Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Path I Chose Isn't Straight and Narrow, It Wanders Around Like A Drunken Fellow

I hadn't planned to blog today.  I'm not prepared for Christmas, we've got friends coming to stay tomorrow night and my writing?  Well, let's just say that December's been a quiet month on that front.  I'm suffering from a NaNoWriMo hangover and a crisis of confidence.  And the paperback of The Singalong Society for Singletons is released tomorrow.  I should probably be promoting that.  There are so many things that I could and should be doing right now that don't involve blogging, but I feel as though I need to write this post.



Last night I went to the cinema to watch Get Better, a documentary about musician Frank Turner.  I've been a fan of his for six years or so now after my friend Pip gave me his Love, Ire and Song album.  When she handed it to me she described it as 'folky punk'.  I didn't think 'folky punk' would be my kind of thing, but Frank's blunt yet poetic lyrics really spoke to me and I've seen him live three times since then.  The albums are brilliant, but these songs were written to be played live.  If you ever get the chance to see a Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls gig, go.

I always knew Frank's lyrics resonated, but Get Better totally shook me.  I should say now, this isn't a review of the film.  I'm sure you'll be able to find plenty of those around if that's what you're looking for.  This post is about how Get Better has made me consider my writing career, and more than that, my work ethic.


Self-made Pressure
In one scene Frank's talking to Billy Bragg about how much time he spends on the road (Frank is known for his near-constant touring, playing 200+ shows a year).  A lot was made early on in the film of how Frank found it difficult to cope with the realities of adulthood and how the constraints of touring are one of the ways he controls his life.  But what got to me most was how Frank explained that the incessant touring - this way of life that was impacting on his relationships with friends, family, potential partners - was his choice.  No one was telling him he should be touring this much.  Frank has made this work load for himself.

This made me think about the pressure I place on myself with regard to my writing career.  2016 has been busy.  This year I wrote almost all of The Singalong Society for Singletons (81,000 words, and that's not including the 9,000 or so words that were cut during some pretty brutal structural edits).  I wrote the whole of my freebie novella Three Men and a Maybe (17,000 words, again, not including the 1,500 words that were cut during the editing process).  I've completed a first draft of next year's summer novel, which is 75,000 words.  I'm 35,000 words into what I hope will be 2017's Christmas novel.  And I've written around 15,000 words on other projects that might never see the light of day. 

That's a lot of words, even without the guest posts I've written as promo for releases for five Meet Cute shorts, One Night in Los Angeles, Singalong and Three Men and a Maybe.  It's more than double the amount I wrote in 2015, which in turn was double what I wrote in 2014.

I've felt myself on the brink of burn-out a few times recently.  I've cried over things that didn't warrant tears and taken negative comments to heart.  I've felt as though I'm a fraud, or a failure, or not worthy of being a published writer.  There have also been some moments of immense pride, don't get me wrong, but as with any job there are good days and bad days.

Through watching Get Better I realised that most of the pressure I feel comes from within me.  I'm the one who feels I should be producing two full-length novels a year, because some of the most successful authors in my genre are.  I'm the one who refuses to send a standard 'press pack' to the bloggers who are kind enough to host me, because I don't subscribe to blitzing readers with the same bog-standard information.  I'm the one looking at the reviews my books get on Goodreads.  These choices and habits are mine, all mine, and I need to either own them or change them.  I don't know if I'll be able to keep up this workload (my gut feeling is that I won't without driving myself completely doolally), but it's what I pride myself on as an author.  I didn't work this hard to come this far and then sit back. 



Commercialism vs Creativity
In the film Frank spoke about the differences between creating the album he wanted to and an album that is highly commercial, stating how it was important to him not to sell-out just to widen his audience. 

I've been fortunate - I've written the stories I've wanted to and they've made their way out into the world.  The titles on the covers of my books are those I've suggested myself (other than The Boy under the Mistletoe, which was suggested by Harper Impulse's Charlotte Ledger) and any advice from publishers is taken on board, weighed up, and then either acted on or I offer an alternative that I'm happier with.  I suppose, like Frank, I'm very aware of the fact that although there are a team of people working on my books, it's ultimately my name on the masthead.  It's incredibly important to me that I write what I want to write.  I'm wary of following trends too closely, partly because at some point trends inevitably change, and also because I'm sure that if I lack passion for a project, it'll show in my writing.  There are projects I've put on the backburner that I'd love to work on again, but I know they're going to stay in the background for the foreseeable future as they're less marketable than some of my other ideas.  I'm not giving up on them, though.  Charlie and Ed will be out there one day, I promise you.

There were other things that struck me as I watched Get Better - the dissatisfaction Frank felt over the delayed release of his album, how because art is subjective the artist is expected to have a thick skin for criticism, the danger of living in a bubble surrounded only by those who move in the same circles.  The strange concept of time; how something you can put months or years of work into is judged as worthy or not in the time it takes to devour.  These are all subjects I've spoken about with fellow authors.

Get Better is a fantastically insightful film into the life of a creative, ambitious man.  I'm sure anyone involved in the arts would find it interesting and relatable.

The title of this blog post comes from Frank Turner's If Ever I Stray.  But you should also listen to Get Better

"I got no new tricks, yeah, I'm up on bricks but me I'm a machine and I was built to last."

#FTHC

Friday, 9 December 2016

Three Men and a Maybe - my Christmas present to you!

