#Blogival: Addicted To Death by Matthew Redford – Extract

Addicted to DeathIt’s my last stop as part of Clink Street Publishing’s #blogival event and I am pleased to be welcoming back Matthew Redford to Novel Kicks. 

About Addicted To Death… 

Following the murder of Benedict and Darcy Blacktail, two eggs savagely beaten to death outside their home by an unknown, fedora wearing assailant brandishing a large metal spoon, Detective Inspector Willie Wortel, carrot and the leading food detective in the police force, is called in to investigate.

When the only food sapiens minister in the Government, Professor Perry Partridge, is murdered at the Strawberry Strip Club, run by the young damson Victoria Plum, DI Wortel suspects that the two cases may somehow be linked.

As the Head of the Food Related Crime Division, DI Wortel is ably assisted by his human colleague Sergeant Dorothy Knox. But as their investigation begins, four celebrity chefs are sent death threats. It’s a recipe for disaster as the incarcerated evil genius MadCow McBeef is seeking parole; someone appears to have crumbled Mr Bramley’s apples; and there is an anti-GM food protestor on the prowl.

And why do Oranges and Lemons think they owe someone five farthings? DI Wortel and his team must find out who is seemingly addicted to death. It will take all efforts – human, fruit and vegetable – to figure this one out.

 

Thanks to Matthew and Clink Street Publishing, I’ve got an extract from his novel, Addicted to Death. Enjoy! 

 

Sour grapes

Wortel eventually prised Dorothy out the KGB offices after hearing more gossip about a tax evasion scam that included many famous celebrities including Gary Barley and Jimmy Carp. Wortel navigated the evening traffic, dropped Dorothy home, wished her a good evening and set off for home himself comforted by the thought of slumping onto his sofa and watching something completely pointless on the television.

The all too familiar sight of a rickshaw parked outside the house caused Wortel to sigh outwardly. Warren. Bang goes a quiet night. He braced himself and opened the front door. And was hit by an overwhelming smell of paint.

“Stella, I’m home. Why can I smell paint?”

“Hello Mr Wortel,” called out Warren. “Mind how you go, the walls in the living room might be a little sticky. I wouldn’t want you to get paint on your suit.”

Stella poked her head out from the kitchen. “I’ll pop the kettle on. I hope you picked up some more that breakfast cereal.”

“What for?” replied Wortel feeling a little confused. “We’ve got four boxes in the cupboard.”

“Down to one box. It’s hard to stop once you’ve had a bowl and Warren certainly worked up an appetite today. He’s worked really hard.”

“Well I’ll have to get some tomorrow now. So, why can I smell paint?”

“Oh bless Warren. I mentioned how I wanted to get some decorating done but you’re always so busy. So he ran me to the superstore, helped me pick up some paint and he set to and painted the room for us.”

With Wortel feeling his shoulders begin to tense he walked into the living room to find the walls decorated a delightful shade of lettuce green.

“Warren thought it was a lovely colour,” said Stella following Wortel into the living room.

Wortel naturally hated the colour out of spite for Warren, and yet as much as he begrudged admitting it, he’d made a bloody good job with the decoration.

As night time approached and Stella insisted that Warren must be far too tired to cycle home, Wortel found himself in the loft recovering the inflatable bed. After blowing up the bed, and putting it into Jack’s room for their new guest, Wortel fled to the bathroom before he heard once again how wonderful Warren had been during the day. God, he hated that rabbit.

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Book Extract: Dating Daisy by DaisyMae_224

eBook Daisy Mae - 9.6.17 - v6Today, I’m so pleased to be a part of the blog tour for Dating Daisy by DaisyMae_224 which was released by Clink Street Publishing on 27th July 2017. 

Here’s a little about Dating Daisy…

What do you do when you’re a newly divorced 52-year-old mother, keen for a second chance of romance? Why internet dating of course! Daisy Mae_224 embarks on the internet dating process with trepidation.

Having not been on the dating scene for nearly 30 years, and with fairly rudimentary computer skills, she finds herself embroiled in a series of haphazard and hilarious situations.

Daisy keeps a diary of her internet dating life and reveals detail by detail, the ups and downs of her midlife dating extravaganza. Soon after starting out, Daisy realises her true mission. With no past experience and no-one/nothing to guide her, she needs to produce – Internet Dating lessons.

Read on to find out about PLONKERS, muppets and MAWDs, and a whole host of amusing anecdotes, tips and ideas. Working by day as a Sexual Health doctor, the story as it unfolds contains accounts of Daisy’s clinical experiences with patients in the Sexual Health clinic.

