Author Kate Vane shares her thoughts on memory in today’s post! #BrandNewFriend @k8vane

 

Today I’m thrilled to welcome Kate Vane, author of Brand New Friend, to my blog. Kate is sharing a fascinating post about memory and how easily things can become mixed up in our heads.

 

Messing with my memories

One of the genres I love to read, but would hate to write, is historical fiction. I love the way that the best authors make the world of the past come alive, saving me the trouble of doing all the reading and research and weighing up the merits of the various sources.

However, I thought I would have no difficulty in setting the flashbacks in Brand New Friend in eighties Leeds. After all, I was there. But drawing on your memories is not as straightforward as it first seems. 

We mix things up. Each time we retrieve a memory, we potentially corrupt it, throwing in new details, erasing others, while being convinced by the veracity of what we recall. I found this when I came to fact-check my own head. A song that I thought was part of the soundtrack of my student days in Leeds was actually released a couple of years later. Conversely, I had forgotten that pound coins came out a couple of years earlier. 

I had one scene where two of my characters each go to the bar with their own pound note. When I checked, both notes and coins were in circulation at that time so I decided not to change it. I thought it was a nice image – and it showed the characters didn’t want to be stuck with each other after they had bought their drinks! 

Facts can be verified but it’s more tricky to regain the mindset of 30 years ago. What was it like when we didn’t have mobile phones? Most of us didn’t even have landlines in our student houses. You went to a pay phone if you had to call someone. Your friends lived close by so you mostly just went round to see them, and probably stayed for the afternoon or the evening. Money was scarce but time seemed limitless.

If you arranged to meet someone in a pub and they didn’t turn up, you just went home. You didn’t have that exhausting process where people send you texts every five minutes to make minor refinements to the arrangement (or even more absurdly, to tell you that they are progressing towards your agreed rendezvous exactly as planned). 

You only owned a few albums and played them to death, because they were relatively expensive, and you taped them and swapped tapes with people. If you really liked someone you made a compilation. If you knocked out the small squares on the top of the cassette it stopped you recording over it, but if you changed your mind, you could put tape over the holes. 

Although the characters and the story are fictional, I did draw on certain locations. For example the shared house where Paolo lives has the same layout as one of the houses I lived in. Like the characters in the book we spent a lot of time in the living room listening to music, and some of our friends were musicians and used to bring their instruments round and play. 

Now, when I try to picture how we were back then, the room seems really crowded. There are the people who were actually there, whose features have faded over time, and there are figures of characters from the story, who are newer and therefore more vivid. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between the two. 

Beware of drawing on your memories because, like one of those home tapes, you are in danger of overwriting them!

 

About Brand New Friend

Brand New Friend by Kate Vane

Friend. Liar. Killer?

BBC foreign correspondent Paolo Bennett is exiled to a London desk – and the Breakfast sofa – when he gets a call from Mark, a friend from university in eighties Leeds. Paolo knew Mark as a dedicated animal rights activist but now a news blog has exposed him as an undercover police officer. Then Mark’s former police handler is murdered.

Paolo was never a committed campaigner. He was more interested in women, bands and dreaming of a life abroad. Now he wonders if Mark’s exposure and his handler’s murder might be linked to an unexplained death on campus back when they were friends. What did he miss?

Paolo wants the truth – and the story. He chases up new leads and old friends. From benefit gigs and peace protests, to Whatsapp groups and mocktail bars, the world has changed, but Mark still seems the same. 

Is Mark the spy who never went back – who liked his undercover life better than his own? Or is he lying now? Is Paolo’s friend a murderer?

Buy from Amazon: https://mybook.to/brandnewfriend

 

 

About Kate Vane

kate vane author image

Kate Vane writes (mostly) crime fiction. Brand New Friend is her fourth novel.

She has written for BBC drama Doctors and has had short stories and articles published in various publications and anthologies, including Mslexia and Scotland on Sunday.

She lived in Leeds for a number of years where she worked as a probation officer. She now lives on the Devon coast.

You can find Kate at the links below:

Website: https://katevane.com

Twitter: @k8vane

Facebook: /k8vane

 

You can follow the rest of this blog tour at the following stops:

blog tour brand new friend final.jpg

Advertisements

Find out what @EmilyBenet’s ideal hen party would be! #TheHenParty #BlogTour

Today I’m thrilled to welcome the wonderful Emily Benet back to my blog! Emily’s brand new novel, The Hen Party is out now and to celebrate Emily has told me all about her perfect hen party!

My Ideal Hen Party

Call me a party pooper but in my ideal hen party there are no rubber willies. Not dangling around my neck, not shooting up like a rocket from a hair band and not fixed to the end of my straw. I’m not that bothered about a sash either! Forget the L plates, at 33 years old I’ve only just learned to drive. The last thing I want to be reminded of while I’m trying to have a good time is my fear of driving alone!

In my book, the hens win a one-week holiday in Mallorca and are filmed for The Hen Party reality TV series. It sounds pretty great but the director has her own agenda and the hens themselves are keeping secrets from each other. I definitely wouldn’t want my hen party broadcast on national television and I’d only want my best friends around me.

In my ideal hen party the schedule would be very relaxed. I’d escape to an alpine cabin in the mountains and the day would begin with a swim and a picnic at the nearby river. Yep, I know it sounds a bit Enid Blyton, but hey, I love ginger beer… especially when mixed with rum. Although, I think cava suits the scene better. In proper glasses too. There would be a delicious spread. A lot of cheese. That bits important. A LOT OF CHEESE. And olives. I love olives.

It has to be sunny. We’ll go for a wander through the forest and all the wildlife will come out to meet us like in Snow White. Rabbits, hedgehogs, deer, maybe even a friendly bear. I love wildlife documentaries but would never have the patience to wait days on end for the perfect snap.

Back at our cabin, we’d have an Argentine-style barbeque with lots of red wine. The barbeque would turn into our bonfire which we’d inevitably end up dancing around to all our favourite tunes, because miraculously the signal will work perfectly for Spotify.

When the fire has gone out, we’ll lie on our backs and look up at the stars. I won’t have to pretend to see a shooting star like I did when I was little, because there will be so many. We’ll reminisce about the good times and have a good laugh at ourselves.

In short, my ideal hen party would be drama-free, unlike my book, The Hen Party!

 

 

I’ve previously interviewed Emily (you can read that here) and reviewed her last novel #PleaseRetweet, which I loved and highly recommend (you can read that here).

About the Book

CoverFinalRGB

Film Director, Kate Miller, is in serious trouble. The entire cast and crew of the reality TV show The Hen Party has gone missing while filming in Mallorca. To make matters worse, the network boss has just flown in and will be arriving any minute to check up on her production.

Kate thinks it’s all her fault. She hasn’t exactly been following the guidelines.

But if she is to blame, why were the hens arguing among themselves? And why is the groom-to-be calling her in tears?

Kate doesn’t know the half of it. The hens have their own secrets and it’s only matter of time before they all come tumbling out.

A party of eight arrive on the island, but not everyone’s going home.

 

About the Author

ProfileMedRes

 

Emily is an author and award-winning blogger. Her debut book, Shop Girl Diaries, began as a blog. Her second, Spray Painted Bananas, racked up a million hits on the online platform Wattpad and  led to a 2 book deal with Harper Collins which led to social media comedy #PleaseRetweet. Her latest book, The Hen Party, is set in Mallorca where she lives with her husband and writes for abc mallorca magazine.

 

Universal Link:  https://books2read.com/u/b5Oyq7

My website: www.emilybenet.com

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/EmilyBenetAuthor

Twitter: @EmilyBenet

 

 

You can follow the rest of this blog tour at the following stops:

Hen Party-Summer Blog Tour

Author Kate Vane on the story behind the title of #TheFormerChiefExecutive @k8vane

 

Today on my blog I’m thrilled to welcome Kate Vane, author of The Former Chief Executive. It’s publication day for Kate’s novel and she’s very kindly written a fab post for my blog about the story behind her title for this novel. 

 

The Story Behind the Title – The Former Chief Executive

I usually only give my books a title quite late in the writing process. While I was writing The Former Chief Executive, the name of the file on my computer was ‘garden novel’ because the garden setting was key for me. I had an image in my mind of the garden almost as a theatre set, where key interactions take place, and are observed and overheard.

In The Former Chief Executive, Deborah has been forced into early retirement following a tragedy at the hospital she ran. She is experiencing a number of losses – the death of her husband has come on top of the end of her career and the damage to her reputation. She comes to know Luca through a garden share scheme, where he takes care of her garden in exchange for a share of the produce. Luca is young but appears to have had a troubled past.

While the setting is important, for me, character is key. Deborah is a strong woman and the title reflects it. It was partly a reaction against the plethora of titles in recent years with ‘wife’ or ‘daughter’ in the title (and don’t get me started on ‘girl’). I believe ‘wife’ was initially used ironically, to say that beside the man in the title there is a woman with talents and feelings and aspirations who should be judged on her own terms, but that meaning soon became lost.