I'm delighted to share that my new novella is now available to download - and what's more, it's free

Harper Impulse have published Three Men and a Maybe just in time for the festive season (the story itself is set on New Year's Eve), and I like to think of it as my Christmas present to you, the readers who've been so incredibly supportive throughout 2016.

I'd love to hear what you think of Cerys, Ricky, Huw, Angelo and the rest of the gang, so please do let me know!

 
The Blurb
It’s the age-old saying. You wait all day for a bus, and then three come along at once. But proposals? That’s just ridiculous. And yet, on New Year’s Eve, as the countdown finishes and the whole pub erupts in celebrations, Cerys finds herself staring at her ex-fiancé, Ricky. Who just so happens to be kneeling on the floor, ring in hand, asking her to marry him. Again.

And if that weren’t enough, hot barman Angelo, and longtime friend Huw also decide to pop the question. At the exact same time.

Three men, two real contenders, but just one choice. What on earth will she do?

Three Men and a Maybe is available now. Click here to order for free.

Friday, 28 October 2016

The Singalong Society for Singletons - The Rocky Horror Show

Despite the best of intentions I've not managed to keep up my weekly musical blog posts.  I'm sorry!  Life's become rather busy lately - the day job has been hectic and I've also had deadlines for editing and proofreading the novella I wrote over the summer (more news on that very soon.  I had a sneaky peek at the cover art for it this week and am totally in love.  It's the perfect sibling for the cover of 'Singalong').  The first draft of next summer's novel is also due with my editor at the start of December so I've been fervently tapping away on my laptop to try and get it ready to send.

However, I'd have loved to have found time to write about Grease as it's one of my very favourite films and also Chicago, which my husband and I saw on Broadway during our honeymoon in 2005.  I wish I'd had chance to write about how West Side Story makes my heart hurt, and how when I watched South Pacific for the very first time during the research period I was reminded of how I'd sung along to the Captain Sensible version of 'Happy Talk' as a tot.

Me selling popcorn at Grease Open Air Cinema
But although I've been incredibly lax on the blogging front, there was no way I was going to let today pass without writing a few words.  Friday 28th October is a pivotal date in The Singalong Society for Singletons - the day the group venture away from Cardigan Close and head to Sheffield's Crucible Theatre to watch a low budget production of The Rocky Horror Show

And the bride danced the Time Warp (with my sister-in-law Jill)
Although I'd planned to base as much of the book as possible in Mon and Issy's living room (taking inspiration from TV shows such as The Royle Family and Friends which are based predominantly in one living space) it was refreshing to write about parts of my adopted city through the eyes of Mon and the gang.  It was an absolute pleasure sharing the beauty of the Winter Gardens and Tudor Square with my readers, and of course the world famous theatre, too.

Part of the attraction of Rocky Horror is the costumes and this is a week where the Singalong Society go to town in every sense.  I loved imagining them all dolled up, mixing with the children dressed in Hallowe'en attire at the temporary funfair in the town centre.  Liam in a corset and heels just worked and it was when I started writing this scene that I fell in love with him as a character.  It gave him a depth to go with his cheeky, cocky charm, and me as a writer the opportunity to think about what he might be hiding behind his confident façade.

The Rocky Horror chapter is the one readers most want to talk to me about, and I hope I managed to successfully capture the spirit of the show...even though I've never seen it live myself!

The Singalong Society for Singletons is out now in ebook format from all major retailers and available to preorder in paperback prior to release on December 15th. 

Amazon UK  Kobo

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The Singalong Society for Singletons - The Sound of Music

The third meeting of The Singalong Society for Singletons has the group gathering to watch one of my very favourite films.  The Sound of Music is a musical my mum and I watched together on the small screen many, many times throughout my childhood and teens.  She first saw it at the cinema with my dad, and as well as the film we also had the soundtrack (on vinyl, naturally) and the sheet music - these were songs I knew inside out from a young age.  It's probably why I still hold them close to my heart.


Julie Andrews is absolutely spectacular as keen-but-hopeless nun Maria and I never fail to be moved by the blossoming romance between Maria and Captain von Trapp.  Add to that the humour, the heartbreak and the beautiful score, and it's plain to see why The Sound of Music has lasted the test of time.

Treating my mum for her 70th birthday

Whilst the film remains ever-popular, I've also been fortunate enough to see the stage show during its tour of the UK.  I bought tickets to see the production at Birmingham Hippodrome for my mum's 70th birthday and we were blown away by the emotional performances which had us leaving the theatre in tears.

 
And I apologise in advance if you end up with The Lonely Goatherd as an earworm after reading the chapter based on The Sound of Music, but it had to be included - that's one of my favourite scenes!
 
The Singalong Society for Singletons is available to preorder now in ebook and paperback format.

Friday, 16 September 2016

The Singalong Society for Singletons - The Lion King

It's Friday 16th September, which means one thing - it's time for Monique, Issy, Hope and Connie to settle down to watch Disney's The Lion King!


From the moment I decided to write a book about musicals, I knew I had to include The Lion King.  It's one of my favourite musical films, with a winning combination of a nigh-on perfect score, angst and humour in equal measure and a plot that'll have you hooked from start to finish ('This one was based on Hamlet, you know,' [Mon] continue[s], gesturing towards the TV.  'And no one would dare to call Shakespeare piffle.  He's the greatest playwright that ever lived.') 

I have fond memories of watching it at the cinema when it was first released and my DVD copy is rather well-worn.