She also reflects on her past life with Voldemort (the dreadful ex-husband). With advice and encouragement from Imogen, her 17 year old daughter, her surrogate parents known as the Amigos, with a big house and swanky swimming pool, her friend Pinkie and from Jeannie, her nonagenarian friend from the Nursing Home, Daisy resiliently persists in her quest to find a long term partner.

This is a heartfelt story that will ring bells with anyone who has ended a long-term relationship and now wants to find somebody new. It is humorously written, full of emails, poems, limericks, and even a recipe!

Daisy can’t resist her pages of advice on topics like “Kissing” and “Anti-Snoring.” It is a unique and highly amusing book, which will make you laugh out loud! So read on and see. Will Dating Daisy find her “prairie vole?” Or will the whole process end in disaster?

 

Thanks to DaisyMae_224 and Clink Street Publishing, I have extracts from Dating Daisy to share. These also include notes from the author. Enjoy!

Dating Daisy is a humorous novel about Daisy, who aged 52, and newly divorced, plucks up the courage to start internet dating. It is a fiction book but based on the authors’ experiences. In between the dating, she works as a doctor in the Sexual Health Clinic. The book follows the up’s and down’s of this period in her life, and reveals some unpredictable, escapades, that may just make you laugh out loud!

In this first extract, Daisy has bravely done all that was required. With trepidation, as she has not had to think about any sort of dating for three decades, let alone advertise herself on the internet, she has actually completed the profile, uploaded the photo., and then went to bed to sleep on it. The next morning, full of anticipation she logs on, expecting to find a row of possible suitors.

*
Not one wink, smile, email or anything else. I am deflated.
Oh, wait a minute, 37 men have viewed me and one has listed me as a favourite.
One! Out of 37! How can I be so unattractive!

Didn’t I say rhinoceros earlier? Time to think of ugly mammals. Hopefully not because I’m one of them!, but because I have to behave like one. The thicker the skin the better. Didn’t the elephant get his saggy baggy skin by scratching it in the Limpopo River? I need to scratch mine somewhere. It’s getting very itchy.
“What’s wrong with me,” my brain asks Daisy. “Am I so ugly no one wants to speak to me?”
“Now come on,” says the brain, “there are lots of reasons nothing has happened – yet. And it is early.

“You only loaded your profile less than 24 hours ago. It has to be checked by Trust HQ!
“And anyway, remember men are like ostriches, they see a beautiful woman, they stick their head in the sand. You, Daisy, need to lead the way.

“Think about the men on BritainonSunday.com. The Britain on Sunday readers of the UK have just risen early, downed a cooked breakfast and boarded the 6.48 to Clapham Junction. They are probably only now unfurling the daily newspaper, and may not even yet have reached the dating section.

“And how many will be actually online-now? In the rush hour? Don’t be ridiculous!

“And those who do like you, may be shy, they may be poleaxed, frozen with desire, helplessly in love with the tantalising image in the red dress, but uncertain how to make the first move.

“Daisy, you will just have to make the first move yourself. Now what did I say?
“Dazzling, beautiful, smart and alluring.
“Be brave! The world CAN be your oyster.”
*
I chose this extract because disappointments when internet dating are all too common. This is fairly early on this story, and Daisy is quite dismayed to see that the man who gets off the train, is a different person to the one she saw in his photograph on the internet.)

*

Anyhow, I was now driving to meet Henry, this talkative, charming, perfect soulmate who wanted to be my teddy bear, and today Dating Daisy had a date. Nothing was going to get in the way. Jeremy took my love and threw it away. Jeremy is history.

I arrived at the station. The train was due in 20 minutes but it seemed the longest 20 minutes in history. He had texted that he was in the front of the train. I waited in the waiting room as it was very cold that day. I popped in to the ladies to brush my hair and apply a bit more lipstick. What would he think of me, this 53-year-old, Dating Daisy? I was aware that I had my love poem, Finding True Love, folded in a an envelope in my hand bag.

Would I, oh would I, in my wildest dreams, be able to give this to Henry?
The train slowed, a whistle blew, the doors opened. A lot of people were moving about, getting on and off the train. I scanned the front of the train for a tall, balding man with a smiley face.

But what was this. A carriage door opened and a man was smiling and walking towards me. But it wasn’t, it couldn’t be, Henry? I guessed it must be as he was hugging me and grasping my hand. I looked over his left shoulder as he enveloped me on that station platform. I am 5ft8½, and he is shorter than me.

First lie.

Second lie. He didn’t look anything like his photo. The picture I had seen must have been a picture of someone else.