I wanted to play with the reader’s assumptions. Most people will, on first hearing the term ‘chief executive’, instinctively think of a man, even if we wish we didn’t. The cover, though, prominently features a woman (thanks to Ilaria Rosselli Del Turco who kindly allowed me to use this gorgeous portrait). I hope the juxtaposition of the title and the image will pique the reader’s interest.

The title crucially refers to the fact that Deborah is a former chief executive. Her role was a key part of her identity but she no longer feels that she is that person. It is also the language of the media, which describes people in cold, concrete terms, without nuance. It is a description she recognises. Her very sense of self is undermined.

The Former Chief Executive is about a woman who feels that all her achievements and happiness are behind her. A woman who is afraid to even say her name. Luca, by contrast, is trying to leave his past behind, to live in the present and to build a new life. Their relationship forces her to assess her past and asks her to make choices about who she is and what matters to her.

 

About the Book

The Former Chief Executive by Kate Vane medium

Without your past, who are you?

Deborah was a respected hospital manager until a tragedy destroyed her reputation. She has lost her career, her husband and even her name.

Luca wants to stay in the moment. For the first time in his life he has hope and a home. But a fresh start is hard on a zero-hours contract, harder if old voices fill your mind.

When a garden share scheme brings them together, Deborah is beguiled by Luca’s youth and grace. He makes her husband’s garden live again. He helps her when she’s at her lowest. But can she trust him? And when the time comes to confront her past, can she find the strength?

This sharply drawn short novel explores the distance between the generations – between health and wealth, owners and workers, guilt and blame.

The Former Chief Executive is published on 8 June in paperback and Kindle

 

About the Author

kate vane author image

 Kate Vane is the author of three novels, The Former Chief Executive, Not the End and Recognition.

She has written for BBC drama Doctors and was a shortlisted BBC Talent Drama Writer. She has had short stories and articles published in various publications and anthologies, including Mslexia and Scotland on Sunday, and received a Yorkshire Arts award for her first novel.

She lived in Leeds for a number of years where she worked as a probation officer. She now lives on the Devon coast.

You can find Kate on her blog: katevane.wordpress.com

Twitter: @k8vane

Paul E. Hardisty on Claymore Stryker | Reconciliation of the Dead #blogtour @OrendaBooks

reconciliation-for-the-dead

Today I’m thrilled to be on the Orenda blog tour for Reconciliation of the Dead by Paul E. Hardisty. Paul has written a brilliant guest post about the evolution of Claymore Stryker for my stop.

 

The Evolution of Claymore Stryker

In the opening scene of my new novel, Reconciliation for the Dead, the lead character, Claymore Straker, is in Maputo, Mozambique, considering his future. It is 1997, and he is on the run, again. The events of the last few years (described in the first book of the series, the CWA Creasy New Blood Dagger shortlisted The Abrupt Physics of Dying, set in Yemen during the 1994 civil war; and the second book, The Evolution of Fear, set largely in Cyprus and Istanbul in 1995) are behind him now, but still raw in his memory.

He has just finished testifying to Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, having returned to South Africa for the first time since being dishonourably discharged from the army and sent into exile over fifteen years earlier. Over three days of testimony, Clay takes us on a journey into the darkest chapter of his country’s history, revealing the horrifying events that led to him abandoning everything he was raised to believe in. It is 1980, Clay is a young paratrooper, fighting on the front lines in South Africa’s war against the communist insurgency in Angola. On a patrol deep behind enemy lines, Clay is confronted by an act of the most shocking brutality. It will change him forever. Wounded in battle, struggling to make sense of what he has witnessed, Clay tries to uncover the dark secret behind those events, and what lies hidden in apartheid’s murky core.

For fourteen years, Clay tries to forget the past, buries it deep. But as the years go by, his post-traumatic stress worsens. Then, working for an oil company in Yemen, everything starts to unravel, and the horrors of war come flooding back. As civil war erupts, he meets Rania LaTour, a French journalist. She becomes the dominant influence in his life. In the face of the terrible injustice he witnesses, he must decide whether to act, or turn away and abandon his friends. Later, in Cyprus, increasingly beguiled and influenced by Rania, he recognises his need for absolution, and realises that he must go back and tell the truth about what happened all those years ago in South Africa. Only then, he believes, will he find a measure of peace, and perhaps become the man Rania deserves.

As the series continues into its fourth, and quite possibly final, instalment (The Debased and the Faithful, due out in 2018), Clay continues to evolve as a person. In a way, I consider the series more a fictional biography in four parts, than a traditional crime series. The situations into which he is thrust, into which he drives himself, are the direct consequence of the events and the people that have shaped him. Each exerts its own unique influence, and together, combine to make him the person he is destined to become.  How it will all end, I don’t quite know yet. All I know is that Clay’s journey is not over, and is about to get a whole lot more difficult. Rania’s too.

 

About the Book

reconciliation-for-the-dead

Fresh from events in Yemen and Cyprus, vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker returns to South Africa, seeking absolution for the sins of his past. Over four days, he testifies to Desmond Tutu’s newly established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recounting the shattering events that led to his dishonourable discharge and exile, fifteen years earlier.

It was 1980. The height of the Cold War. Clay is a young paratrooper in the South African Army, fighting in Angola against the Communist insurgency that threatens to topple the White Apartheid regime. On a patrol deep inside Angola, Clay, and his best friend, Eben Barstow, find themselves enmeshed in a tangled conspiracy that threatens everything they have been taught to believe about war, and the sacrifices that they, and their brothers in arms, are expected to make. Witness and unwitting accomplice to an act of shocking brutality, Clay changes allegiance and finds himself labelled a deserter and accused of high treason, setting him on a journey into the dark, twisted heart of institutionalised hatred, from which no one will emerge unscathed.

Exploring true events from one of the most hateful chapters in South African history, Reconciliation for the Dead is a shocking, explosive and gripping thriller from one finest writers in contemporary crime fiction.

About the Author

Paul Hardisty

Canadian by birth, Paul Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels. In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. Paul is a university professor and Director of Australia’s national land, water, ecosystems and climate adaptation research programmes. He is a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman, conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia with his family.

You can find Paul on twitter: @Hardisty_Paul

(Bio taken from Orenda Books website)

 

You can follow the rest of this blog tour at the stops on the poster below:

Reconciliation for the Dead Blog Tour poster

Lynda Renham on changing genre for her new novel #RememberMe! #guestpost @LyndaRenham

17690709_10155193512991214_1126255815_n-2

Today on my blog I’m thrilled to welcome author Lynda Renham, who has written a lovely guest post for me about her brand new thriller Remember Me.

 

About the Book

unnamed-61

A new neighbour moves next door. They seem nice enough. You go to their house for dinner. It’s a nice house.  And then things start to change. The vase in your house is suddenly on their landing. The colour of your kitchen becomes the colour of their kitchen. How much of your life will SHE take? ‘Remember Me’ is an unsettling and on the edge of your seat thriller.

 Clare is glad when the new neighbours move in. It’s nice to have a new friend.  But as time moves on Clare begins to fear for her child and her own sanity. 

 

 

Lynda’s Post

As a writer the thought of changing the genre that I normally write was a bit nerve-wracking but I decided to go for it because I had such great ideas in my head and after all, a writer is a writer. We surely can’t be expected to write the same things over and over.

I love writing comedy and very much enjoyed writing ‘Phoebe Smith’s Private Blog’

However, a writer’s life is a lonely one. Every book is your new baby and how it is received by the readers becomes a really personal thing.

I had a fair amount of writers block while producing the new one. There is nothing worse than sitting in front of a lap top with a blank document on the screen and absolutely nothing in your head. I always turn to the fridge unfortunately. Or even worse, the chocolate basket that sits tempting me.

My new novel titled ‘Remember Me’ saw me consume a lot of chocolate.

It’s not scary. It’s a thriller rather than a horror story but there are a few twists and turns and the twist is quite unexpected. I hope very much you enjoy it.

I love to hear from my readers so do get in touch. I’m on Twitter @lyndarenham and I have a Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/lyndarenhamauthor/ Do join me and tell me what you think of the books.

The next book will be a romantic comedy again. It’s quite nice to chop and change a bit. I’m very much hoping my readers will enjoy this new book. You can buy it at the promotional price of 99p or if you’re part of Amazon’s prime subscription then you can borrow it for FREE.  Click here to go to Remember Me on Amazon.

 

About the Author

pKTCLgh8_400x400

 

I’m the author of the bestselling Romantic Comedy novels ‘Croissants and Jam’ ‘Coconuts and Wonderbras’ and ‘Pink Wellies and Flat Caps’  The Dog’s Bollocks Rory’s Proposal’ and ‘It Had to be You‘ I’m also the author of ‘The Diary of Rector Byrnes’ I live in the beautiful Cotswolds with my husband Andrew and one cat, named Bendy.