But although the film is incredible in its own right, nothing can compare to the glorious spectacle that is The Lion King on stage.  The costumes, the lighting, the puppetry...it's a full-on feast for any fan of musicals to devour.  I had tears in my eyes from the moment the first note reverberated around the theatre and I laughed and cried all show long.  Honestly, even if you're not a fan of musicals, make an effort to go and watch The Lion King.  It's an experience that will stay with you, I promise.


Do you remember the first time you saw The Lion King?  Have you, like me, been fortunate enough to see it on stage?  I'd love to hear about your own experiences!

I'll be back next week when the girls are watching The Sound of Music...

The Singalong Society for Singletons is published on October 7th in ebook format and 15th December in paperback.  Available for preorder now.

Friday, 9 September 2016

The Singalong Society for Singletons - Frozen

Today is September 9th.  It's the last day of the first week back at school.  Teachers, teaching assistants and parents are crying out for an evening with a glass (make that a bottle) of wine and something decent to watch on the tellybox. 


That's certainly the case for Monique Brown and Issy Jackson.  They've found the first week back an exhausting struggle and can't wait to kick back, put their feet up and watch their favourite film. 

Ah, yes...what is their movie of choice?  Well, it's actually Disney's modern classic Frozen, a pretty apt choice seeing as the terraced house they share in Sheffield's Cardigan Close is so cold that it could double as a fridge freezer. 


I'm a parent of an eight year old. I've been subjected to Frozen more times than I care to remember, and as much as I love musicals I have to be honest and say it's not one of my favourites. I'm sorry!  Whether it's because 'Let It Go' has been played to death or if it's because the DVD was seemingly on a loop in our house for a while, I'm not sure, but I've never been drawn to it in the same way I am to the classic Disney princess films such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.  What Mon, the protagonist in the novel, loves about Frozen is Elsa's spunkiness, and I can absolutely see why that's appealing and inspiring for women everywhere.

But I'm definitely in Mon's sister Hope's corner when it comes to this one.  "I'll need more than one glass of wine to get through Frozen," she says. 

Hope - let's open another bottle...

Next week...The Lion King!

The Singalong Society for Singletons is available to preorder now in ebook and paperback formats.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

More About The Singalong Society for Singletons

It's now just five weeks until The Singalong Society for Singletons starts winging its way onto ereaders everywhere, which is really, really exciting (but also a smidge terrifying too).  So I think the time has come for me to tell you a bit more about it!

The Singalong Society for Singletons is the story of Mon, a twenty-something teaching assistant whose long-term boyfriend Justin has moved to Chicago for a year with his job in banking.  Mon shares a terraced house with her teacher workmate Issy who longs for a loving partner and child more than anything in the world.  They spend their evenings drinking wine and watching Frozen, their comfort-film of choice, until one night when Mon's sister Hope unexpectedly arrives on their doorstep with her own relationship woes...

The young women find that when your heart is breaking, there's nothing better to do than sing it out and The Singalong Society for Singletons is born!  Mon, Issy, Hope and Mon's best friend Connie are soon joined by two new members who bring a whole new dynamic to the group, and buoyed by the uplifting magic of musicals and the power of friendship, the group find they're tackling their issues in their own unique ways.

Each chapter takes place on a Friday night when the Singalong Society meet to watch their weekly film.  If you want to watch the same musicals as Mon and co, here's the list!  I plan to blog about each of these musicals on the day the Singalong Society watch them too, so keep an eye out for blog updates.

The Playlist

Prologue - Wicked
Chapter 1 - 9th September - Frozen
Chapter 2 - 16th September - The Lion King
Chapter 3 - 23rd September - The Sound of Music
Chapter 4 - 30th September - Grease
Chapter 5 - 7th October - Chicago
Chapter 6 - 14th October - West Side Story
Chapter 7 - 21st October - South Pacific
Chapter 8 - 28th October - The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Chapter 9 - 4th November - Les Miserables
Chapter 10 - 11th November - Singing in the Rain
Chapter 11 - 18th November - Fame/Rent
Chapter 12 - 25th November - Oliver!
Chapter 13 - 2nd December - Walking on Sunshine
Chapter 14 - 9th December - Mamma Mia
Chapter 15 - 16th December - Mary Poppins
Chapter 16 - 23rd December - White Christmas
Chapter 17 - Shrek the Musical
Epilogue - The Wizard of Oz

Are your favourites there?  Or are you horrified that I've missed out the one musical that gets you tapping your feet and waggling your jazz hands?  Let me know!

The Singalong Society for Singletons is published by Harper Impulse (7th October in ebook and 15th December in paperback) and is available for preorder now from Kobo, Amazon, Waterstones, and all other major ebook/paperback retailers.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Cover reveal for The Singalong Society for Singletons

Here it is - the beautiful cover for my debut novel The Singalong Society for Singletons!

 
 
I am absolutely thrilled - the warm colours perfectly capture the feel of Autumn evenings, the subtle music notes and songbirds hinting of the music within and the hills representing my adopted (and leg-ache inducing) city of Sheffield, where the novel is set.  Books Covered have done an incredible job!  I'd love to know what you think of it too...
 
The Singalong Society for Singletons is published on October 7th by Harper Impulse, the digital-first romance imprint at Harper Collins who also published The Meet Cute Series, and is available to preorder now.
 
So what's it all about?
 