This man had had seriously bad acne, and had a very scarred face. Deep craters peppered his rough complexion. In addition, his cheeks had caved in, rather like an old person who has taken out their false teeth. I knew he didn’t have any hair, so that was not a surprise, but he was very, very bald. And you know what else? He was wearing a purple and green striped shirt over a pair of tatty jeans, and what had I said? No Morris dancers!

*
Daisy continues to work at her day job in the Sexual Health Clinic. The book is interspersed with anecdotes and stories from the clinic.

*
A patient made me laugh today.
She said, “Can I ask you something doctor?”
“Of course,” I said.
“The thing is, I keep getting this pain in my vagina.”
“Ok. Pain in the vagina?”
“Yes, I get it whenever I use two vibrators at once. Have you heard of that before?”
I considered this.
“Well, have you tried only using one vibrator at a time?” I said.
“Now there’s an idea,” she replied.
People can be very strange!

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Extract: The Big Dreams Beach Hotel by Lilly Bartlett

The Big Dreams Beach Hotel Lilly Barlett’s new novel, The Big Dreams Beach Hotel is due to be released by Harper Impulse tomorrow. I am delighted to be able to share with you an extract from Lilly’s new book. First, here’s the blurb… 

Wriggle your toes in the sand and feel the warm breeze on your face at the hotel that’s full of dreams…

Three years after ditching her career in New York City, Rosie never thought she’d still be managing the quaint faded Victorian hotel in her seaside hometown.

What’s worse, the hotel’s new owners are turning it into a copy of their Florida properties. Flamingos and all. Cultures are clashing and the hotel’s residents stand in the way of the developers’ plans. The hotel is both their home and their family.

That’s going to make Rory’s job difficult when he arrives to enforce the changes. And Rosie isn’t exactly on his side, even though it’s the chance to finally restart her career. Rory might be charming, but he’s still there to evict her friends.

How can she follow her dreams if it means ending everyone else’s?

 

The Big Dreams Beach Hotel

Lilly Bartlett

Chapter 1

 

New York is where I fell head over heels for a bloke named Chuck. I know: Chuck. But don’t judge him just because he sounds like he should be sipping ice-cream floats at the drive-in or starring in the homecoming football game. Rah rah, sis boom bah, yay, Chuck!

Believe me, I didn’t plan for a Chuck in my life. But that’s how it happens, isn’t it? One minute you’ve got plans for your career and a future that doesn’t involve the inconvenience of being in love, and the next you’re floating around in full dozy-mare mode.

I won’t lie to you. When Chuck walked into our hotel reception one afternoon in late October, it wasn’t love at first sight. It was lust.

Be still, my fluttering nethers.

Talk about unprofessional. I could hardly focus on what he was saying. Something about organising Christmas parties.

‘To be honest, I don’t really know what I’m doing,’ he confided as he leaned against the reception desk. His face was uncomfortably close to mine, but by then I’d lived in New York for eighteen months. I was used to American space invaders. They’re not being rude, just friendly. And Chuck was definitely friendly.

‘I only started my job about a month ago,’ he told me. ‘It’s my first big assignment, so I really can’t fuck it up. Sorry, I mean mess it up.’ His blue (so dark blue) eyes bore into mine. ‘I’m hoping someone here can help me.’

It took all my willpower not to spring over the desk to his aid. Not that I’m at all athletic. I’d probably have torn my dress, climbed awkwardly over and landed face-first at his feet.

Keep him talking, I thought, so that I could keep staring. He looked quintessentially American, with his square jawline and big straight teeth and air of confidence, even though he’d just confessed to being hopeless at his new job. His brown hair wasn’t too long but also wasn’t too short, wavy and artfully messed up with gel, and his neatly trimmed stubble made me think of lazy Sunday mornings in bed.

See what I mean? Lust.

‘I noticed you on my way back from Starbucks,’ he said.

At first, I thought he meant he’d noticed me. That made me glance in the big mirror on the pillar behind him, where I could just see my reflection from where I was standing. At five-foot four, I was boob-height behind the desk in the gunmetal-grey fitted dress uniform all the front-desk staff had to wear. My wavy dark-red hair was as neat as it ever got. I flashed myself a reflected smile just to check my teeth. Of course, I couldn’t see any detail from where I stood. Only my big horsy mouth. Mum says giant teeth make my face interesting. I think I look a bit like one of the Muppets.

‘Do you have the space for a big party?’ he said. ‘For around four hundred people?’

He didn’t mean he’d noticed me; only the hotel. ‘We’ve got the Grand Ballroom and the whole top floor, which used to be the restaurant and bar. I think it’s even prettier than the ballroom, but it depends on your style and your budget and what you want to do with it.’

