Sunday, 11 September 2016

A Book Review & chat about my current novel

The Versions of Us ~ by Laura Barnett

Think back to a time when you met someone you love. 

Imagine if something slightly different happened that night. You caught a later train or you decided not to go out that night.

“The Versions of Us” is a book about those moments of fate, when life could go in a completely different direction. It has a “Sliding Doors” feel to it.

There are three different versions of the love story between Jim and Eva:
1. Jim and Eva met, fell in love and got married
2. Jim and Eva met and fell in love but Eva married David
3. Jim and Eva got together but Eva went back to David

I found this book very confusing at first – I had no idea what was going on. Part of the problem was that I was listening to it on audio. If I was reading it on paperback, I would have been able to flick back and forth through the chapters get a clear indication of the version headings.

However, once I got to grips with the three versions, this proved to be a very interesting read.

My third novel

I am currently writing my third novel at the moment. Whilst there aren’t different ‘versions’ in the story, the novel does jump back and forward between ‘now’ and ‘then’.

In the ‘now’ chapters, we see how the character’s past (‘then’) experiences are affecting her present. I hope I have created this in a clear-cut way. I much prefer books that are easy to follow!

Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Rose x 

Sunday, 4 September 2016

A Book, A TV series and a Short Play

Sex sells. Apparently. Which is why I want to talk about sex in my blog today. Or rather – Escorts.

Belle du Jour – My review on a book about the life of an escort.

The Secret Diary of a Call Girl – My review of the TV series which has been adapted from the book Belle du Jour

My short play – entitled HOME WORK – which is about a girl working from home as an escort.

The Secret Diary of a Call Gir

I have watched this entire series on box set several times and loved it. I found it hilarious and I think Billie Piper is a fantastic actress.

I have only got around to reading the book Belle du Jour recently. I wanted to see how it compared with the TV series.

I was interested to discover that the book is really very different from the TV series. I recognised very few scenes from the book and the character of Ben did not exist in the book.

The book is a series of blog posts, which, though funny in their own right, did not provide the same continuity as the TV series, nor the chemistry between Belle and Ben.

The reason I discuss the book and TV series is because the theme is similar to the short play I have written.

HOME WORK is a mix between The Secret Diary of a Call Girl and Pretty Woman. It is about a girl who works from home as an escort.

I have had one play put on by the Black Box before and it’s interesting to see how the Director adapts it and how the actors bring their energy to the script. I am looking forward to seeing how this play will be performed.

I hope you can make it down to see it. Date to be confirmed but it will be between October – December and will likely be a Friday lunchtime.

Thanks for reading!

Rose x x 

Monday, 22 August 2016

5 fab books to cosy up with

This year I am doing the Goodreads Challenge. My challenge is to read 100 books in the year. So far, I have read 70 books and am ahead of target! 

I thought I’d take the opportunity to share with you my 5 favourite reads out of the 70.

1. Me Before You – by Jojo Moyes

I was gutted when this book was finished. I loved reading it so much, I didn’t want the book to end. And yet I was desperate to find out what happened. I loved the chemistry between Lou and Will. I really wanted Lou to win her secret challenge. It was interesting that, in trying to change Will, actually it was Lou who needed the real changes in her life. I liked the twist that the author put on it. 

I especially enjoyed the chapter written from the point of view of Will’s mother. That piece gave me goose-bumps. Moyes has highlighted a very controversial subject (which I won’t disclose for spoiler reasons) - one that has been on the news a lot – and shown this argument from every viewpoint – in a very emotional and powerful way. 

It is a very sad and heart-wrenching book. One that makes me think; one cannot judge, unless one has been in that person’s shoes. 

2. The Lemon Grove – by Helen Walsh

Goodness me, this book was a bit scandalicious! 

It's about a woman who goes on holiday with her husband, her step-daughter, and her step-daughter's boyfriend. The woman then starts secretly having an affair with her step-daughter's 17 year old boyfriend! 

I am not normally a fan of ‘affair’ stories but this book was exceptionally well written. The description of the scenery, the detail - it was so beautifully portrayed. And I don't think we're expected to like the characters - I think we're just supposed to be quietly horrified, as though watching through fingers - scared to see what's going to happen next, yet dying to find out what's going to happen. 

I did have to suspend disbelief however about the sexual prowess of a 17 year old guy - I fail to believe that he could have been that experienced at that age. 
A great read, really glad I chanced upon this book. It reminds me a little of 'Bonjour Tristesse' because of the awkward relationship between the daughter and step-mother.