 

 

17690873_10155193513796214_1457979920_n-2

 

 

Speaking Up For the Voiceless| #guestpost by Mark Stewart #TheAbsenceOfWings @pendragonmist

Today I’m thrilled to welcome author Mark Stewart to my blog. Mark is the author of the short story collection The Absence of Wings, and has written a great guest post about why he writes short stories for my blog today.

 

bookcover72

Speaking up for the voiceless – why I write short stories

 

“I’ve enjoyed and admired the stories of Mark Stewart that I have read: they strike me as fine bonsai pieces, strong in their structure and dense in their grain, full of surprising drama.”  

Robert Macfarlane (Author of “The Wild Places”, and “Landmarks”)

 

Short stories just don’t sell, especially short stories written by unknown authors. This is the refrain I have heard in response to every submission I’ve ever made to an agent or a publisher. “I’m sorry, luvvie, but your stories just aren’t right for my list. Good luck elsewhere.” And yet in spite of such feedback I carry on writing.

There are plenty of nature books around but how many of them really tell the truth about mankind’s impact on the natural world? Humanity is running out of time to re-discover its sense of compassion, to finally stop its long and abusive relationship with nature. The oceanic biosphere is now heavily polluted, perhaps irreversibly so, with fish stocks dangerously near to collapse. Life on the land for animals in factory farms is no better; they must endure lives of unimaginable cruelty before suffering an early death. Other creatures, perhaps nobler and certainly far more innocent than humans, are being hunted to the point of extinction. And yet, in spite of a sense of impending ecological collapse, a sense that we are all standing on the gallows with the trap door about to open beneath our feet, I carry on writing.

I don’t have the enormous luxury and privilege of writing for a living. As a working dad I have to find time to write in the early hours of the morning or late at night. Either way it’s a hard slog, a struggle to find both motivation and inspiration. My mind won’t focus and my body wants to sleep. These lonely hours are what Tolkien referred to as “the bitter watches of the night”, when the dream of securing a mainstream publishing contract seems as remote as the Moon. And yet I carry on writing.

My stories are despatches from the front line of humanity’s war with nature. And like all war reporters I have been appalled and discouraged by what I’ve seen. But I won’t stop reporting back. The idea that nature is a commodity that must be exploited and consumed, that the creatures we share this world with are no more than disposable items, has to be challenged.

I was taken to task by one agent because my stories weren’t cheery enough for her taste (perhaps it was the same agent that claimed my short stories contained too many words). And yet I refuse to put down my pen or walk away from my keyboard. Because in the end I want to believe that things will change. Not just in the insular world of publishing which may one day come to value indie writers. But in the real world, where many of the animals described in my stories are struggling to survive. It is their stories that matter. They don’t have a voice and so must rely on others to speak up on their behalf. That is why I carry on writing.

About the Author

Mark Stewart is the author of two collections of short stories designed to highlight the plight of captive, endangered and mistreated animals. His first collection (The Screaming Planet) can be found online here:

http://markdestewart.wixsite.com/thescreamingplanet

The second collection (The Absence of Wings), which has consistently attracted five star reviews, is available on Amazon.

A third collection of short stories (“The Fire Trees”) is due out in June 2017.

Mark can be followed on Twitter @pendragonmist and on Facebook TheScreamingPlanet

 

About the Book

bookcover72

The Absence of Wings is a collection of short stories intended to show the world through the eyes of some of the Earth’s most endangered and persecuted animals.

The collection is an ark of sorts, offering a literary refuge for creatures that may one day exist only in story books, fables and myths.

Here you will find, among other stories:

•A mariner snatched from the deck of his ship by a sea wraith

•The lament of a whale dragged onto the killing deck of a harpoon ship

•A caged polar bear whose only taste of freedom comes from a racial memory of the arctic tundra

•A shark that can swim into the sleeping minds of human beings

•And a dolphin whose only chance of returning to open water lies in the movement of the tides on one particular night of the year

These are stories that will change the way you look at the natural world.

The Absence of Wings is available on ebook and in paperback from Amazon and is out now.

Miranda Dickinson’s Top 5 Songs and Searching for a Silver Lining! #BlogTour

Today I am absolutely thrilled to welcome Miranda Dickinson to my blog! Miranda has shared five of her favourite songs from the 1950s and explained what they mean to her and how they fit in to her gorgeous new novel Searching for a Silver Lining!

My Favourite Fifties’ Songs by Miranda Dickinson

Music plays a huge part in my book, Searching for a Silver Lining. I first came up with the idea in a café that plays fabulous 1950s music – which in turn gave me the idea to have a running playlist through the chapter headings of the books.

There’s something wonderfully evocative and positive about Fifties’ music. It captures a time when young people were finally finding a voice and an identity and had high hopes for their own future. This is the world that the five young singers of The Silver Five inhabited – and their hopes and dreams form a central part of the story.

Trying to pick my favourites was hard work, but here are my top five 1950s songs:

1.Ain’t That a Shame by Fats Domino (1955)

aint-that-a-shame-by-fats-domino

The moment you hear the opening bars of this song you can imagine yourself in the 1950s. It’s a classic that never fails to make me smile. In my book it’s the title of the opening chapter, where we first meet Mattie Bell as she comes to terms with losing her beloved Grandpa Joe – and battles regret about the argument that stole her last precious months with him.

2.That’s All Right by Elvis Presley with Scotty and Bill (1954)

thats-all-right-by-elvis-presley-with-scotty-and-bill

I’ve developed a bit of a thing for Elvis lately (you may have seen my Lego Elvis posts on Twitter and Instagram!) and this is the man himself at the very beginning of his career. I love the confidence and exuberance of his performance.

3.Memories are Made of This by Dean Martin (1955)

memories-are-made-of-this-by-dean-martin

You have to love Dean Martin! It’s a cute, catchy tune with Martin’s trademark smooth crooning – pure Fifties’ magic. In Searching for a Silver Lining it’s the title of the chapter where we see Mattie’s shop with all its retro treasures and the invitation to share them at a local retirement home’s memory day that will change Mattie’s life forever…

4.The Story of My Life by Michael Holliday (1958)

the-story-of-my-life-by-michael-holliday

Only in a 1950s tune can whistling work! It’s two minutes, twelve seconds of pure joy and I love it. In my book this is the title song for the chapter where former Fifties’ singing star Reenie Silver begins to share her memories with Mattie.

5.You Send Me by Sam Cooke (1957)

you-send-me-by-sam-cooke

I just adore this song. It’s romantic, sweet and Sam Cooke’s wonderful voice gives me shivers. It’s very special now because it’s the title of the very last chapter in Searching for a Silver Lining. I’m not giving anything away, but this chapter is my favourite in the entire book.

I’ve also written and recorded the song that appears in the book as The Silver Five’s biggest hit. Keep watching my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube channel to find out how you can download it…

Thanks so much for reading this blog exclusive! For more, follow my Searching for a Silver Lining blog tour. I really hope you enjoy reading the story!

blog-banner

Huge thank you to Miranda for writing this fabulous post for my blog. I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading it as much as I did.

 

About the book:

9781447276074

It began with a promise . . . 

Matilda Bell is left heartbroken when she falls out with her beloved grandfather just before he dies. Haunted by regret, she makes a promise that will soon change everything . . .

When spirited former singing star Reenie Silver enters her life, Mattie seizes the opportunity to make amends. Together, Mattie and Reenie embark on an incredible journey that will find lost friends, uncover secrets from the glamorous 1950s and put right a sixty-year wrong.

Touchingly funny, warm and life-affirming, this is a sparkling story of second chances. Perfect for fans of Cecelia Ahern, Searching for a Silver Lining will take you on a trip you’ll never forget.

About the author:

miranda_047

Miranda Dickinson has always had a head full of stories. From an early age she dreamed of writing a book that would make the heady heights of Kingswinford Library and today she is a bestselling author. She began to write in earnest when a friend gave her The World’s Slowest PC, and has subsequently written the bestselling novelsFairytale of New YorkWelcome to My WorldIt Started With a KissWhen I Fall in LoveTake A Look At Me Now,I’ll Take New York and A Parcel for Anna Browne. Miranda lives with her husband Bob and daughter Flo in Dudley.

To find out more about Miranda visit www.miranda-dickinson.com and find her on Twitter @wurdsmyth.

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Tour | The #JoyceGirl and Mental Health by Annabel Abbs #GuestPost

blog tour banner JG

Today I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for The Joyce Girl. I have a brilliant guest post to share, which Annabel Abbs has written for me about mental health issues. It’s such an important and relevant piece so please read and share it.

Final front cover

The Joyce Girl tells the mostly-true story of Lucia Joyce, a talented dancer and the daughter of James Joyce.  Set in 1920s Paris, the novel explores Lucia’s affairs with a young Samuel Beckett and a young Alexander Calder, and her subsequent descent into what was then termed ‘madness’.