Based on his smile, you’d have thought I’d just told him we’d found a donor kidney for his operation. ‘I’ve been looking online, but there are too many choices,’ he said. ‘Plus, my company expects the world.’ He grimaced. ‘They didn’t like the hotel they used last year, or the year before that. I’m in over my head, to be honest. I think I need a guiding hand.’

I had just the hand he was looking for, and some ideas about where to guide it.

But instead of jumping up and down shouting ‘Pick Me, Pick Me!’, I put on my professional hat and gave him our events brochure and the team’s contact details. Because normal hotel receptionists don’t launch themselves into the arms of prospective clients.

When he reached over the desk to shake my hand, I had to resist the urge to bob a curtsy. ‘I’m Chuck Williamson. It was great to meet you, Rosie.’

He knew my name!

‘And thank you for being so nice. You might have saved my ass on this one. I’ll talk to your events people.’ He glanced again at my chest.

He didn’t know my name. He’d simply read my name badge.

No sooner had Chuck exited through the revolving door than my colleague, Digby, said, ‘My God, any more sparks and I’d have had to call the fire department.’

Digby was my best friend at the hotel and also a foreign transplant in Manhattan – where anyone without a 212 area code was foreign. Home for him was some little town in Kansas or Nebraska or somewhere with lots of tornadoes. Hearing Digby speak always made me think of The Wizard of Oz, but despite sounding like he was born on a combine harvester, Digby was clever. He did his degree at Cornell. That’s the Holy Grail for aspiring hotelies (as we’re known).

Digby didn’t let his pedigree go to his head, though, like I probably would have.

‘Just doing my job,’ I told him. But I knew I was blushing.

Our manager, Andi, swore under her breath. ‘That’s the last thing we need right now – some novice with another Christmas party to plan.’

‘That is our job,’ Digby pointed out.

‘Your job is to man the reception desk, Digby.’

Ya vol, Commandant.’ He saluted, before going to the other end of the desk.

‘But we do have room in the schedule, don’t we?’ I asked. Having just come off a rotation in the events department the month before, I knew they were looking for more business in that area. Our room occupancy hadn’t been all the company hoped for over the summer.

‘Plenty of room, no time,’ Andi snapped.

I’d love to tell you that I didn’t think any more about Chuck, that I was a cool twenty-five-year-old living her dream in New York. And it was my dream posting. I still couldn’t believe my luck. Well, luck and about a million hours earning my stripes in the hospitality industry. I’d already done stints in England and one in Sharm El Sheikh – though not in one of those fancy five-star resorts where people clean your sunglasses on the beach. It was a reasonable four-star one.

There’s a big misconception about hotelies that I should probably clear up. People assume that because we spend our days surrounded by luxury, we must live in the same glamour. The reality is 4a.m. wake-ups, meals eaten standing up, cheap living accommodation and, invariably, rain on our day off. Sounds like a blast, doesn’t it?

But I loved it. I loved that I was actually being paid to work in the industry where I did my degree. I loved the satisfied feeling I got every time a guest thanked me for solving a problem. And I loved that I could go anywhere in the world for work.

I especially loved that last part.

But back to Chuck, who’d been stuck in my head since the minute he’d walked through the hotel door.

I guess it was natural, given that I hadn’t had a boyfriend the whole time I’d been in the city. Flirting and a bit of snogging, yes, but nothing you could call a serious relationship.

There wasn’t any time, really, for a social life. That’s why hotelies hang out so much with each other. No one else has the same hours free. So, in the absence of other options, Digby and I were each other’s platonic date. He sounds like the perfect gay best friend, right? Only he wasn’t gay. He just had no interest in me. Nor I in him, which made him the ideal companion – hot enough in that freckle-faced farm-boy way to get into the nightclubs when we finished work at 1 or 2a.m., but not the type to go off shagging and leave me to find my way home on the subway alone.

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NK Chats to…. Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

Avon Books, August 2017

Avon Books, August 2017

Hi Bella. It’s lovely to have you back on Novel Kicks. Your book is called Escape to  Willow Cottage. Can you tell us a little about it?

Hi Laura. I’m so happy to be back, I love you guys!
Escape to Willow Cottage is the story of Beth who is running away from a bad relationship and Carly who is trying to secure the future of hers.
Beth has her young son, Leo, to protect when she impulsively buys Willow Cottage at auction. When she finally uncovers the cottage from underneath the boughs of a weeping willow tree, Beth realises this is far more of a project than she bargained for and the locals are more than a little eccentric! A chance encounter with gruff Jack, who appears to be the only male in the village under thirty, leaves the two of them at odds but it’s not long before Beth realises that Jack has hidden talents that could help her repair more than just Willow Cottage.

