Friday, 29 May 2009

Platinum by Jo Rees - read the first chapter

Erm, I've been informed by Random House that you can read the first chapter of Platinum by Jo Rees here If you like your fiction racy and fancy, or want to dip into the lives of the gliteratti, then this is probably for you. Be warned, it's not for the faint hearted or prudish. Both of which I now think applies to me!

Think delving behind the scenes of a hello shoot.

My feeling is this book reads well on a sunny day today - it's a bonafide piece of beach fiction!

Plus, there's a chance to win a holiday in St Lucia on the love platinum website!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Crossed Wires by Rosy Thornton

I mentioned earlier that I was saving the end of this book for a perfect afternoon. Well, whilst all other dedicated bloggers were editing or writing, I grabbed a bag of peanut m&m's, a cool drink, donned my sunnies and headed out onto the patio with my copy of Crossed Wires by Rosy Thornton.

Like an old friend, I didn't want to say goodbye and read the final page as I'd had a great time reading it. I nearly passed out with joy when Rosy Thornton emailed me asking if I'd read a copy of Crossed Wires and post a review here. I was even more delighted when I found out she was a fellow academic writing chick lit (Cambridge no less!). This is one in the eye for anyone who uses the term chick lit with a sneer, thinking it's fluffier than the fluffiest marshmallow. As an aside, it maddens me that some people think that 'girls' are drawn to chick lit and need talking down to with simple plot lines, monosyllabic prose and huge font. Rosy has a unique voice, peppered with anecdotes from academic life and deals with touching emotional concerns. She's also done two things that I previously thought were impossible: -
  1. come up with an intriguing plot line around car insurance claims
  2. spun a fictional story from her academic area
Crossed Wires is a tale of two lonely single parents from very different places, backgrounds and dare I say it, classes. Mina and Peter, despite the surface differences come together after an accident of geography and find they have common ground, emotionally. I like the subtle drama - I was constantly wondering how their paths might cross again. What I was most touched by was their ability to trust a stranger, to open up to each other when they were closed to everyone else in their lives.
Being a nosy psychologist, I loved the way Rosy's knowledge of human geography has helped her craft characters and settings. Knowing the demographics of an area is a fantastic way of thinking about the sort of lives people might lead, which makes me wish I was studying geography again! 
Rosy's style is unique because you feel as though you're learning something, without being lectured - fiction is great for expanding your perspectives and getting a glimpse into different lifestyles. Rosy has a sub genre of her own - self improving, but without the heady boring tome-style that some authors insist on dumping on us in the name of education! I'm off to amazon to seek out Rosy's other two novels because I'm so thrilled that chick lit has an academic pioneer!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Melissa Hill's writing tips

Follow this linky  and go to the "writing tips" section in Melissa Hill's website. I'll be putting a print out of her tips above my desk, with highlights!

Now go and enjoy the sunshine!

Friday, 22 May 2009

Save Salt!

For anyone that missed it, Caroline Smailes posted a plea to save Salt Publishing on her blog: - 

As many of you will know, Jen and I have been struggling to keep Salt moving since June last year when the economic downturn began to affect our press. Our three year funding ends this year: we've £4,000 due from Arts Council England in a final payment, but cannot apply through Grants for the Arts for further funding for Salt's operations. Spring sales were down nearly 80% on the previous year, and despite April's much improved trading, the past twelve months has left us with a budget deficit of over £55,000. It's proving to be a very big hole and we're having to take some drastic measures to save our business.

Here's how you can help us to save Salt and all our work with hundreds of authors around the world.


1. Please buy just one book, right now. We don't mind from where, you can buy it from us or from Amazon, (from The Book Depository), your local shop or megastore, online or offline. If you buy just one book now, you'll help to save Salt. Timing is absolutely everything here. We need cash now to stay afloat. If you love literature, help keep it alive. All it takes is just one book sale. Go to our online store and help us keep going.

UK and International

2. Share this note on your Facebook or MySpace profile. Tell your friends. If we can spread the word about our cash crisis, we can hopefully find more sales and save our literary publishing.

Remember it's just one book, that's all it takes to save us.
Please do it now.