 
THE BLURB
 
Monique and Issy are teachers, housemates and lovers of musicals! Their Friday night routine consists of snacks, wine and the Frozen DVD. So when Monique’s boyfriend moves to America for a year and her sister Hope moves in because of her own relationship woes, Friday nights get a new name… ‘The Singalong Society for Singletons’!

It’s a chance to get together, sing along to their favourite tracks from the best-loved West End shows, and forget the worries of work, relationships and love (or lack of it). But when Issy shares the details of their little group further afield, they get some unexpected new members who might just change their opinions on singledom for good….


You can order The Singalong Society for Singletons from Amazon UK, Amazon US, Kobo, Sainsbury's and all other major ebook retailers.


Friday, 15 July 2016

I Won't Act My Age - Should Age Influence Hobbies?

Following on from a fabulous weekend watching Take That in Hyde Park with my best friend (you can read a bit about that here), I spent my Tuesday morning waiting outside a local radio station to meet Olly Murs on his 'You Don't Know Love' radio tour.  I had fun talking to others in the queue (there were maybe 60-80 of us there in all) and the time passed pretty quickly.  Luckily the rain held off and it was neither too hot or too cold - pretty much perfect weather for waiting outside. 

Olly arrived just before midday and the staff at the station invited fans in to watch his live stream being filmed, so we all crammed into the foyer to hear him share how proud he is of his forthcoming album and that there will be a tour next year. 

Meeting Olly, 12.07.2016

When the interview was over we were all ushered outside and politely reformed the queue to each have our moment with Olly.  It really was nothing more than a moment - his schedule for the radio tour is incredibly tight - but everyone got their chance for a selfie and a hug.  He's smiley and friendly and looked genuinely thrilled that people had turned up to see him and support the new single.  I had fun.

I mentioned in my Take That post about being all or nothing when it comes to being a fan, that's just the way I am.  But recently some of the comments I've received for being an avid fan of pop music have taken me by surprise.  People have told me I'm too old, that I should grow up, that there must be better things to do with my time than hanging around waiting for snatched selfies with people I admire or spending hours queuing to be at the front of a pit. 

Waiting is part of the fun


My response is always a firm 'no'.  I like to actively support singers/musicians/actors/actresses/authors/whoever else brings me pleasure.  This means buying the records they make, the books they write, tickets to the shows they're performing in.  If they're making a personal appearance where they invite fans to come for autographs and photos, I'll likely go along if I can make it.  I'll wait hopefully at stage doors after performances wanting to tell them how much joy they've brought me and if they can spare a moment of their time for me then wonderful, and if not that's fine too.  And I think that's okay, actually. I never shove cameras in anyone's face, or get autographs to sell on ebay or steal underwear off their washing lines.  I'm not a total weirdo and I am under no illusions.  These are real people doing real (if slightly extraordinary) jobs.

So why do people judge me over it?  Why is it reasonably acceptable to do when you're young, but not when you're over a certain age?  I genuinely don't understand it. 

What baffles me even more is that when I talk about other interests I have, things like bingo and crossstitch, I'm called a granny or a fogey.  There are, it seems, very few hobbies that some sections of society feel are appropriate for a thirty-something.  Wife/mother/career woman are acceptable options, fangirl/bingo addict/knitter are not.  As it happens, I'm all of the above, but even if I wasn't, why should it matter?  Life is full of the mundane, seek happiness wherever you can! 



I always say I'm not going to let other people's opinions bother me.  As an introvert, they invariably do.  But I want to tell anyone reading this that if something brings you pleasure, it's never a waste of time, and don't let anyone else tell you that it is.  Don't let people belittle what makes you happy either. One Direction.  Pokémon Go.  Basket weaving.  BMXing.  Gardening.  Line dancing.  Age limits do not apply to hobbies, and nor should they. 

Life is, sadly, short.  Go and do what makes your heart sing.

The title of this blog post comes from Act My Age by One Direction.

Monday, 11 July 2016

The Night is Young, Until It's Over - Post Concert Blues and Lifelong Love, Two Days After BST at Hyde Park

I'm a fangirl through and through.  If I love something, I love it hard and strong with a fierce loyalty that lasts, and my love for Take That has had quite a long time to grow.  Twenty Four years and counting, to be exact, which is kind of scary. 

The band I fell in love with, 1992

Obviously my life's very different now to how it was as a thirteen year old.  Since then I've left home, got married, had a child.  I went to university.  I graduated (twice).  I've had numerous jobs.  I write books, not just fanfic where Howard falls madly in love with me that no one except my best friend reads.  People actually buy my books (that's something I'll never take for granted).  In 1992 my only concern was flicking through Smash Hits to see if there was a picture of them all in leather that I could cut out to stick in my Take That scrapbook. 

The infamous outfits...

But through all these changes, Take That have been a constant.  Yes, there was the long hiatus, but even in those quieter years there were solo careers and Celebrity Big Brother appearances, and I still had the CDs and videos to relive my memories (yes, actual video tapes.  I'm that old.  And while I'm on the subject, when's someone going to release DVDs of them?  A Berlin DVD would make me very happy indeed.  'Another Crack in my Heart' needs to be on the next tour too, if anyone with influence is reading this). 

There have been lots of downs as a fan of Take That.  The day Robbie left I sat in the nurse's office at school and cried uncontrollably.  My heart broke as Gary uttered the words that Take That were no more.  When it was announced Jason was leaving and everyone wondered if it would be the end of the band I crossed every body part imaginable and hoped beyond hope that they'd keep going.  Numerous other news stories got tongues wagging too.