When I decided to write about Lucia, I knew she ended her days in a mental asylum, friendless and forgotten. But what I didn’t know was how many other women in 1920s Paris had followed suit.  As my research deepened, I came across more and more ‘bright young flappers’ who, like Lucia, were certified as insane and put into mental asylums.  In The Joyce Girl alone, three of the six female characters (all based on real people) went into asylums – all certified as schizophrenic. These included Lucia’s sister-in-law, and a fellow dancer -Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. One of the characters who inhabited earlier versions of the novel (the sister of Lucia’s first love interest and the French translator of Joyce’s Dubliners) also went into an asylum. Sadly she was lost from the novel when I cut the cast to a more manageable size.

In those days, any adult male family member could have a female family member certified. And once you were certified you lost all your legal rights.  Lucia was subjected to a catalogue of often bizarre and sometimes inhuman treatments.  She was regularly straitjacketed and locked up.  In an age when there was no specific medication for mental health disorders, and when mental asylums were full of drunks, drug addicts and syphilitics, her experience must have been terrifying.  And Lucia loathed being restrained.  After being a dancer who expressed herself through her body, being forced into a straitjacket was a particularly cruel and violent act.

This was also an era when ‘madness’ was often viewed as shameful.  Although Lucia’s father stood by her to the very end, her mother and brother were only too ready to cast her off, seeing her not only as a taint on the family’s reputation but as a drain on the family finances.  In my Historical Note, I quote from a letter in which they are united as saying Lucia should be ‘shut in and left to sink or swim there.’

Fortunately huge progress has been made in the area of mental health. But while I was writing The Joyce Girl, I became increasingly aware of a surge in mental health issues at the schools of my three daughters.  This was reflected in newspaper reports and professional surveys showing the surge went far beyond my daughters’ schools.  Take these facts, for instance (source: YoungMinds and Beat):

  • In the last ten years the number of young people admitted to hospital because of self harm has increased by 68% .
  • The number of children and young people who have presented to A&E with a psychiatric condition have more than doubled since 2009.
  • Since 2005-06, there has been a 34% increase in hospital admissions due to anorexia (predominantly female).

The more I researched jazz-age Paris, the more I saw parallels between the 1920s and the 2015s, as new generations (particularly, but not exclusively, female) struggled to adapt to new values, to new ways of behaving, to new ways of being viewed by others and by themselves.

The flappers of that era were ‘victims’ of the rapid change sweeping through the developed world. The 1920s were a time of huge change – cars, cameras, cinemas, telephones and radios were becoming ubiquitous and altering the lives of everyone. In Paris, hems were up and stockings were down as young women embraced change and all it promised. Suddenly cameras were everywhere, the paparazzi was born, and glossy magazines began to feature ‘celebrities’, making icons of the new Hollywood stars.  In Paris Josephine Baker made naked dancing acceptable – no longer something confined to brothels. But beneath the glamour and glitter lay a dark underbelly, as many of these women succumbed to depression and mental illness.  The mostly-male doctors were untrained in mental health. Psychoanalysis (the ‘talking cure’) was in its infancy and there was still a tendency to write off these women as neurotics or hysterics.

Today, technology and social media have revolutionised our world and yet beneath the glossy technicolour of Instagram and Facebook lurks a similarly dark underbelly, with soaring rates of anorexia, bulimia and self-harm among the young, and particularly (but by no means exclusively) young women and girls.

In memory of Lucia, I decided to give my first year profits to a charity called YoungMinds who work with those needing help. We’ve come a long way since the 1920s – but there’s still a long way to go. No one should ever be left to languish in an asylum as Lucia was.

 

About the Author

Annabel Abbs

 

Annabel grew up in Bristol, Wales, Herefordshire and East Sussex – the daughter of two writers. She studied English Literature and History at the University of East Anglia and then completed a Masters in Marketing and Statistics at Kingston University. She started her career as a copy writer in an advertising agency then co-founded a marketing agency which she left after fifteen years to spend time with her four young children and to write. She currently blogs at http://www.kaleandcocoa.com and writes short stories and novels.

 

About the Book

Final front cover

 

Paris 1928. Lucia, the talented and ambitious daughter of James Joyce, is making a name for herself as a dancer, training with many famous dancers of her day and moving in social circles which throw her into contact with Samuel Beckett. Convinced she has clairvoyant powers, she believes her destiny is to marry Beckett, but the overbearing shadow of her father threatens this vision. Caught between her own ambitions and desires, and her parents’ demands, Lucia faces both emotional and psychological struggles that attract the attention of pioneer psychoanalyst Dr Jung.


 

The Joyce Girl is due to be published tomorrow in the UK and can be pre-ordered now. I reviewed The Joyce Girl last week and you can read my review here.


 

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:

Blog tour promo card

The Lad Lit Blog Tour | Guest post by Steven Scaffardi

 

Blog Tour Update v5

Today is my turn on Steven Scaffardi’s Lad Lit blog tour and I have a fab guest post by Steven to share with you. I was really happy when Steven suggested writing about how Mike Gayle’s My Legendary Girlfriend changed his life, as I remember reading that book soon after it was published and I loved it. It was something different that I hadn’t read before, so it’s very interesting to read how this book inspired Steven.

 

How My Legendary Girlfriend changed my life (…the book by Mike Gayle, not an actual girlfriend!)

Travelling up and down the country in the #LadLitBlogTour bus has given me plenty of time to research other great articles on lad lit, hidden in and around that big world wide web called the internet.

Earlier this week, I found this great piece on lad lit author Matt Dunn with Novelicious.com titled The Book That Changed My Life. Matt explains that it was Nick Hornby’s masterpiece High Fidelity that inspired him to write his first novel Best Man, which led to securing him a publishing deal.

It got me thinking – what was the book that inspired me to write lad lit? A lot of people have asked me on this blog tour why I write lad lit, and often my response has been because I was inspired by my own experiences and those stories told to me by friends. But the more I think about it, the more I start to realise how important My Legendary Girlfriend by Mike Gayle was to me writing The Drought.

In the summer of 2005 I moved out of my parents’ house and into my own flat in south London with a good friend of mine. After a game of paper, scissors, rock, to determine who got the bigger room, I found myself cramped into the box room wondering where the hell I was going to put all of my stuff.

I wandered into my flatmates bedroom to see if he had any space he could afford to lend me (he didn’t of course, I’d have to make do with shoving stuff under my bed), but I was drawn to his bookcase. I was looking for a new book to read, and after flicking through a couple of books that didn’t really take my interest, I picked up My Legendary Girlfriend.

It was one of four or five Mike Gayle books he had on his shelf. After reading the blurb, my flatmate told me what a great book it was, but being a man who had mainly read crime novels and other macho books like that, I turned my nose up at the thought of reading a book about relationships. “That was for girls,” I told him.

Still, it had secretly piqued my interest, and later on that night I found myself sneaking into my flatmates room to steal the copy off his bookshelf. Granted it was a bit awkward when he woke up at 2am and saw me in my boxer shorts hovering around his bed, but after time we got over the incident. Actually, we just don’t bring it up anymore…

But..! The next morning I found myself engrossed in Mike’s words as he articulated the male mind on the pages of a book like I’d never seen (or read) before. I was hooked – Will Kelly was a real bloke, who viewed the world, women, dating and love like a guy did. Not like one of those perfect specimens who appeared in the chick lit novels my then-girlfriend would read; the type of guy who made it virtually impossible for all other men to stand up against in the real world.

Instead Mike captured all of the quirks and insecurities that the everyday man goes through in matters of the heart. And you know what – it was funny too. Hilarious even! The best comedy is always the type of comedy you can relate to, and before you knew it I was sneaking into a flatmates room on a regular basis to pick up another Mike Gayle book. Looking back, it probably would have been better if I had just asked him if I could borrow the books. The least I could do is wear something other than just my boxer shorts every time I paid him an impromptu late night visit.

And years later, I’m still a fan of Mike Gayle, and like Matt Dunn admits to doing with High Fidelity, I often find myself referring back to one of Mike’s books when I get stuck or I am looking for inspiration. It has served me well, and one of the biggest compliments I got after publishing The Drought was TV presenter Ortis Deley saying: “A pleasantly darker alternative to the offerings of Mike Gayle. All hail the arrival of Steven Scaffardi.”

It was high praise indeed, and if I can be half as good a writer as Mike Gayle, then I’ll be a very happy man!


Characters

Steven Scaffardi is the author of the Sex, Love and Dating Disaster series. His first novel, The Drought, is the laugh-out-loud tale of one man’s quest to overcome the throes of a sexual drought. After the stormy break-up with his girlfriend of three years, Dan Hilles is faced with the daunting task of throwing himself back into the life of a single man. With the help of his three best pals, Dan is desperate and determined to get his leg-over with hilarious consequences!

The Drought and his new novel The Flood – a comedy about one man trying to juggle four women at the same time – are both available for just 99p on the Kindle at Amazon.

Follow all of the fun on his blog tour by following him on Twitter @SteveScaffardi or by using the hashtag #LadLitBlogTour. More information about Steven and his books can be found on his blog.

Blog Tour Update v3

 

Guest post by Sandra Nikolai (author of Fatal Whispers)

So you know whodunit. Now prove it.