3. The Girl on the Train - by Paula Hawkins

Wow. What a fabulous book. I wish I was able to give 6 stars out of 5. Fantastic narrative voice. Chilling, intense, intimate. This is an account of an active alcoholic - deeply entrenched in her loneliness, regret and confusion. 

I listened to this on audio and I loved the three voices. I especially loved the voice of Megan. It's hard to believe this is a debut novel. Gripping and thrilling. This is the first book in a long while where, the minute I heard 'the end', I pressed 'play again' to listen to it a second time.

4. Getting Rid of Matthew - by Jane Fallon 

Hilarious book. It amazes me how the author can make the main 
character so likable when clearly she's one of the most selfish characters I've ever read about. But it's hilarious none the less. The scrapes that she gets herself into, the lies that she tells, the web of deceit that she casts herself in - all this is clearly unrealistic and unbelievable, yet it works. A very funny tale indeed.

5. Dying to be Thin – by Nikki Graham

A gripping, honest and fascinating story of one girl's struggle with anorexia. 

I had heard that Nikki suffered from anorexia - but I really did not know the extent of how much she had suffered. Not until I read this book, that is.

I remember Nikki from Big Brother of course - the tiny little blonde girl with the massive screams and horrendous temper tantrums. But this book showed a completely different side to her. I am not normally a fan of ‘celeb true story’ books – but this one was an exception. 

Through this book, I heard a completely different voice - soft, honest, brutally honest, to the point of self-deprecating on many occasions. She really left no stone unturned. She was an extremely sick girl and she shared it all with us, the reader. 

As I say, I knew she had suffered from anorexia, but I did not know that her anorexia began at the age of seven, and that she spent practically her entire childhood in and out of hospitals and institutions (from the age of 8 until the age of 16). She even spent an entire 3 years residing in Great Ormond Street Hospital. Three years! And after the 3 years, the Head Consultant dealing with Eating Disorders at Great Ormond said to Nikki's parents - "Nikki is not the worst patient I have seen suffering from anorexia - she is BY FAR the worst patient". He told her parents that there was simply nothing more that the hospital could do for her. 

She had point blank refused any help whatsoever. Refusing to eat anything. Having those vicious temper tantrums we watched on BB. She had to be "tubed" in the end - a tube up her nose to feed her because she wouldn't let food enter her mouth. And then, she kept pulling the tubes out of her nose! A point in the book where I was literally cringing and finding it so hard to read because it sounded so painful. Then, when she had pulled out 6 tubes in a row, they had to give her a permanent tube - a gastronomy - a tube constantly inserted into her stomach. And even then, she tried to poke it out and pull the stitches off! She really was a very, very sick girl. 

The thing that I found upsetting about the story (and this in no way is a reflection of the book) - is the fact that the treatment sounded so dated. Why all this force-feeding? Why not get to the root of the cause? Surely eating disorders are more about the mind than the physical? Surely it's more about emotions/ thoughts/ coping skills than the actual food? Yet all these hospitals seemed to do was force feed her until she put on weight, discharge her, she'd lose the weight again, and then she was readmitted again. A vicious cycle. 

It seemed that Nikki really poured her heart and soul into this book - it's a long intriguing read and she really does give a very detailed account of what happened to her. At times I wanted to hug her like a little sister and protect her. At other times I was shocked at the way she treated her mother - throwing her plates of food at the wall. It made me think about how this is a family disease and I wondered how much the family can enable the sufferer? I'm pretty sure if I threw a plate at the wall, my mum and dad would not have stood for it! In saying that, I'm not blaming her mum - I just think her mum sounded so out of her depth and unable to cope. She really did sound like such a sweetheart. 

It was really interesting to hear all about the Big Brother stuff and I think that the TV show meant much more to Nikki in terms of her self-esteem than any fame or money. 

It has really made me sympathise with Nikki. I'm sure that anorexia is never something that really goes away. But I hope that she is managing to keep it at bay.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Sitting down to Write - Overcoming the hurdles 

I took a (long) break from writing. I am now writing again and currently working on novel # 3. Interestingly, I see that all the old hurdles are creeping up again. You know - the crippling fear, the self-doubt, the usual. Thankfully, because of writing books 1 & 2, I have a bit of experience in dealing with those hurdles. I know when they arise and I know how to deal with them. 

When I mention to friends/acquaintances that I have written books, they often say, "Oh! I'd love to write a book too. But I wouldn't know where to start..." The truth is, if I can do it, anyone again. Here are the hurdles I have come across and here are my tips for dealing with them. 

Problem #1 - The Fear 

This is what happens before you even think about sitting down with a pen and paper to write. The Fear Happens. 