Bad news day

But over the years there have been way, way more ups.  Little moments that have had me smiling and laughing, things that only fans will understand why.  King Naan... Sitting waiting to tape the Ozone specials ...  'All the girls wanna suck my dummy...' The first performance of 'Back For Good' at the Brit Awards... 




Hearing 'Patience' for the first time on the radio, with Jason describing it as having a 'soaring chorus' - every time it comes on I have to agree...  Gary dancing (God loves a trier)...  Howard's bottomless trousers...

Gary's moves have improved over the years, to be fair

'Give Good Feeling'... Waiting to see what colourful spectacular they'll produce for each performance of 'The Garden'...  Watching them laugh together, which always lifts my spirits...  Meeting Gary...

Meeting Gary at the My Take signing in Manchester

And I'm very, very fortunate to have seen them live on every tour since 1993.  I don't care if you judge me, if you think I'm too old to devote this much time and energy on a band.  Take That gigs are my happy place.  I've been to their shows during some of my lowest times as a seriously unhappy teen, and I've been to see them at 38 weeks and four days pregnant, with my baby kicking along to the bassline.  I've been right at the front and right at the back, and wherever you are it's always the most amazing, uplifting show.  If you're on the very back row you can see the whole stage, the fireworks, the ticker tape fluttering down like coloured snowflakes over the excitable crowds.  If you're at the front you might get a wink, or a touch of the hand, or Gary mouthing 'I'm sorry' at you, like he did to me and my best friend Jen on The Circus tour just before the sprinklers came on and drenched us.  You might get a bit of firework grit landing in your mouth (this happened to me on Saturday night at Hyde Park.  The barbeque taste lingered in my mouth all set long).  Singing and dancing along with those three, four or five boys always lifts my soul and being part of a crowd of like-minded fans is a fantastic feeling.  When Gary says we're an army, he's not wrong. 

Don't be sorry, Gaz.  We loved it.  The Circus Tour
 
There are probably people reading this who don't understand, who don't know what it is to be a full-blown fan, whether that's of a band, a TV show, a football team or anything else.  People who have their hobbies and interests, but aren't totally invested in them.  Just as they can't relate to how I feel, I find it really, really hard to understand that.  There are moments, like the one as I write this, where I'm struck by the post-concert blues.  The frustrations on ticket release day, where my finger is poised over F5 at nine in the morning and my stomach's overrun with butterflies and I'm swearing at the holding screen.  Getting up at stupid o'clock in the morning to queue for concerts or book signings.  Never having any money, because being a fan is an expensive business.  But for all of that, the joy Take That have brought me outweighs it tenfold, a hundredfold, a millionfold, and I'll be there for them as long as they'll have me. 

I'll never be sorry for the day I gave those goons my heart.

Hyde Park, 9.7.16


If by any miracle Howard, Gary, Mark, Jason or Robbie are reading this, thank you.  xxx

The title of this blog post came from Get Ready For It by Take That.

I Hereby Pledge to Blog More Often

I'm absolutely terrible at keeping this blog updated, especially at the moment. I'm busy trying to finish the edits on The Singalong Society for Singletons (due to be published October 6th by Harper Impulse at Harper Collins), working on a secret project you'll find out about later in the year and also trying to crack on with my second novel (to be released next summer, if I ever finish writing it!)  It feels like I'm not blogging at all lately and I miss it.

I don't want to only be around when I'm promoting new releases.  There's more to me than just writing (not much more, to be fair.  But there is more), and that's why I'm hoping to spend more time blogging about other things I enjoy - I'm not sure how regularly I'll get to do it, but it's a plan!



Some of you may be aware of Books with Bunny, the blog I started in 2013 to talk about all things bookish.  There are hundreds of reviews, interviews and book related posts there including some fabulous guest posts.  Check it out if you're into reading.  Books have always played a huge part in my life and since starting Books with Bunny I've found friendships, lots of new favourite authors and a whole lot of books from all manner of genres to keep me busy.  There's a fabulous bookish community on twitter and I'm so glad to be a part of it.  So I may well end up talking books on here, but as I've already got my own little corner of the internet especially for that I'll try and keep the bookish chatter over there.

I'm already planning a series of weekly blog posts about musicals to coincide with the release of The Singalong Society for Singletons - I'm a huge fan of musical theatre and want to talk about the films and shows I watched in the name of research.  Watching films for research - that's when being an author is the best job ever!  So that'll definitely be happening in the autumn.



When I shared my post about 'The Call' I quoted a 'Backstreet Boys' song as the blog post title.  I always meant to come back and write more posts inspired by songs, but never got around to it.  I love music, especially pop/indie and am a self confessed fangirl, so I'm planning to finally get around to writing some of those posts too.  I'm working on a novel about a boyband, so if it ever gets published at least I'll have a backlog of relevant posts to share too...



I may also blog about other things that are important to me - I've recently lost four stone with Slimming World so there could be some posts about that coming up,  my day job is in a pre-school so I might talk a bit about education/childcare, and I adore London, New York, architecture, modern art, colour and pattern, so they may feature too.   Basically, I want to prove to myself and my readers that I'm not just stuck behind a computer all day!

So that's all for now, a pledge to blog more often.  I'm not going to set in stone how regularly, but I promise I'll share my posts in all the usual places (www.facebook.com/kateylovell and on twitter @katey5678).  If you've got anything you'd love to see me blog about, just yell.  Who knows, maybe I'll take you up on it...