When it comes to solving murder mysteries, dedicated fans of the genre have developed an innate sleuthing ability that seems to improve with every additional book they read. True to their passion, they join groups of like-minded readers where they exchange comments about the books they’ve enjoyed—or not. They contribute to the community by posting book reviews, ratings and recommendations on Goodreads and online retailer sites.

In other words, the perception of whodunit readers presents a formidable challenge to mystery writers like me.

As any author of the genre will tell you, writing a mystery novel is not an easy task. It demands the creation of a complex plotline and a logical unfolding of events so that all things come together at the end. It entails choosing a cast of characters, including potential suspects, and ensuring that the real perpetrator isn’t too obvious.

A writer is well aware that readers expect nothing less than a genuine challenge when it comes to solving murder mysteries, but what happens if a reader guesses who the real culprit is before the end of the story? Should a writer feel less competent? Not really. The true test in trying to solve a mystery is not only in guessing who did it but also in proving how and why the crime was committed.

Let’s look at a real-life murder investigation as an example. Crime investigators might interview several suspects and have a gut feeling about one of them, but unless they can prove guilt, their assumptions are useless. Without viable witnesses or valid clues to help bring the perpetrators to justice, these offenders will continue to roam free. The pile of unsolved cases in law enforcement offices supports the fact that the how and why aspects are fundamental criteria in solving murders.

Part of a mystery writer’s task is to present the clues in a way that makes each potential suspect in the story look guilty. Attention to specifics regarding motive, means and opportunity is essential. A writer needs to be fair and open in planting the information, offering it in doses here and there, and in a manner that can’t be construed as hiding the facts from readers. A writer can use red herrings, but these false clues should be details pertinent to the story—details that can be open to misinterpretation and that readers will need to figure out. Connecting the dots to get to the truth is an important part of the reader’s journey and one that a mystery writer needs to test run beforehand to ensure it works.

Yes, readers are a clever bunch. To stay a step ahead, a writer needs to devise a plot that will outwit fans of the genre and leave them wanting more. If a writer has done a good job of it, readers will be scratching their heads, wondering how and why the crime could have been carried out, until the story’s resolution is presented in the last few pages.

And that is a reader’s true challenge in solving a murder mystery.


About the Author:

SandraNikolai_blog2

SANDRA NIKOLAI graduated from McGill University in Montreal and worked in sales, finance and high tech before devoting her days to writing. She is a member of Crime Writers of Canada and has published a string of short stories, garnering awards along the way.

False Impressions, Fatal Whispers and Icy Silence are the first three novels in a mystery series featuring ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott. When not plotting mysteries, Sandra shares her thoughts and experiences about the writing world on her blog and has been a frequent guest writer on other websites. She lives with her husband near Ottawa and is currently at work on her next mystery novel in the series.

Social Media Links:

Website and blog: www.sandranikolai.com (Sign up for Sandra’s exclusive newsletter!)

Email: Sandra@sandranikolai.com

Twitter: @SandraNikolai

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6282913.Sandra_Nikolai


About the Book:

Fatal Whispers July 15

A millionaire’s beautiful young wife.

A homeless woman.

A parish priest.

Three baffling deaths within days. No sign of foul play. No police leads. Even medical authorities can’t explain the cause of death. An unprecedented occurrence in Portland, Maine.

Ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott look for answers when their trip to this alluring New England town coincides with the mysterious deaths. As they probe deeper, they discover ominous secrets buried decades ago and ruthless killers who won’t let anyone get in the way of revenge.

Buy Links:

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Sandra-Nikolai/e/B0087RR4XY/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B0087RR4XY/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=Sandra+Nikolai&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Sandra+Nikolai&sort=relevancerank

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/search?query=Sandra%20Nikolai&fcsearchfield=Author

Apple iBooks UK: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/false-impressions/id957443950?mt=11

 

Guest post by Heidi Perks on Marketing her Debut Novel Beneath the Surface

It’s a real pleasure to welcome Heidi Perks to my blog today.

Marketing your book without the big budget

I am a marketeer. In fact I spent fifteen years in marketing before turning my hand to writing four years ago, so the thought of marketing my own book didn’t bother me one bit. In fact I thought I would love it. To an extent I have but I quickly realised that when you’re effectively marketing ‘yourself’ it’s a whole lot harder than marketing a product.

For a start marketing yourself and your own book is a very personal thing to do. You’re basically putting yourself out there and telling everyone you know (and plenty you don’t) to buy your book, the words you have spent years pulling together, everything you have poured your heart into. You battle with all the what if’s (or at least I did): What if no one buys it? What if none of my friends like it? How can I say ‘you absolutely have to read my book – you’ll love it’ when they might not? But somehow I had to get over this because if I wasn’t fully bought into the package I was selling then how I could I expect anyone else to be?

A few months back my stock answer to ‘Are you a stay at home mum or do you work?’ was always ‘I don’t work – well actually I am doing some writing at the moment.’ This would always lead on the next question – ‘What are you writing?’ and I soon realised that many people were incredibly interested in what I was doing. The more I told the story the easier it became to portray the enthusiasm and love for my writing that until that point had been a very private thing.

So my first point is that when you’re marketing yourself you need to be confident. You might not always feel it – I certainly don’t – especially when things don’t go to plan. But what inspires us more than someone who really believes in what they are talking about?

By the time I was ready to put my book out there I was happy with it and knew that I’d made it as good as I hoped and so I had to take a deep breath and tell myself (and other people) that yes, I had actually done something great – I had written a whole book whilst bringing up two small children and I was proud of it.

So, you’re now confident (or at the very least pretending to be.) What next? There are many clever authors out there who are marketing themselves brilliantly and I certainly don’t profess to be one of them. However, there are a few key things I have learnt that I can share with you from my personal experience.

1. Carefully choose which publisher you’d like to work with. I was lucky enough to be taken on by Red Door and love working with them. Personal relationships should never be underestimated and with Red Door they have great people who know a lot about the industry and who have helped me promote my book a lot.

2. Get reviews. There are plenty of ways to do this, some you can pay for, others you don’t. Personally I recommend approaching the wonderful people who are book bloggers. I cannot recommend them enough, and found them all (bar none) to be highly professional, friendly and a pleasure to talk to. Three months prior to my release date I wrote a long list of book bloggers I wanted to approach – those who liked the kind of book I had written, were open to requests and whose reviews I enjoyed. I had a hugely positive experience and when the reviews started coming in I was delighted and also given another surge of needed confidence. Getting reviews in the lead up to or on release day are crucial.

3. Approach local magazines, newspapers and books stores. People love a local interest story and you’d be surprised how many want to help either by writing an article or having you in for a book signing.

4. Hold a book launch. You can do this in many ways – I opted to host an evening in a local restaurant and invited family and friends. You can do it cheaply or throw money at it; invite local press; local authors or keep it personal – but my aim (as well as celebratory) was to spread the word about my book, sell it to friends and ask them to help by giving me an honest review.

5. Be present on social media. I chose Twitter and Facebook as my main routes to communicate but they are all powerful tools to interact with readers, other authors and bloggers. I have also seen authors successfully promote themselves via Instagram but I chose not to use this for fear of spending all my time on social media.

6. Follow other authors who promote themselves well and see what they do. There are always new ideas and ways of doing things or reaching people so learn from them. I’ve taken a lot from the authors who make sure they reply to every single person who messages them or who are gracious enough to ‘like’ even the most awful of reviews and it’s easy to pick up hints about reaching readers from people who have been in the business for a while!

This is the first step of my publishing journey but I’m glad I invested the time to spread the word about my book prior to and around launch, and if anyone wants to share their experiences I’d love to hear from you.


About the Book:

Beneath the Surface by Heidi Perks

I donʼt know where you are…
I donʼt know what Iʼve done…
Teenager Abigail Ryder is devastated when she gets home from school to find her family gone.
Nothing makes sense. Things are missing from the house and her stepsistersʼ room is completely empty. But the police think sheʼs trouble, and when grandmother Eleanor tells her to forget them all and move on, thereʼs no choice other than face the future – alone.
Fourteen years on, Abi and Adam are a happy couple on the verge of parenthood. But when the past comes back to haunt Abi, the only way forward is to go back and uncover the truth – and reveal the dreadful secrets a mother has been hiding all these years.


 

About the Author:

Heidi Perks

Heidi Perks was born in 1973. She lives by the sea in Bournemouth with her husband and two children.
Heidi graduated from Bournemouth University in 1997 with a BA (Hons) in Retail Management, and then enjoyed a career in Marketing before leaving in 2012 to focus on both bringing up her family and writing.
Heidi successfully applied for a place on the inaugural Curtis Brown Creative online Novel Writing Course and after that dedicated her time to completing her first novel, Beneath The Surface.
She has a huge interest in what makes people tick and loves to write about family relationships, especially where some of the characters are slightly dysfunctional.
Heidi is now writing her second novel.

You can buy Beneath the Surface here.

You can find Heidi’s website here.

 

Guest Post by Elle Turner (author of Tapestry)

 

Today I’m excited to share a guest post from the lovely Elle Turner, author of Tapestry.