The Fear says "Ha! You! You think you can write?! ha ha ha ha *snort* No. You can't write! Where would you even start! There's no way you could write an entire novel! Don't be so ridiculous. Forget that notion immediately and just content yourself."

Tip #1 - Just Ignore The Fear 

The Fear is a voice that will pop up occasionally. It is just a thought and it is not fact. Ignore it. Carry on. 

Problem #2 - Procrastination 

When you actually do sit down at your first writing session, procrastination sets in. Suddenly this seems like a great time to pull out a compact mirror and start studying your teeth. God, they really could do with a floss, couldn't they? *sets off to bathroom to get some floss* Or your nails- they could do with some clear varnish. Anything to actually avoid starting. 

Tip #2 - Just Do It 

Put your phone on silent and in the other side of the room out of eyesight. Just start. Start writing and ignore the 'Fear' which will jump up and down and say 'this is crap'. Tell the fear that 'this is just a first draft'. 'It doesn't have to be perfect'. 'I can go back and fix it'. That gives you the freedom to relax and write anything. Write badly. Write freely. Just write. Get it on the page. Sometimes something miraculous happens. Sometimes a phrase will come out of 'nowhere' or a sentence will flow out of your pen and you'll think 'Cool! Where did that come from?!" And you'll be pleased with yourself. 

Either way, by the time you get to the end of your writing session, it will be more words written that if you listened to the Fear. It's a start. 

Problem #3 - Thinking Stuff Up 

But how do I think stuff up? Where do I start?

Tip #3 - Get stuff down 

The trick is not to 'think stuff up' - the trick is to 'get stuff down'. 

When I write, I like to pretend I'm sitting in the audience in a theatre. The red curtain has been pulled back, the actors are on stage performing. My job is to record what's happening. 

It sounds like a bit of cliche but your characters will start to tell you what they're doing. It might take a few chapters to get into the flow but once you start, they'll make sure to tell you how they will react to situations!

Think of a theme you'd like to work with in your novel. 
Think of characters that could highlight that theme.
Think of the conflict in the beginning, think of the resolution at the end, and think of the twists and turns in the middle. 
You have the bones.
Ignore the fear and just do it! 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

How to approach an agent or publisher

So, you’ve written your first novel. (Well done!)  
You’ve typed “The end”.
You’ve given yourself a massive pat on the back and you might even have gone out for a night of dancing to celebrate (good girl!).
Now what?
Well, it’s time to send it off, of course!

“Off? Off to whom, exactly? And how do I go about that?”
Having been there, sent off the manuscript, faced rejection and finally secured an agent and a publisher, I'm happy to share my experience with you.

I'm over on The Writer's ABC Checklist chatting about what to do next! 

Please note, I made a few big mistakes, so hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and make the process a lot more pain-free!

Among the emails I receive from writers, the most asked question is "How do I go about approaching an agent/ publisher?" so now is the time to answer that question!

I include a few tips and hopefully some steps in the right direction.

Come join us!

The Writer's ABC Checklist

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

A Day in the Life... of a Book Review Editor!

Writers - ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a book review website?

Readers - ever wondered if you could manage to get free books in return for writing a review?

Today I chat to the Editor of the 'Judging Covers' website to find out what really goes on in the world of book reviews!

Nikki, thanks so much for joining me today!

When did you decide to set up a review blog and what were your motives for doing so?

I'm a freelance writer and had been toying with the idea of starting an online magazine, but I couldn't come up with an idea that I really loved. One day I finished reading a book and I immediately wanted to chat to the nearest person about it - and it struck me that a book review site could be the answer!

There are some incredible book review blogs for women out there, but most tend to focus on chick lit and women's fiction - which I love, but I also read other genres too, and there seemed to be a gap in the market for a women's book blog that covered a bit of everything.  I didn't want the blog to be restricted to just my opinions, so I talked to a few friends who were all really keen to get involved and help the site offer a wider range of tastes. And so, Judging Covers was born!

* Judging Covers was born! * 

How would you have rated your computer skills beforehand? I'm not the most tech-savvy person & I know I can get quite frustrated with my blog at times!

I've always been quite good at computers and I've had a few blogs in the past, so over the years I suppose I've picked up enough knowledge to make things run smoothly and look relatively presentable! I couldn't create a website from scratch, but I have enough experience with Wordpress to edit the templates and make it all look nice. I did a bit of graphic design and basic web design on my degree, but I'm pretty much self-taught... trial and error!  

How did you go about approaching publishers for free books? Was it difficult to drum up support initially?