Saturday, 11 June 2016

The Boy and the Bridesmaid is out this week!


Wedding season’s in full swing and not just in real life – this week sees the first Meet Cute wedding when The Boy and the Bridesmaid is released on Thursday 16th June.  But as well as one of the couples tying the knot (I won’t tell you which!) there is, naturally, another meeting...
 
I wrote The Boy and the Bridesmaid not long after my best friend’s wedding, when the excitement and promise of a couple committing to each other was fresh in my mind (they’ll be celebrating a year together on 20th  – happy anniversary Jen and Chris!)  But of course, along with the romance that is an intrinsic part of any wedding day, there’s also an enormous amount of stress involved.  For the bride and groom (and possibly their families too) there’s the expense and the desire to provide a fun and memorable day for both themselves and their guests.  For the wedding party there’s the pressure of speeches or readings.  For guests there are issues around what to wear, or where to stay, and what’s a suitable amount to spend on a present?  All in all, weddings can be stressful.
For Maria, the protagonist in The Boy and the Bridesmaid, being in the spotlight is a big deal.  Although she’s delighted to be a bridesmaid and keen to support the happy couple on their big day, she suffers from social anxiety and the thought of being in a crowded room sets her heart and mind racing.  She’s petrified she’ll have a panic attack and ruin everyone’s day. 
Maria’s story isn’t my own, but I did draw on my personal experiences of depression, anxiety and panic attacks when writing the story.  At the moment my mental health is the most stable it’s been in a long time, but I’ve no shame in admitting to having taken anti-depressants on a number of occasions and also speaking to bereavement counsellors – some better than others. One of the sessions I went to taught me some of the basic techniques of mindfulness and it changed my life completely.  That’s not to say I’m totally ‘cured’ – I’ll probably always have low self-esteem and a fear of being in large groups – but I have a tool I can use when I feel the tightening in my throat and chest which signals the start of a panic attack.  I wanted Maria to be strong and proactive despite her mental health and that’s why she too makes reference to mindfulness.  It turns out the seemingly confident boy she’s attracted to also values meditation.  It's not a story of 'girl meets boy and suddenly all her problems disappear' but there's an understanding between the two of them and that's what I love most about their meeting.
This is the final story in the Meet Cute series – the end of an era! – but it's so fantastic knowing people have related to the characters and enjoyed the excitement of seeing nine couples get together.  Thank you to all the readers who've taken time out of their day to tell me they're following the stories.  Your support makes all the difference and I hope you'll all enjoy The Singalong Society for Singletons just as much when it's released this autumn.
The Boy and the Bridesmaid blurb -
There's nothing as wonderful as a wedding, especially when it's your sister getting married. But for Maria, who struggles with social anxiety, being a bridesmaid is a struggle as well as an honour and when she finds herself overawed the person by her side is the last person she'd expect to understand…

Published by Harper Impulse, the digital first imprint at Harper Collins on June 16th 2016

Preorder The Boy and the Bridesmaid from Amazon UK
Preorder The Boy and the Bridesmaid from Amazon US
Preorder The Boy and the Bridesmaid from Amazon Australia
Preorder The Boy and the Bridesmaid for Kobo

Also available from iBooks and Sainsbury's Entertainment

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Talking Surfing as The Boy with the Board is released


 
For someone who’s never so much as dipped her toe into the world of surfing, I’ve always had a quiet fascination with it.  Maybe that’s partly to do with my age – when I was growing up Baywatch was practically compulsory viewing.   Add to that holidays to Newquay in Cornwall where I’d marvel as surfers on Fistral Beach showed off their skills and that's probably where it all started. 
 
Although I’ve never wanted to get on a board myself (I’m actually laughing at the thought – I’d be terrible!) there’s something incredibly soothing about watching people working in tandem with nature to explore movement.  It's dangerous, exciting and beautiful.  And though those who've mastered it make it look easy, I have no doubt that it's challenge enough staying upright, let alone doing tricks. 
When I visited Venice Beach earlier this year I'd hoped to see some surfing but although there were hopefuls waiting to catch a wave, the Pacific wasn't cooperating and was as still as still can be.  Maybe I need to make a trip back to Fistral - it's closer to home!
 
I also really enjoy books about surfing (Lisa Glass has written a YA trilogy that I'm eagerly awaiting the final instalment of - it's well worth a look) so if you have any recommendations of surf related reads I'd love to hear those. 
 
*
 
 
Blurb for The Boy with the Board
When her beloved mum dies suddenly, Helena escapes to sunny California. Determined to live for the moment, she puts aside her fears and signs up for the surfing lessons she's always dreamed of – with the added distraction of hunky instructor Ashton.
The Boy with the Board, a short story in the Meet Cute series, is out today, published by Harper Impulse - the digital-first romance imprint at Harper Collins.

Buy The Boy with the Board from Amazon UK

Buy The Boy with the Board for Kobo ereaders


Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Let Me Tell You the Story About 'The Call' That Changed my Destiny...

I've been meaning to write this post for a year.  Yes, you did read that right - A YEAR. 

March 31st 2015 was the day I got 'the call' from Charlotte at Harper Impulse offering me my very first contract.  To say it was a total shock is an understatement - I'd submitted The Meet Cute to so many publishers and agents without success that I'd all but given up hope of them getting published.  In fact, I wasn't even sure which submission Charlotte wanted to talk to me about because I'd subbed to Harper Impulse so many times over the previous year!