Hi Hayley! Thank you so much for having me on Rather too fond of Books!

I guess every writer is a reader too and most are likely to be influenced by the books they’ve read, whether this helps them to develop their own style, helps them decide what they want to write or, as in my case, unwittingly influences most aspects of their life!

The first books I remember being a big influence in my life were the Famous Five books. I talked to the characters, (out loud, not in my head. I remember my mum once calling me back from a stream in which I was paddling and having a right good old conversation to tell me to tone it down!). I wanted to be George and had a stuffed tartan dog that slept at the bottom of my bed. No prizes for guessing his name!

When I was a little older my mum gave me a few books in the Abbey Girls series by Elsie J Oxenham. These books followed the lives of young women and schoolgirls growing up near an Abbey in High Wycombe. Red-haired Joan and Joy were the original Abbey girls and the series followed them into adulthood, with eventually their own children following the original Abbey Girls’ traditions. I came to the stories when Joan and Joy were adults. Joy was already married with twins and the next generation of abbey girls were coming through the school. I was very taken with the notion that Joy had red hair. This was something that followed me into my early adult years during which time I tried several shades! (As well as red hair I also ended up with twins, so perhaps the moral there is be careful how far you let yourself be influenced… 😉 )

By the time I was in my teens I found A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford. I bought it for 20p at a jumble sale and had to make my own cover because it was falling apart. I loved that book and I’m sure it’s responsible for me wanting my own business. I was at the right age to appreciate, and benefit from, a strong female lead in a book and they don’t come much better than our Emma. I’ve just discovered the Emma Harte series of seven books is on Amazon. I didn’t realise there were seven books, I’ve only read the first three, but I daren’t buy it just now or I’d never get anything else done!

The first book on the school syllabus that I recall resonating with me was Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. It’s such a famous book that we probably all know it’s about the burning of books as they are no longer allowed in society. Books are thought to cause unrest and unhappiness as they risk leading people to think. Better to be anesthetised watching screens the size of walls pump information that doesn’t take too much processing…

Eep. A scary, but wonderful, book.

Although I’d always wanted to write myself, it wasn’t something I seriously considered I could do until a few years ago. Around the time I was trying to figure out if I should go for it, I read Addition by Toni Jordan. It was the right book at the right time because I remember thinking, ‘Yes, I really want to do this too,’ while I was reading. I don’t tend to re-read books because the mountainous TBR pile is always calling, but I re-read this one.

In fact, that’s probably the only thing the books here have in common – I’ve read them all more than once!

Thank you so much again Hayley for having me on your blog. Best wishes to you and all your readers. Happy reading!

Tapestry

Tapestry

In hope, in pain,

we lose, we gain,

but always and forever

the human heart braves life

in light and in shade

A collection of twelve short stories exploring the complexities of life and love.

Tapestry – Available now from Amazon http://hyperurl.co/ymjfs2

 

Elle dedicated Tapestry to her mum so, to celebrate Mother’s Day weekend in the UK, Tapestry is free from 4-6 March 2016.

 

Elle TurnerAbout the Author

Elle Turner writes contemporary women’s fiction and lives in beautiful Scotland with her husband and two children. She loves scones, Coronation Street, all songs by Sara Bareilles and will happily admit to having little or no sense of direction. If you offer her a 50:50 she will ALWAYS get it wrong and, despite living in Scotland, she rarely manages to wear shoes that don’t leak.

If you would like to find out more about Elle or her writing, she’d love to see you at www.elleturnerwriter.com on Twitter @ElleTWriter, Instagram elletwriter or she’s on Facebook as elleturnerwriter

Guest Post, Extract & Int Giveaway: Bella’s Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson

#BC banner

Today is the first day of Bookouture Christmas I am very lucky to have a guest post from none other than Sue Watson, whose fabulous new book, Bella’s Christmas Bake Off, is out today! As today is publication day it seemed a perfect chance for to Sue to share  how she celebrates this special day.

Over to you Sue…

Guest Post banner copy

I wish I could tell you that on publication days I am drenched in champagne and Ryan Gosling takes me out and toasts me with champers to celebrate the release of my latest tome. Sadly that’s not the case because by the time publication day comes around I’m already writing the next book and busy at my desk… alone (which is why Ryan doesn’t take me to lunch…and it’s the ONLY reason).

When Bella’s Christmas Bake Off emerges golden and warm from the Bookouture oven on 22nd October I will probably celebrate with a cup of coffee, a slice of cake, and get back to writing the next book. Once everyone’s home from school and work I do receive cards and pressies and as this will be my seventh novel we have developed some ‘publication Day’ traditions. My husband always gives me flowers and a bottle of my favourite fizzy pink stuff and my daughter gives me a box of ‘book day Maltesers,’ which are my favourite (but you have to eat them by the box, bags are for wimps).

On the evening of the release on 22nd October – by coincidence – I happen to be giving a talk at ‘Mim’s Book Club in Cannock, Staffordshire. If you don’t live too far away everyone is welcome, coffee and cake is available and it doesn’t cost anything to come along. I will be talking about my life as a BBC Producer, how I became a writer and I’ll also be signing copies of my books. Then and only then, will Ryan Gosling turn up and take me out for a champagne dinner to celebrate the release of Bella’s Christmas Bake Off!

Thank you so much Sue! And a VERY happy publication day to you once again!


bella's christmas bake off

And here is the very first chapter of Sue’s brand new book Bella’s Christmas Bake Off for you all to read now! Keep reading to the end as there is a wonderful International giveaway giving you the opportunity to win a copy of this very ebook!

Extract Banner copy

Chapter One

Naughty Custard and Severely Whipped Cream

I was icing the Christmas cake when he told me.

‘Amy…I have to talk to you,’ he said.

I lifted the palette knife to create a snowy effect on the soft, mallow frosting and stood back, then turned to him.

‘What?’ I was gazing at my beautiful frosty white cake. ‘Silent Night’ played on the iPod, and it was just three weeks before Christmas. I glanced up at Neil standing next to me, and the look in his eyes scared me so much I put down the palette knife.

‘What is it? Are you ill…has something happened?’

He nodded, slowly, his eyes still cold, like they belonged to someone else.

‘I was going to leave it until after Christmas to tell you, but I’ve…I can’t go on like this. Amy, I’m sorry but it feels like a charade to go through the whole Christmas thing and…I’ve met someone.’ He was standing in front of me now, making eye contact, ensuring the message was clear and there was no room for misunderstanding. My mind went blank. The pink tie I’d bought for him was loosened at his neck. He’d just come home from work.There were pork chops in the oven.

‘Is this a joke?’ There were no words for this. I’d sometimes imagined a scene where we parted, but it was usually the other way round and me telling him I was going. I wasn’t ready for this, now –ever.

‘Why?’

‘Because I can’t live a lie any longer, Amy,’ he said, his speech obviously well prepared, learned by heart. I could see by his set jaw and steady gaze he was damn well going to say every word without interruption from me.

‘You’ve been so busy with work, you’ve got your friends and your life and I feel like there’s no room for me…’ he started.

‘Oh no, Neil. You sleeping with someone else is not my fault, so don’t even try to pull that one,’ I snapped, moving swiftly from shock to anger, aware I was spitting in his face– not pretty…or festive.

‘I’m sorry, I’m not blaming you, but I just…I want to be with her. She loves me, she cares what happens to me, asks me about my day…I’m sorry, Amy…’ He stood there, ashen-faced.

‘So after twenty years you’re just walking out on your marriage because some other woman asks if you’ve had a nice day?’ I was becoming irrational, but who could blame me? ‘Perhaps I should have made more like an American waitress and said ‘have a nice day,’ when I ‘served’ you your evening meal.’

The panic was rising in my chest, I couldn’t deal with people leaving, the thought of being on my own scared me. Things hadn’t been great for a long time between us, but he didn’t have to go and throw it all away– not now, just weeks before Christmas. I glanced through the living room door at the Christmas tree, the lights twinkling, gifts from relatives and friends already underneath.This was a time for being together, for rekindling love and family, not abandoning it.

‘I don’t understand?’ I asked, trying to calm down and not to bare my teeth like a wild animal. I didn’t know how I felt about Neil, but I wasn’t ready for this and I didn’t want him storming off into the night and leaving me alone. I needed to keep everything on an even keel, especially myself.  ‘I know we’ve had our problems Neil, but all marriages have problems, we just have to work at them.’

‘That’s what I thought too, but…she’s special.’

‘Special? More “special” than the woman you married, who you’ve been with for over twenty years,’ I snapped, losing any chance of staying calm at this.

‘No…of course you’re special too, but we both want different things, Amy.’

‘Yeah, you want someone else.’

‘It’s not like that…I care about her.’

So this really was it? After several years of our relationship hanging by a thread, one of us had finally decided to do something to end it, but now it was finally here I felt sick. I was about to throw up, but swallowed hard to prevent it. Whatever I might think about him, I didn’t want my husband’s last moments with me to be infused with the sight and smell of me vomiting noisily in the kitchen.