I actually didn't approach anyone - the original team just started reviewing books they'd bought, and after a few weeks I started to get emails asking if we'd be interested in receiving review copies, presumably as more people stumbled across the site.  Free stuff was never the intention, so it's all happened quite organically.  We do get offered a lot of books now (too many!) but there wasn't anything I did to make that happen.  The majority of reviews at the site are still of books that we bought ourselves.

If a reader would like to review for Judging Covers, do they need to have a lot of writing experience?

Not necessarily, but I suppose you need to have a natural talent for writing. I've always wanted to provide a really high standard of reviews, and our team includes professional journalists, copywriters and authors, as well as students and bloggers. I always ask for an example of writing from people before they join the team, so I know that standards will remain high - but I'm happy to support aspiring reviewers too. Everyone starts somewhere.

* Judging Covers - Meet the team! * 

Are reviewers expected to review a certain number of books per month or is it flexible? Do they have to review every single book they are sent?

I'm really flexible when it comes to the amount that people contribute. I don't think I can demand anything from people when they're not paid for their efforts, so I don't put pressure on reviewers to meet deadlines or targets. It's supposed to be fun! There's a huge variation in the amount that people contribute, but I'm happy with that as long as we continue to post great content. I will also accept one-off reviews from people if they're not really interested in an ongoing commitment, but would like to share their thoughts on a particular novel they've read.

We have a system in place where the team can request the books that they'd like to review from a list, so nobody receives a book that they have no interest in reading. It's nice if they do review all the books that they're sent, but I never chase them up - I know sometimes I simply don't have time to read everything I want to, so I wouldn't nag people!

*Want to review for Judging Covers?* 

With regard to setting up the blog, tell me about the best experience so far?

We were shortlisted for a Cosmopolitan Blog Award in 2011, which was amazing. We had only launched in January 2011 so hadn't been around very long, but two of our reviewers were able to attend a very glam awards party in London.  We didn't win, but the recognition was fantastic. I've also had emails from some of my favourite authors saying how great the site is, which means a lot.

What has been the most challenging aspect so far?

We've had a few instances where reviewers may have upset an author by a negative review, but that's kind of the point of reviewing. If we only posted positive reviews, people wouldn't trust our opinions. Sometimes you do read a book that didn't work for you, but it doesn't mean that everyone will hate it or that the author isn't talented; it just means that it wasn't your cup of tea, and I believe reviewers are well within their rights to say that.

I see you are also involved in another website "Twelve52" - tell us a little about that?

Twelve52 is a digital magazine that is run by one of my good friends, Joy. I contribute a monthly book column, which includes interviews, mini-reviews, features and opinions on book-related topics. I always wanted Judging Covers to be strictly a review resource (we don't post any interviews or book news) so my Twelve52 column features all the fun stuff that I can't post at JC! The Judging Covers review team often contribute quotes or opinions to the Twelve52 features, which is a nice little extra.   

Wow! That was fascinating! I really enjoyed getting inside the head of a review editor! I hope some of you readers will consider approaching Nikki and writing some reviews for her. I have reviewed for Judging Covers for some time before getting my publishing contract. I know it really helped to boost my writing confidence. Reviewing books also helps you to read more and read differently. You'll learn much more about characterisation, pace and plot.

Thanks for joining me Nikki! :o) 

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A Day in the Life ... of a Publisher!

To start off my "Day in the Life" series, I'm lucky enough to follow Editor and Publisher - Crooked Cat! 

Mister Crooked Cat is the big chief in charge of a new, fast-growing publishing company. He is sitting by my fireside, eating tuna, drinking milk and answering my many questions. Please note, he's quite a character! Enjoy x

Mister Cat, can you tell me what happened on the day you decided to set up your own publishing company? Was it a sudden "Aha! This is what I want to do" moment, or was it a long process where you had been mulling over the idea for months?
You know, the life of a cat can be very tiring. One moment you're sitting by the fire, taking in forty winks, dreaming of that next delicious piece of salmon, waiting for Christmas. And the next you're in charge of a brilliantly original publishing company. I could barely get my paws under the desk before people were asking me to read this, and publish that. 
My owner wrote a story a few years ago, you see, and she saw it accepted and published by one of the better known companies on the circuit. She had completed her second novel when the thought occurred to her to bypass the middle man, and use the experience she had gained in writing and editing, to begin her own publishing company. With yours truly as Managing Director, no less. How lucky for them. But then I always knew I was a natural born leader. I have finesse, you see.
Things started to fall into place quite quickly which, of course, I knew they would. But even I didn't realise that we would be as big and popular as we are. We have over twenty authors, and more around the corner. The life of a cat can be very tiring indeed. Which is why I let my owner get on with things. Whilst I dream of salmon, and Christmas.
How did you find your first writer? Was it an exciting (or scary!) moment when they signed their publishing contract?