With my best wishes to everyone
Chris Hamilton-Emery

Salt Publishing

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Partner in crime

The other half and I watched the film version of Khaled Husseni's Kite Runner on Tuesday. I was pleased to see that he enjoyed it so much he marched upstairs straight after to read a Thousand Splendid Suns, which according to our local book seller (who's in no way sexist), is a girly version of Kite Runner.
Feeling pleased the other half had been bitten by the reading bug, I tried my hardest not to interrupt him with pointless questions every two minutes as he does when I've curled up with a book...but couldn't resist anyway. The other half, like a lot of the general population, mentioned he sometimes wishes he could write a book. "Well, not actually write one" he elaborated, "but just, you know, come up with the ideas and stuff. Plot twists and things. But I couldn't do what you do - spending hours tapping away on that lap top of yours". That's right, he'd rather spend hours immobile in the presence of football games.
Attracted more than average attention from Waterstones sales assistants yesterday: 'Did I need any help?' Oh the fun of watching them get away quick enough when they saw the copy of Immodesty Blaize's saucy Tease in my hands. I spent a mouth watering 40 mins choosing a new book (mouthwatering because the waft of costa coffee and choc croissants was beckoning). Even Louise Bagshaw's latest release wasn't enough to tempt me.

After much pondering, I went for Melissa Hill's Wishful Thinking and finished it in less than 24 hours. I love the chick lit genre because it is so diverse: Melissa delivers her novels by creating suspense and drama, hence the speedy reading time. I almost feel guilty for reading her work so quickly, as she obviously poured months, if not years into this. Most importantly, I loved the book and if you love mystery and twist-in-the-tale novels, you should definitely pick up one of the Dublin authors novels. The story starts with a train crash. We then go back in time by 4 months and look into the lives of three women. It's so gripping I can't reveal any more than that!

A victim of Wishful Thinking myself, I thought that given my other half's ambition to be some kind of pseudo ideas-scriptwriter (but without actually doing any of the writing), I could use him to supply some plot lines for me. He's great at spotting twists in films, long before most people have found their seats in the cinema and opened their chocolate. Perhaps I'm guilty of wishful thinking again by thinking he might feel less left out or threatened by all this solo reading and writing I do. He seemed thrilled with the idea of reviewing my drafts and being my Chief Plot Advisor! We'll give it a go....but any suggestions of shoot outs at the nail bar  or parachuting out of helicopters to be first in the sale queue will be rejected (he's into Action)!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

See me write

After a month of patiently waiting since placing my order on Amazon, my copy of See Jane Write was gently pressed through my letter box at the unearthly time of 6.50am by UPS. I sent a curt enquiry email to the Amazon seller just the previous night. Where the hell was it, I'd been dying to read this guide to writing chick lit for ages. Perhaps UPS sensed my PMT through the email, hence the very low key arrival? And the scorch marks on the drive where the delivery man had beat a hasty retreat?

Preview See jane write here . PMT aside, I was cheered by this fab guide to writing chick lit (as recommended by Karen, after I reviewed Will write for shoes). It's not just beautiful to look at, it's beautiful inside. I particularly like the American can-do positive theme throughout this mini course. Thank god, they address some of my bug bears of writing - it's nice to know it's not just me. I've read it time and time again now, but it really does seem that most writers go through an 'it's crap' stage. Even Sophie Kinsella, which is reassuring.

I've had the book a few days and have heeded plenty of their advice already, particularly about making excuses not to write. The authors show you how to self-diagnose barriers to writing and how to dig yourself out of them.  With my excuses blitzed, I'm now setting myself realistic goals such as getting 500 words down a day. I wish I could write full time, but keeping a roof over my head and 5 holidays a year is more of a priority right now. Plus, significant people have battered me into submission to register for a PhD and I'm too much of a scaredy cat to tell them where to go.

Perhaps it will surprise some of the regular readers to know that my current writing project has only the vaguest whiffs of chicklit. It's actually a novella set in fifties midlands and centers around two families whose lives and secrets clash and twist around one another. I love the fifties - the more research I do, the more I feel as though I've been given a chance to live in the decade. Any excuse to wear 50s replica heels, cupcake skirts and to roller-up my hair! 

The 50s novella is actually for a local writing collection, hence the bags of research to ensure I've added the relevant local themes. I do have a mainstream style chick lit novel on the back burner. I might be able to multi-task with reading, but it's near impossible to write more than one piece of fiction at a time - too many characters competing for head space! 

