

Cue the makeover!

Our heroine loses her glasses/weight and plasters on a load of make-up. Look at her! She’s stunning! Who knew? Certainly not our hero, but he knows it now. He suddenly notices her, his jaw drops as he begins to fall in love with our gorgeous swan. His elbow juts out to despatch with the stick-thin, beautiful girlfriend. She was probably a cow, anyway. He takes our heroine in his arms and kisses her before they walk off into the sunset to live happily ever after.

How sweet.

But wait a minute. What was wrong with our heroine before? She was smart and funny and our hero would be damn lucky to be with her. What happened to beauty being skin deep? Does that only count after the makeover?

When I wrote A Beginner’s Guide To Salad, I wanted to throw away the old formula. I wanted our heroine (Ruth, in this case) to be loved for who she is, fat or thin. Because Ruth is a fantastic woman who deserves the hero, who deserves to be accepted for who she is. Because who she is, in my opinion, is pretty fab. With or without a makeover.

Jennifer Joyce is a writer of romantic comedies who lives in Manchester with her husband and their two daughters. A Beginner’s Guide To Salad is her first novel.

You can find out more about Jennifer and her books at

or follow her on twitter: @Writer_Jenn

Friday, 24 January 2014

Reading Books, Writing Books

Here's a picture of a sign a lovely friend sent to me recently. I wanted to include it in a post and then realized that I hadn't blogged since September and that's far too long. It made me think back to why I'd been such a tardy blogger last year. 2013 was a funny old year... well sometimes not that funny, but full of ups and downs.

I was made redundant from my wonderful job at at the end of June which was sad, but spent four months of one of the best summers on record being able to write at home - that was FANTASTIC!

Throughout 2013 I had a great time being part of the incredible Novelicious team, and was able to read/review some brilliant novels through the year, as well as interview talented authors for the Alternative Thursday slot. I've spent a lot of time working on my 'other' project, which has been an enormous learning curve, but great fun, and I've met many writer friends because if it and hopefully I'll be able to link it with this page at some point.

I love the 'unknown' and am looking forward to this coming year, reviewing books for, getting to know more fabulous writers through their novels, as well as writing my next book - so, what are you looking forward to in 2014?

Friday, 13 September 2013

Tardy Blogger, Busy Summer & Surreal Moments

Firstly, apologies for being a very tardy blogger! My excuses are:

1) It's been an incredible summer and I've been making the most of my daughter's last few weeks in Jersey before she goes off to start uni - gulp!
2) Also, it's been such glorious weather that we've made the most of it by being outside as much as possible,
3) I've finished the first draft of a new book - LOVED writing it - it's a little different to anything else I've written,
4) I've been job hunting,
5) I've also been away on a cruise to the Mediterranean for the past ten days, visiting Lisbon, Cartagena, Gibraltar, Barcelona, Monte Carlo and Rome. I had a surreal moment as we were embarking when Rob picked up a Writers' Forum magazine they were giving away (together with other business mags) and spotted an interview I'd done with Sally Quilford on page 62! Then there was a sad announcement from the Captain when he told us that Sir David Frost had died on-board the ship, however, we did have a memorable trip for other reasons, here are a few pics...

This is the Queen Elizabeth in Monte Carlo:

Ponte Vecchio in Florence - a place I've always longed to visit and wasn't disappointed.
We  and visited the Park Guell and saw this house by Gaudi (as well as others),

This is my 601st blog post - I was stunned to make this discovery - and I'll try not to take so long to post the 602nd one. I hope you had an incredible summer too, now here's to a magical autumn...

Monday, 29 July 2013

Pain and the Back Lawn

Recently Himself aka Grumpy aka Maxmillan - the breeder's husband misspelt his name when registering him and left out two 'i's, he should have been Maximillian - anyway, what was I saying...oh yes, the poor chap was recently walking on our back lawn and stood on a small shard of wood, hurting his paw. We took him to the vet to check that nothing was in his paw and telling the vet that he's now too scared to walk on the back lawn. However, his foot is fine, but he has arthritis in that leg and the vet thinks that Grumps is associating his pain with the lawn... typical!