It sounds like the biggest cliché, but as soon as Charlotte said she loved the Meet Cute collection and wanted to publish them as individual releases (I'd put them forward as an anthology) it was like a weight had been lifted.  Most writers get attached to their work - I think that's normal, actually - but I'd really felt like this series needed to be 'out there'.  It felt fresh and exciting to me, and to know that Charlotte felt the same was the vote of confidence I needed.  It was also lovely to be told my 'voice' was engaging and the series would be an opportunity to build my name as an author ready for a full length release in the future.  This was everything I'd been working towards - hooray!

The hardest thing was being sworn to secrecy until the covers were designed and the first titles were available for pre-order.  All I wanted to do was shout my news from the rooftops and do the happy dance in Debenhams window, but I had to keep quiet for months!  That said, I did tell a lot of my writer friends - I knew they were familiar with the drill and that they were good with secrets.

One year on and the first four Meet Cute stories have been published, the next two are out next week and the final three due to be released in May and June.  Harper Impulse were my first choice publisher and it's been a wonderful whirlwind of a twelve months working with them.

 
And I'm absolutely delighted to be able to share that I've just signed a second contract with Harper Impulse for not just one but TWO novels!  I'm spending every spare moment writing to ensure they're as wonderful as they can be - the first will be out at the end of the year and the second in summer 2017.

And the only thing that's left to do now is leave you with the earworm that is The Call by Backstreet Boys because it's been going around my head the whole time I've been writing this...

The Boy with the Boxes

It's almost publication day for The Boy with the Boxes!

The Blurb

Rosie's starting afresh.  Her best friend and former housemate is starting a new life in Australia leaving Rosie to move into a new flat on her own.  But when she meets her next door neighbour, Rosie realises she may not be quite so alone after all...


This is a really special story to me as it's as much about friendship as romance.

I dedicated this one to my best friend because not only has she shown me endless support , she genuinely believed in me and my writing, way back from when it was fan fiction in my teen bedroom.  I hope this Meet Cute makes her smile.

The Boy with the Boxes is dedicated to Jen

The Boy with the Boxes will be published by Harper Impulse on April 7th 2016 and is available to preorder now

Amazon UK

Kobo

Sainsbury's



 

Friday, 26 February 2016

Happy Birthday Tirgearr Publishing!

Tirgearr Publishing (who published my novella One Night in Los Angeles last month) are celebrating!  Founded on Leap Day 2012, they'll be four on Monday - although, of course, this is their first 'proper' birthday with February 29th only coming around once every four years.
 
 
 
Tirgearr have reduced the price of many of their titles (including One Night in Los Angeles!) as part of their celebrations, and to keep the party theme going, I asked some of my fellow Tirgearr authors to share their memorable birthday stories...

Mary T. Bradford says her 50th birthday was the most memorable. "My hubby was treating me to a weekend away and the destination was a surprise. He kept me guessing right up until I boarded the plane. As the airport we were flying into wasn't the final destination, I had no clue. It turned out we were going to beautiful Barcelona. So when I was invited to write for the Hot City Nights series by Tirgearr Publishing, I chose Barcelona for my city. Hey presto, One Night in Barcelona was born." 

Elizabeth Delisi - "My birthday is only two days before my mother’s, so we often party together. This year we got together with family and friends to celebrate my 60th, but more importantly, Mom’s 90th. It was a wonderful celebration of her life, all the things she’s accomplished, her values, and all she means to every one of us. I could have no higher compliment than being told, “You remind me of your mother.” Looking forward now to celebrating her 100th!"
  
Kathleen Rowland - "On my last birthday my husband gave me a gadget for changing high ceiling light bulbs. I took a deep breath, thanked him for being cute, and began writing a sequel to Deadly Alliance."
Erika Gardner - "My memory is of the year that I turned five (1974-lol!). My mom had invited all the neighborhood kids, who all RSVP'ed yes, they would attend. Day of the party came, time of the party arrived, but nary a guest to be seen. Not one person showed out of twenty some-odd yes's. I remember being confused. Not sad exactly, just genuinely puzzled. I wasn't even in school yet so there was no social humiliation. I think it was harder on my folks, to be honest. I went in my room and started making up stories of all the reasons they hadn't shown up. Maybe a sea monster had eaten them? Or they took a rocket to the stars? Maybe they joined the circus or went on safari? I used pictures for the most part, because, hey, I was five, but I made up fantastical tales. I think that was the day I became a writer. More specifically, I became a fantasy writer.

Oh, and in the next day or two, many stopped by to apologize and bring by a gift. Sadly, or happily, none had been eaten by sea monsters, or traveled the stars, or even gone on a safari.

It's a day that stands out for me, even now."
For me, my thirtieth birthday was one of the most memorable - or not! It was my one and only experience of tequila and there's really nothing more to say...


Books by all the authors who've shared their memories are available on promotion over Tirgearr's birthday celebration, including -
One Night in Los Angeles - Katey Lovell
My Husband's Sin - Mary T. Bradford
One Night in Barcelona - Mary T. Bradford
Mistletoe Medium - Elizabeth Delisi
Observant Oracle - Elizabeth Delisi
Fatal Fortune - Elizabeth Delisi
The Midnight Zone - Elizabeth Delisi
Deadly Alliance - Kathleen Rowland
The Dragon in the Garden - Erika Gardner

Monday, 25 January 2016

Real Life Film Stars v Aaron Halliday...