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Good Grief

I'm practically in mourning - I'm nearing the last 50 pages of Rosy Thornton's Crossed Wires. Whilst it's fabulous enjoying a book so much that you're living and breathing the plot lines, feeling the duck and dives of their emotions, it can be devastating when you know the end is in sight! With such good reads, I have to stand back and give the book a prominent place on my dresser. I might start reading  another book to distract me from my potential loss. Crossed wires is winking at me every time I go into my bedroom and I'm not ready to finish it yet. I guess the sign of a good book is the pseudo-mourning process that it evokes.

On another note, I want Jill Mansell's life. She admitted recently her full time writing career consists of chewing wine gums, spying on rugby players during their training session and marvelling at how many other writers have blogs. Once she's exhausted these displacement activities, she gets on with the writing. I love her.

My review of Crossed Wires is on it's way - once I feel strong enough to say good bye

Friday, 15 May 2009

8 Things about me...

Yay - I've been tagged by Bookish Blonde to do my own version of 8 things! I'm using her adapted version of the questions, because I like them.

I hereby swear to be entirely truthful!

Eight things I like:
  1. Reading in bed with a butter-saturated croissant
  2. Laughing
  3. Post-work out glow
  4. Next door's cat
  5. Self help and pop psychology
  6. Diary writing
  7. Lavender
  8. Hot baths with scented oils, candles and fluffy robes waiting patiently on the heater
Eight things I did yesterday:
  1. Got ready for work in my quickest time ever - 30 mins
  2. Went to a diabetes conference, complete with fancy lunch
  3. Saw Angels & Demons, washed down with diet coke, salted pop corn and peanut M&M's
  4. Made spag bol
  5. Finished reading Tell Me Something by Adele Parks
  6. Ran 3km, cycled 3 km
  7. Enjoyed a Radio 4 program on 'Perfectionism' and thought of all the people I knew who fitted the bill!
  8. Washed the duvet covers

Eight things I wish I 
could do:
  1. Stop worrying 
  2. Give up work and write fiction full time
  3. keep everyone happy!
  4. Have infinite energy
  5. Stop shopping as a way of controlling my emotions
  6. Speak spanish
  7. Stop trying to read the future
  8. Eat whatever I like and feel fine

Eight things I 
don't like:
  1. Bitchiness
  2. Bullying
  3. Flakiness
  4. Selfishness
  5. Rudeness
  6. Stupidity
  7. Cowardice (not in the WW sense!)
  8. Ex Boyfriends
I hereby tag (apologies if you've already done it): - 

  • Karen (get on with it)
  • Emerging Writer
  • Fiction is Stranger than fact's Helen

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Marian Keyes has just finished her latest manuscript!

Hot off the press from Bijoux Girls by Penguin: -

Another juicy piece of gossip - Marian has just delivered the manuscript of her brand new book! It's called The Brightest Star In The Sky, we're all tearing at the pages trying to get chance to read it, and we've also just seen the very beautiful, very sparkly book jacket. It's not published until October, but watch this space for an exclusive advance peek, or keep up with Marian here.

Whirlwind reviews

Without even ill-health as an excuse, I've decided it's high time I post mini-reviews of my holiday reads. Hold onto your seats, this is going to be a whirl wind tour: - 