Of course it was exciting! I found out later on that I very nearly woke up when my owner told me the author T A Belshaw had signed to us, at the end of 2011. I don't recall the exact circumstance - whether we found him, or whether he found us. But I'm sure that there was catnip involved. And perhaps some fish.
You started off as an e-publisher. Then recently you were able to provide a paperback option via print on demand / Amazon. Did you start off hoping to publish on paperback or how did this development come about?
Isn't paper lovely? I use paper for many different things, preferably scrunched into a ball, although seldom for reading from. I'm told that ePublishing is seen as a step down by many people - that reading an eBook is rather akin to eating the supermarket's own catfood, rather than spending a bit more and taking sustenance from an expensive brand. What nonsense! My owners would tell you that many of the best and most original stories are published as ebooks, by ePublishers, because they recognise good quality when they see it first. And they want people to be able to read it straight away, without having to wait for that scary postman. But some postmen aren't scary and, with that in mind, some of our lovely eBooks are available for you to read on paper, in the toilet. Or wherever you may personally choose to read them. I promise that we will continue to produce more paperbacks for more of you to read.
As well as buying Crooked Cat books on Amazon, readers can now purchase books via the Crooked Cat online bookstore. Can you tell us how this came about and what benefits readers can expect from using the specialized store? 
YAAAAAWWWWWNNN. Pardon? Oh. I suppose so. Mr and Mrs Amazon are lovely, but they can sometimes be a bit big and a bit scary. At least to me. But they don't mean to be. So, whilst I was having a snooze one day, my owner made a bookstore for lovely people to buy our eBooks from. It has a cozy, local bookshop sort of feel to it, the smell of coffee, and with nice big cushions - all that stuff. And when you buy something from the store you get a little personal 'thank you' email from me. And you get lots of points that you can use to buy something else in the store. And you get to make our authors really happy and smiley, as they don't have to share with a third party. 'Cause no-one likes a sad author. And, well basically, who doesn't like a cozy, local bookstore?
 *The cozy, local bookstore!* 
So much going on in such a short space of time! Did you expect things to spiral so quickly?
Spiral? I'm a cat, of course not. It has been very quick, though, and I'm beginning to miss out on naps.

So what's it like in the day of publisher/ editor? Talk us through a typical day!
I wake up. I eat. I know. I go back to sleep.

And sometimes I read things that people have sent in, respond to them, or I mull over a story. Editing is a slow process - the purrfect speed for me. I'm also good with pictures - the darker the better. And then I'll tap away at my little keyboard (actually my owner does, but don't tell her) and do emails and promote our kitties.
But mostly I'll just sleep.
When reading submissions, is there anything in particular you are looking for? Any advice for budding writers as to how to hone their submission? 
Include fish, ideally. If not, then some little biscuits work.

If you don't have any of those (and, frankly, who doesn't?!?), then prepare to dazzle me with your talent. Like, spell your worms right, and make sure that your sentence sense make. Does it? Get someone who isn't a blood relation to read it - and get them to say it is brilliant. Be original. You know, normal stuff.
Are there any particular genres you are looking for at the moment?
Dark things. Spooky things. Murdery things like a cornered mouse…but also fluffy, light things. Depends on my mood. I'm a cat. That doesn't mean I'll like it, though, you understand. They don't call me 'crooked' for nothing.
What has been the most challenging aspect to date?
Waking up early. In fact, just waking up.
What has been the most satisfying?
I'm happy in the knowledge that writers find a home with me, and that their lovely stories are being read by lots of lovely strangers across the globe.

That, and more salmon.
Lastly, tell us a little about the 'Fear' anthology and your decision to donate all proceeds to charity?
I know how to make you scared. LOOK - funny face!! %/)
Oh. Made of harder stuff, are you? Well, what about my FEAR Anthology, which comes out on October 3rd? I've gathered together sixty of the best indie writers from across the world (this one) and forced them to sit in a room together to write a story each. Then I forced two bestselling international authors (I'm not telling you who), Sherri Browning Erwin and Peter James (grr!), to write the forewords, and then I said that we would give all the royalties from it to two charities - Barnardo's and Medicines sans Frontieres. And they all believed me!

And then I told them that, for more information, they should take themselves off to - and they did.

Tisk. Humans.

I'm going to bed.

 *Are you on Twitter?* 

Well!! That was ..... interesting! Told you he was a character, didn't I?! Join me tomorrow as I follow another big-wig around! x x