‘Who is she?’ I heard myself croak.

‘Someone at work, she works in the Legal department…you don’t know her.’

‘Well I do now, don’t I?’I started. ‘Because it looks like this woman who I “don’t know”has been playing quite a big part in my life without me even realising …’

He just stood there with his head down like I was reprimanding him. He reminded me of one of the teenagers I taught at school who’d been found smoking or downloading porn on their iPhone.

‘Neil, the kids will be home from Uni in three weeks…and I made a cake…’ I gestured towards the snow-topped, perfectly iced confection like it would make a difference to his planned departure. Three minutes ago this beautiful fruit cake had, along with the Christmas Tree, been the centre and beginning of my pre-Christmas world. We both stared at the cake as though it held the answers and if we stared for long enough all the bad things would go away. But they didn’t, and when I looked back, the eyes staring out of my husband’s face were a stranger’s eyes.

‘When are you going?’ I asked, trying to bring myself round.

He shrugged, ‘Tomorrow…?’

I suddenly couldn’t bear another minute of this and as another wave of anger engulfed me, I called his bluff. ‘How about now? Go now,’ I said.

‘You think I should go now?’ He looked almost relieved, which hurt and angered me even more.

‘You can’t wait to leave, can you?’ I spat incredulously.

‘No, no… I don’t want to upset you…neither does Jayne; she’s so upset and feels terrible about everything.’

That did it.

‘Oh poor, poor Jayne is upset? Why didn’t you say? You must go to her, how selfish I am thinking only of me when she’s the one who’s devastated…I feel awful for keeping you.’

He made an awkward move towards me and I picked up the palette knife in a threatening manner like I’d seen crazy people do in crime dramas on TV. In that moment, with the panic rising in my chest, I felt just as mad as those wild murdering types, slashing around with a cleaver. It was just as well my weapon of choice was only a round-edged, blunt decorating tool and not a big, sharp chef’s knife,especially when I started waving it at himaggressively.

He edged back along the kitchen wall like the wimp he was, flinching as I punctuated my harmless but dramatic palette waving with swearing and ridiculous threats.I couldn’t stop and the more he cowered, the more I flailed my ‘weapon’ around while starting on a detailed personality assassination. As therapeutic as this was,I had to stop because I was reaching volcanic levels and could feel a panic attack coming on. I stood back, put down the knife and leaned against the kitchen unit to get my breath back. Just as I put my head in my hands and he thought I wasn’t looking, the little coward made a bid for freedom. He weaselled his way out of the kitchen and ran upstairs to pack his pyjamas and toothbrush, without even asking if I was okay.

‘I could have died,’ I yelled at him as I heard his tentative steps on the stair carpet before he put his head round the door like a rabbit in the headlights.

‘I’m going to go now, because I think you need to calm down and me being here might just make things worse,’ he said, like he was dealing with a petulant child.

Too late. I had a brown paper bag over my mouth (which I always kept at hand in the event of a panic attack) whilst continuing to ladle a thick layer of snowy frosting on the cake on auto-pilot like a woman possessed. In my state of shock all I heard was him mutter something about calling me ‘tomorrow’, and as he walked out of the front door I cracked, picked up the cake and blindly chased him down the hall. Halfway down the drive he turned back and I saw the fear in his eyes as he spotted my frosty confection coming straight for his head accompanied by my season’s greetings;  ‘Happy bloody Christmas’, I screechedalong with other non-festive expletives I would rather not repeat. He ducked of course, but as the cake frisbeed past him and across the street the whole thing was witnessed by Alfie Mathews, the son of my neighbour, who also happened to be a pupil of mine. There was frosty icing everywhere, a large cake sliding down the garden wall, me standing in the doorwayscreaming like the madwoman in the attic …and one of my pupils filming the whole spectacle on his mobile.

It was all very surreal and I was so distressed and disorientated I couldn’t face tackling the film-maker sojust staggered back indoors.

Once inside I slammed the door, sat down on a chair, and marvelled at how in less than thirty minutes my life had melted like snow in hot hands. Everything I thought I had, everything I’d thought I was,had gone in a whirlwind…along with the now smashed Christmas cake.

Eventually, I stirred and picked up the TV remote without moving from my seat in the kitchen, and turned on the TV.

‘Ooh you have to have squidgy ones,’ the voice purred from the screen on the wall. Neil had put it up there a couple of years ago because I liked to watch cookery shows in the kitchen, particularly Bella Bradley’s shows, and the ‘squidgy ones’ to which she was now referring were chocolate brownies, which as always looked perfect – but then she had no need to throw them at anyone did she? I stared at the screen numbly. It seemed as though as my life was collapsing, while Bella’s was going from strength to strength. Each year she and her lovely home seemed to be glossier, more expensive, her Christmas cakes more ornate, her tree taller. Bella’s eyes glittered from her fairy lit kitchen, colour matched in red and green with a hint of classy sparkle. The long dark hair, luscious red lips and happy marriage made her look at least ten years younger than she was and despite loving her show I couldn’t help but sometimes feel a twinge of resentment. I wished my life had been as glamorous and successful as Bella’s and felt the envy and regret even more keenly after what had just happened. I found vague comfort in watching Bella add mixed spice to a bowl, stirring vigorously, causing the reindeers on her tight red ski jumper to frolic across her full bosom. I wondered for the millionth time what it would be like to have Bella’s Christmas, her marriage – her life.

What made the contrast in our very different lives so painful was that Bella Bradley used to be my best friend. We’d once shared everything, from secrets to perfume to clothes, we’d been best friends from our first day at school and watching her now on screen I found it hard to reconcile this well-groomed, accomplished woman with the crazy, funny friend I used to love. When we were kids Bella was the one who took risks while I stood on the sidelines watching in awe, and sometimes horror, while she got herself into the most horrific scrapes. Throughout her school days she had been involved in smoking, playing truant, swearing and writing obscene words on the gym wall – yet still she seemed to charm her way out of it all. I didn’t have her charisma or her daring; I suppose that’s why Bella’s a TV star and I’m a maths teacher, I thought, absently watching her whisk up a batch of chocolate brownies with the kind of noises one would associate with an orgasm.

‘Ooh that’s very, very naughty,’ she was saying, her eyes looking into the camera, a tight close-up of just her tongue licking chocolate-covered fingers I assumed were her own. Mind you, from the sounds she was making one had to wonder if her delicious husband was somewhere off camera reaching into her red-lipsticked mouth. Who knew what was going on behind that soon to be batch of warm bad boys?

Just thinking about Bella’s husband reminded me of my own, or sudden lack of – making my stomach churn. I tried to shake the thought of Neil having sex with another woman from my head while pacing around the house, wondering what to do, asking myself so many questions. Had I known, or at least suspectedhe was having an affair? Had I become lazy and complacent, not necessarily wanting Neil around, but not brave enough to make any changes? There were times when I’d doubted if Neil and I would make ‘forever’, but they were just blips weren’t they? Didn’t everyone go through times when they wondered if they’d married the right person? You just got on with it, which is why I was so surprised to find myself suddenly single. I wandered into the living room and stared at the Christmas tree I’d put up the previous week. It had been decorated with hope and anticipation for the season ahead. I’d hung each bauble imagining the four of us sitting round a glistening turkey on Christmas day lit by the glow of that tree. But looking at it now, days later, I felt nothing–just sad and disappointed.

It was an ancient white tree, and even the sparkly white fairy now looked less like a sparkly young girl and more like Miss Haversham, the ageing bride whose groom had left her on her wedding day.

I couldn’t take it in, I looked at the sad fairy seeing myself reflected back – Neil had gone and my Christmas was over before it had begun. Then my eye caught the icy blue bauble we’d bought together on a trip to Paris one Christmas. Carefully plucking the bauble from the tree I held it, feeling the cool Christmas roundness in my palm. There was a raised hand-painted picture of a glittery, snow-covered Eiffel Tower, a lovely memory I hung every year and went straight back to the French Christmas market where we’d bought it. Holding the bauble, watching it sparkle,I was on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées,more than twenty years before, a cold wind was swinging the lights on the stall and heavy rain splashed our faces. Neil and I had been so young and in love back then we only saweach other in the twinkle of fairylights in the rain. It was bustling with noise, festive music played and the air was heady with Christmas as we held hands and chose our special souvenir of our first holiday together. I was eighteen. Looking into the bauble now, watching the glitter change from white to pink to blue as I twirled it I felt sad for what we’d lost. Then I remembered with a jolt how later on that evening we’d argued about something trivial and Neil stormed out of the hotel. He came back very late and quite drunk and I cried all night while he slept soundly next to me. We barely spoke to each other all the next day, despite it being Christmas Day, and my dreams of Christmas in Paris floated off down the Seine. Funny how I’d forgotten about that, perhaps Neil’s leaving had made me more cynical, more aware of what we were, and not what I’d wanted us to be? I should have known then we wouldn’t last; if a couple fall out in the city of love on Christmas Eve then cupid’s trying to tell them something. We were such different people, Neil and I, and in those early days I’d naively thought he would change, but he never did.