He's now on painkillers for a week and we have to make sure he doesn't over exert himself - easier said than done. He's either asleep, or racing up the stairs barking at one of the children, or any birds who inadvertently land in our garden. I'm having to carry him up and down the stairs, which isn't too bad, but he's a heavy little devil and it doesn't help that he's impatient and can't wait for me to take tea, laundry, etc upstairs and then come back down for him. I've tried to take him up and then go back down for the tea, linen, etc, but he just races down to meet me again.

So, I'm building muscles, while he's scared of the back lawn. I'm sure we'll work it out soon...

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Me & Mr Jones Gift Set from Soap Dodger

I recently entered a competition to celebrate the publication of Lucy Diamond's latest book, Me and Mr Jones, to win a gorgeous selection of beautiful - both to look at and smell - products from Soap Dodger. Not only are they equisitely wrapped, but everything arrived in a box in the shape of a book with the cover of Me and Mr Jones depicted on the front. A perfect pick-me-up!

Soap Dodger use bath and beauty products that are skin friendly and most are suitable for people with sensitive skin, so that really appeals to me, they are also made fresh to order and you can order them online.

Thanks, Soap Dodger, I'm going to enjoy working my way through these beautiful products!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Jenny Barden in the Plotting Shed

To celebrate the paperback release of Jenny Barden's wonderful novel, Mistress of the Sea, I've invited Jenny to the Plotting Shed to tell us a little more about her book and her heroine's horror of bear bating, a prolific sport in Elizabethan England. Over to you, Jenny...

I fly out to the Historical Novel Society's Conference in Florida on Friday, and I'll be taking plenty of insect repellent and sunblock as well as a few copies of my paperback due to be released tomorrow since it's not yet available in the States. (I can always hit the mozzies with it, if nothing else!) On browsing the programme I noticed this in the headline of a session about cliches in HF and how to avoid them: 'The Feisty Heroine Sold into Marriage Who Hates Bear Baiting'. It caught my eye because my novel, 'Mistress of the Sea', begins with a scene in a bear garden, as the baiting rings were called in Elizabethan times. I also have a feisty heroine and she ends up joining a voyage aboard Francis Drake's ship to the Caribbean partly because she longs to escape the loveless marriage that her father has planned for her. Have I created a cliche? What's interesting about this is that the heroine in the session title 'hates' bear baiting, but my heroine, Ellyn, accepts it as part of Elizabethan life, which it was. She doesn't particularly like it, but she doesn't shy away from it; the bear garden is where she first meets the hero of the book.

All major towns in Elizabethan England had a bear garden; bear baiting was one of the Queen's favourite 'sports'. Yet I've heard some readers say that for Ellyn to watch bear baiting is incomprehensible. Surely she'd be sick or faint or scream out loud? Why begin with such a disgusting spectacle? In other words, they want the cliche, they want the loathing and the modern reaction. Happily, most readers have wanted to keep turning the pages even after my 'shock' beginning. Justin Neville (founder of the London Historical Fiction Book Group) said: 'The opening scene of the book is one of the most gripping and unusual I've ever come across. As soon as you read that, you know you're in a safe pair of hands... I promise you your heart will soon be in your mouth...' So plainly it worked for him. But should modern-day sensibilities be transposed into the past for our historical fiction? We accept the witchcraft in Philippa Gregory's novels, but we're not so keen on too much religion, even though it formed such a central part of life centuries ago. There seems to be an appetite for descriptions of torture, but not personal hygiene, at least not for feisty heroines! How aware are we, as readers, of expecting a mirror to our own standards and sensibilities in the protagonists of our fiction? Most of us would probably answer by saying we are aware and we do want authenticity in our HF, but as regards what we really like and empathise with, well, that's another matter - that can't easily be analysed, even by ourselves; it comes down to personal taste and that's shaped by the world in which we've grown up. I think good HF always straddles the divide between accuracy and engagement on a pivot that requires a fine balancing act to sustain. I just hope that in 'Mistress of the Sea' I've got that balance about right.

Why not take a peek, judge for yourself and maybe pre-order the new paperback version of Mistress of the Sea.

You can find out more about Jenny on her Website, follow her on Twitter @jennywilldoit or on Facebook.

Thanks, Jenny.