  • Fiona Neill, Secret Life of Slummy Mummy. First prize read of the holiday! Based on a newspaper column of the same name, this book had me in stitches on my sun lounger. It's a sweet tale of slummy mummy and her allies as she struggles to gain domestic order, something she's found more challenging than even her previous career as a producer on Newsnight. SM dodges one disaster after the next until it all comes crashing down on her in a fast paced finale. Perfect reading for laughter therapy after a hard day.
  • Pushed to the Limit by Katie Price. An even more curious read in the wake of her recent split with Mr Andre. They've split before! Juicy gossip enclosed - as well as hard hitting stories about Harvey's accidents, Peter's meningitis and the death of her nan. After reading this, it's hard not to have a soft spot for the working mum with ambitions higher than her heels. It appears that being a bestseller, TV presenter, merchandise range,  reality star (even in the US), platinum album seller (just!) and of course, the original glamour girl, aren't enough. She's got her eyes on films, businesses, the lot!
  • How to lose a husband and gain a life - Bernadette Strachan If you've not heard of this super talented lady, go out and get a copy of Diamonds and Daisies or Handbags and Halos, now! She's funny, in the same vein as Marian Keyes is (perhaps it's the Irish in Bernadette). I hope this is the break out novel for Bernadette, she deserves it. Now go and have  a muster around her website and see what you're missing.
  • Copper Beech by Maeve Binchy - ahhh a comforting slice of Ireland, served by the Queen of Irish Chick Lit. Gorgeous characters grow up before our eyes in this small town novel. 
So there are my 2009 recommended summer reads. So far. I'm aware that these other gems from some brilliant authors are about to, or have hit the shelves and will be getting a coveted place on my bookcase: - 
  • Adele Parks's new 9th novel out in July 09! I'm in her little black book and will post details of the new novel as soon as I get the email
  • Sophie Kinsella - Twenties girl (July 09)
  • jane Green - Girl Friday (11 Jun)
  • Fiona Neill - Friends, lovers and other Indiscretions
  • Lisa Jewell - the Truth about Melody Brown
  • Jenny Colgan - Diamonds are a girl's best friend
  • Holly Mc Queen - the fabulously fashionable life of Isabel Bookbinder
  • Freya North- Secrets
  • Lucy Diamond - Hens Reunited (Aug 09. Takes the prize for best title!)
Katie Price releases a new work of fiction, Sapphire in July. The book blurb sounds promising and I've previously enjoyed two of her novels, but Angel Uncovered was a flop. I dare say Katie will do some sensational PR around the book and will do a book launch dripping in glamour and tasty male models, making Sapphire a bestseller as well!

Friday, 8 May 2009

I have the flu and I'm delighted!

Picking up the thread from my last post and Suzanne's comment, I thought I'd continue to prove that 'normal' doesn't exist.
I'm thrilled I've got the flu, because it means I can lie in bed finishing off 'Tell Me Something' By Adele Parks (if you've ever fancied a bit of italian here's your chance to do it vicariously) and Niamh Green's Confessions of a Demented House Wife (Domestic Tragi-comedy, the best vintage in my opinion). I don't believe for one second that I'm the only one who gets a secret thrill when they're too ill to get out of bed....

Now open wide and say 'lazy bones'...

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Just a thought...

I've read in one of the many creative writing textbooks that I own that you should never forget that fictional characters are not real people and they don't respond as real people would. It suggests that you should think of what a normal person would do (Oh how I love the sweeping generalisation of "normal"), and then write the opposite.

This is fine, but most of the people I know don't react in a normal way. What kind of benchmark is that?! I'm going to wind up writing 90k words on commonplace behaviour if I apply this tip! I'm going to chew this over now, at the gym. Again, another place where it's hard to find "normal' people. Trotting along for hours at a time on a machine in front of unforgiving mirrors is not a normal behaviour by any stretch of the imagination.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Thinking outside of the plot No2: I don't want to know!

"I don't want to know"

I say this in relation to reading. Some authors are better than others at 'show, not tell'. The best selling novels I've enjoyed of late have been the ones that are more akin to reading tea leaves - what they're not telling me is the key to fostering intrigue. Easier said than done to create, I know! 
It's time to rake over my manuscript and see where I can be more elusive.

Friday, 1 May 2009

I'm home!

Just read my previous post and howled! The point of a weeks' holiday is to relax, yet I dragged my exhausted body back to the UK last Sunday

Enjoy the picture of the laguna and water caves, one of Lanzarote's many delights

Noteworthy things to report: -
  • I've completed the 'Evening class Creative Writing' audio CDs and work books
  • I've used the fabulous material to deepen my characters and have been experimenting with creating intrigue
  • I've ordered See Jane Write - a chick lit guide
  • I've read: -
  • Pushed to the limit by Katie Price,
  • Secret life of a Slummy Mummy by Fiona Neil
  • the Beautiful game- A Wags tale by Clare Chervin
  • How to lose a husband and gain a life - Bernadette Strachan
  • The Copper Binch by Maeve Binchy

Those were the good reads and I'll post a review on the must-reads later. I was let down by: -

  • Angel uncovered by Katie Price (character depth somewhat lacking, plus too many similarities with her autobiogs - which were fab)
  • Sadomasichism for accountants by Rosie Barnes