As Aaron Halliday the leading man in One Night in Los Angeles is a Hollywood star, I thought it'd be fun to talk to fellow authors and book bloggers about their favourite actors and actresses.  One of the reasons I loved writing Aaron was because the perception of him generated by the media was quite different to the man Abbi gets to know.  Let's see what makes the following household names so popular...
 
 
 
One Night in Madrid and One Night in Pamplona author JD Martins admires Kate Winslet "because she's not only an amazing actor, but she's beautiful and unafraid of going places in her acting that others might not go and showing the raw emotions. It's a bit like those writers who are brave enough to write erotica, to expose the raw emotions of our stories that it takes us some years to build up the courage to write, for fear of what our friends and family might think. Kate does it in every film and has done it since her earliest film."
 
Meanwhile, Mary T. Bradford is a fan of  Liam Neeson. "His presence on screen demands attention. He is a wonderful actor and he never disappoints in any film he has been in. He has the most beautiful blue eyes. When Liam is in a film, it is compelling viewing for many. I think men admire him also, it's not just women who drool over him."
 
 
 
Rebecca Pugh, who is excitedly awaiting the release of her second novel A Home in Sunset Bay next month, immediately mentioned Anne Hathaway as her favourite film star.  "I've loved her ever since The Princess Diaries and feel like I've grown up with her in a strange sort of way. I think she's classy and sophisticated and plays every role she's given PERFECTLY!"
 
 
 
Elizabeth Delisi, author of the Lottie Baldwin mysteries, was keen to share her admiration for Kevin Kline's ability to portray a diverse cross-spectrum of characters.  "When I think of Kevin Kline, I think of an actor who can play anything, from Cyrano de Bergerac to a gay teacher coming out; from a French thief unexpectedly falling in love to a cowboy in the old west; from a police detective tracking a serial killer to an over-the-top soap star. He has more talent than any other actor I know; he can display deep emotion with just a slight alteration of the expression on his face, can make you laugh one minute and weep the next."
 
 

Blogger Rebecca from Brunette Lifestyle said "I adore Robert Downey Jr. I kinda fell in love with him in Iron Man. He portrayed the hurt hero really well and creatively displays a serious yet sarcastic role. Then I started to watch his other films like Sherlock and I loved him in that too, even though I really dislike Sherlock, the books, the programme. I love how Robert Downey Jr. is able to master the roles he's given. I'll forever love him."

 
 
T K Geering, whose novel A Russian Gift of Love was published last summer, is a big fan of Richard Armitage for similar reasons, saying "he's completely versatile. He can switch from comedy, to period drama, to Shakespeare at the presentation of a script."
 
 
 
Both Going Against Type author Sharon Black and erotic romance author (and editor of One Night in Los Angeles!) Lucy Felthouse mentioned another British actor who they admires for both looks and talent - Benedict Cumberbatch.  "I like him because he’s talented—he’s played so many different roles, and so convincingly," says Lucy. "He gets those slight nuances down pat, so you really believe in the character he’s playing, and are immersed in the story he’s telling. I mean—look at him in Sherlock! I also like him because he’s got killer cheekbones, is gorgeous, and seems like a genuinely nice guy in interviews. His star is rising rapidly, but he still comes across as really humble and down-to-earth. What’s not to like?"  Sharon adds, "Like most straight, warm blooded women, I'm drawn to his looks. They're not perhaps as obvious as other Hollywood heartthrobs. Nevertheless, he ticks the box. Especially when he smiles. And I like the roles he chooses: mysterious, intelligent, guarded; he has wonderful on-screen presence. Watch him in Enigma. I dare you not to be drawn in.  I also adore his accent. As an Irish woman, I'm quite fussy about English accents. I don't admit to liking them all. But I could listen to him reading the telephone book. Lastly, most importantly, when I was writing my debut, I had to picture what my ideal hero would look like. He is tall, has dark, slightly curling hair and dresses impeccably. I pictured Cumberbatch with a beautiful hint-of-Cork accent."
 

 
Ellie Gray, author of Beauty and the Recluse, couldn't narrow it down to one, instead naming two heartthrobs!  "My favourite actors are Christian Bale and Gerard Butler. I love their dark good looks but I think what draws me to them is the fact they can convey a sense of confidence in being able to handle themselves in any situation. I'm a tall girl and quite physically strong so don't need a hero to rescue me but I like a muscular man who will make me feel feminine."
 
 
 
Blogger Erin from Erin's Choice also found it difficult to choose. "My favourite changes nearly every week, depending on what I've watched, read or heard about. For example, this week it would be Scott Eastwood who plays Luke in The Longest Ride. Hot damn he is hot! One of my very, very favourites though is Sandra Bullock, especially in The Blind Side and The Proposal. She plays such diverse roles and is such a beautiful person, apparently in real life too."
 
 
 
 
 
And me?  I absolutely adore Emma Watson.  She's been on our screens for so long that it's easy to forget she's still just twenty-five.  She's so much more than 'just' Hermione, a proactive figurehead in the campaign for gender equality and a firm believer in the value of education.  Plus, she's a bookworm! 
 
 
I'd love to know - who are your favourite film stars?
 
One Night in Los Angeles is published by Tirgearr on 27th January 2016.  It's available to preorder now.