I thought of all the Christmas Eves since then that the kids and I had waited for him to come home.They always wanted to wait for Daddy, but he was usually ‘caught up at the office,’ and I was so busy making Christmas for them I didn’t have the time or the energy to worry where he was. I did everything without him, not just Christmas,  but days out, barbecues in the garden, even parents’ evenings – it was usually just me and the kids. I lived like a single mum, with Neil working away, late at the office or on a golf course somewhere (though there were times I queried his ‘night golf’ sessions, which went on way too late for my liking). Suddenly, it dawned on me, perhaps he wasn’t busy or golfing – perhaps he just didn’t want to come home to me? While I was imagining pitch black golf courses and heavy late night meetings he was ‘going home’ to Jayne from the legal department. As my thoughts drifted back over my marriage to Neil, I realised I had stripped the Christmas tree until it was bare and everything was packed away. All trace of Christmas gone.

I was now alone, I had no husband and all I could think was ‘How will I tell the kids?’ My only consolation was that the twins were now both away at their respective universities and though the break-up of their parents’ marriage would hurt, it wouldn’t impact on their lives as it might have when they were younger. Resentment rose in my chest and I was glad Neil wasn’t there with me because I had a whole block of kitchen knives and who knew what might have happened? Neil and I didn’t have an idyllic marriage, we didn’t ravish each other passionately every night of the week, life got in the way. Neil needed new friends, sparkly objects and flashing lights in his life – whereas I was happy with the status quo and a nice cup of tea.

I returned to the kitchen, my Christmas was over, but Bella was still on the TV creating a Christmas heaven in her home.

‘People laugh when I put bananas in my trifle,’ she was saying, making her eyes wide, her mouth forming a soft O. ‘But I implore you, if you do nothing else this Christmas –have a go with a big banana.’ This was breathed into the lens rather than actually spoken, and was pure cooking porn. ‘Whisky soaked, damp with alcohol, crushed nuts, a scattering of sour cranberries to cut through that icky-stickiness and snowy peaks of cool, white, severely whipped cream. Oooh,’ she was now dipping her finger in the cream, eyes closed, licking slowly, she was no doubt engaging more viewers than just the country’s amateur chefs. Every straight male and gay woman in the UK must have been transfixed by Bella’s culinary Christmas spectacle. I bit my lip, she was too much. Even Nigella would baulk at ‘severely whipped cream’ to describe a bloody trifle.

‘Bella’s Christmas Bake Off’ always started in early December and for years had prepared me and the rest of the country for the culinary season ahead. Bella basted beautiful, golden turkeys, cooked crispy roast potatoes, baked magnificent cakes and biscuits, causing power surges throughout the country as people turned on their ovens and baked. She would sprinkle lashings of glitter, special olive oils, the latest liqueurs and all in a sea of Christmas champagne bubbles.

Bella’s style was calm, seductive, and gorgeous. Her very presence on screen made you feel everything was going to be okay and Christmas was on its way. She didn’t just stop at delicious food either – her tables were pure art and her Christmas decorations always the prettiest, sparkliest, most beautiful. Bella Bradley had an enviable lifestyle and she kept viewers transfixed all year round, but her Christmases were always special. Her planning and eye for detail was meticulous, from colour-matched baubles to snowy landscapes of Christmas cupcakes and mince pies – and soggy bottoms were never on her menu.

So in an attempt to forget my own life and fill myself with something like Christmas cheer,I watched Bella now, as she poured the whipped cream on ‘naughty’ custard. Oh if it were only the custard in my life that was ‘naughty,’ I thought as sheadded edible pearls for decoration, fingering each one as she pushed them firmly into the cream. I sat in my little kitchen just waiting for the Christmas sparkle to land on me, the frisson of Christmas baking, the preparation, the anticipation that always came with the first ‘Bella’s Christmas Bake Off.’ But this year I just couldn’t get excited by her baking or her beautiful, twinkly home or her magnificent tree. She had everything – and I had nothing…which had always been the case, but now I didn’t even have a husband anymore.

Bella’s husband, Peter Bradley, or the Silver Fox, as Bella affectionately referred to him, was gorgeous. He was a foreign news correspondent who, when he wasn’t making ‘impromptu’ appearances in Bella’s busy kitchen during the show, could be seen on battlefronts across the globe. He’d wander into Bella’s kitchen all five o’clock shadow and war-weary as she iced her voluptuous buns or titivated her tarts. He always looked quite out of place in this domestic idyll after doing a piece to camera in a war-torn city, but he was obviously happy to support his wife’s career by just being there. Unlike my husband, he hadn’t left her alone at Christmas for another woman – he’d stayed by her side, happy to brush the flour from her décolletage and stick his finger in her buttercream.

‘The Silver Fox loves my plump, tasty breasts,’ she was now saying while tearing at tender white turkey flesh with a knowing look. Peter was there in all his war-torn glory, taking her proffered morsels with a twinkle in his pale blue eyes, a crinkly smile on his well worn features. He was so handsome, fit for his late forties, and no doubt, given his career, very strong, intelligent and brave. He was the perfect accessory to Bella, bringing just the right amount of rough masculine charm and good looks to her glossygirlishness. And as a delicious bonus, the Silver Fox wasn’t afraid to show his feminine side judging by the previous year’s Christmas special, when he’d flown in from Iraq to whisk cream in nothing but combats and a tight vest. I was transfixed – trust me, Christmas had come early!

Bella was now informing us that we had to rehearse for Christmas Eve. Rehearse? As if one Christmas stress-fest wasn’t enough? She was wearing silk pyjamas and a girly grinwhich, given my current state, seemed to me like she was bordering on smug.

‘So, imagine it’s Christmas Eve – the turkey has soaked in something fabulous, and so have I, and now I’ve put my jim jams on,’ she giggled, shaking her breasts for no apparent reason – she did that a lot.  I noted with envy how her chocolate brown eyes matched the chocolate brown silk of her pyjamas and considered my own nightwear, a pair of frail pyjamas, once pale pink now edging towards grey after too many washes. If I needed any proof that her life was completely different to mine – it was all there in those ancient pyjamas.

‘Me and the Silver Fox just love a pyjama party at Christmas,’ she twinkled, a little wink and a sip from the crystal flute.‘But then, don’t we all?’

‘Speak for yourself,’ I said, turning off the TV and finishing the last of a bottle of cava I’d found in the fridge. Oh yes, Bella Bradley had always been the lucky one, even when we were kids – but it didn’t stop me loving her – she was my best friend. Then, when we were eighteen I did something stupid which affected her life so profoundly she left the area where we lived and I hadn’t seen her since. I tried not to think how our friendship had been destroyed by what I’d done all those years ago. I still felt guilty about what had happened and longed for her forgiveness. Watching her on screen was the nearest I would ever get to her, and despite the odd twinge of envy I found it therapeutic to see her in a wonderful new life, knowing she was okay… even if I wasn’t.


Blurb copy

Two best friends. One big lie. The best bake off EVER.

Bella Bradley is the queen of television baking – a national treasure. Her Christmas specials have been topping the ratings for years and her marriage to Peter ‘Silver Fox’ Bradley is the stuff of Hello magazine specials.

But this year things are going to be different.

For Amy Lane, Bella’s best friend from school, life hasn’t held quite the same sparkle. And when Amy’s husband walks out three weeks from Christmas, it seems their lives are further apart than ever.

Amy has watched Bella’s rise to fame fondly, despite the fact Bella was always a terrible cook. But when she realises that Bella’s latest Christmas book is made up entirely of Amy’s mother’s recipes, the gloves are off…

After winning a competition to appear on Bella’s TV show, Amy is going to make sure that for Bella and her viewers, this will definitely be a Christmas to remember…

A hilarious, heart-breaking and feel good read about best friends, baking and the magic of Christmas.

Bella’s Christmas Bake Off is out today and available from Amazon.


Author Bio copy

Sue-Watson-Author-pic-120px

Sue Watson

Sue Watson was a journalist on women’s magazines and national newspapers before leaving it all behind for a career in TV. As a producer with the BBC she worked on garden makeovers, kitchen takeovers and daytime sofas – all the time making copious notes so that one day she might escape to the country and turn it all into a book.

After much deliberation and copious consumption of cake, Sue eventually left her life in TV to write.  After a very successful debut novel, Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes, Sue signed with Bookouture and has gone on to write four fabulous books.

www.suewatsonbooks.com


XMAS BC GIVEAWAY copy

Bookouture have very kindly allowed me to run an international giveaway for one lucky winner to win an e-copy of this fabulous book. Please enter here and good luck! I will be running more giveaways throughout Bookouture Christmas week so please stop by each day for your chance to win!

Please click this RAFFLECOPTER LINK and it will take you to their page where you can enter my giveaway! Good luck!

Over the course of Bookouture Christmas week I’ll be posting reviews, Q&As, guest posts, extracts and giveaways all to do with these fabulous books!

BC BOOKS BANNER (MINE) copy