 

What’s your writing process like? How has your writing process changed since writing your first novel?

My writing process is very structured. I am a project manager by profession so it feels natural to me to apply the same approach to my writing. I spend a lot of time getting to know my characters and working out my plot and story threads before I start to write. There are always lots of post-it notes involved!
It has changed in that I know a bit more about what I’m doing now whereas with the first book I just happily bumbled along and then did lots of editing later on.

 

If you were able to go back and give yourself advice when you were a new writer, what would you say/tell yourself?

Start writing a whole novel NOW! I have always written but it took until 2013 for me to challenge myself to write a full-length novel and I wish I had done this years ago because I enjoy it so much.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

Shenanigans – it makes me smile.

 

Novel Kicks picWhat are your ideal writing conditions? Any writing rituals? 

Somewhere warm with custard creams – that pretty much covers my requirements. I use our spare bedroom as my writing room but if I win the lottery I would really like a shepherd’s hut – oh well, a girl can dream. I don’t have any writing rituals, as such, but I like to celebrate finishing a novel with a glass of fizz (basically any excuse to pop a cork).

 

What’s the best and also most challenging aspect of being a writer?

The best thing about being a writer is … writing. I know that sounds dumb, but to be able to sit down and write the story that’s in your head is what I was always meant to be doing. If books were banned tomorrow I’d still need to write. When readers enjoy my books that’s the cherry on the cake.
The thing I find most challenging is maintaining focus and not being distracted by new ideas. This was what used to stop me from finishing stories in the past, I would be derailed by a new shiny story that just had to be written. To try to pigeonhole my thoughts I have a file on my computer called ‘Random Thoughts’ where I jot down ideas – it currently stands at twelve thousand words!

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August’s Novel Kicks Book Club: The Other Side of You by Amanda Craig

Abacus, February 2017

Abacus, February 2017

It’s August (although the weather doesn’t always want to catch up,) and it’s time for a new book club title. 

I love books and I love chatting about them even more. For August, the book I have chosen for us is The Other Side of You by Amanda Craig. Who wants to join me? This book is based on Beauty and The Beast (an updated version.)

I have posted a question to kick things off in the comments box below. A good thing about this book club is that everyone is welcome to take part. It’s open to all. You can read the book at any point in the month or if you’ve already read it, tell us what you think.

The best part… it’s all from the comfort of your armchair/sofa/bed/comfy place.

Will must run, or die. He’s seen a murder, and the gang on his estate are after him.

Hurt, hungry and afraid, he comes to an abandoned house in a different part of the city. Behind its high fences is a place of safety. Here, he can hide like a wounded beast. He can find food, and healing – and learn how to do more than survive.

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Blogival: Laura Gascoigne Reads From Her Novel

HA COVER v 2I’m back with Blogival and today, I’d like to welcome a fellow Laura to Novel Kicks. Laura Gascoigne is the author of The Horse’s Arse. 

Patrick Phelan is an ageing artist who has never made it big but who somehow manages to live on air in a North London suburb.

When not running art classes for amateurs, Patrick wrestles in the shed at the bottom of his garden with his life’s work: a series of visionary canvases of The Seven Seals.

When his wheeler-dealer son Marty turns up with a commission from a rich client for some copies of paintings by modern masters, Phelan reluctantly agrees; it means money for his ex-wife Moira. However the deal with Marty is, typically, not what it seems.

What follows is a complex chain of events involving fakery, fraud, kidnapping, murder, the Russian Mafia and a cast of dubious art world characters. A contemporary spin on Joyce Cary’s classic satire The Horse’s Mouth, The Horse’s Arse by Laura Gascoigne is a crime thriller-cum-comic-fable that poses the serious question: where does art go from here?

Today, Laura is reading a section from her novel. Enjoy!

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Blogival: Extract of The Expansion by Christoph Martin

The Expansion CoverIt’s August and the first day of Blogival; a month of bloggers and authors combining to offer reviews, guest posts and more. I am very happy to be part of this fantastic online event. 

Today, I welcome Christoph Martin, author of The Expansion to Novel Kicks.

In politics and big business, truth is a matter of opinion.

Straddling the storyworlds of Panama, Washington and London, The Expansion follows British-born geomatic engineer Max Burns, whose revolutionary water-saving system wins him the esteemed position of head engineer for one of the 21st century’s most politically contested megaprojects: the expansion of the Panama Canal.

For Max it is a dream come true: not only is he able to work closely with construction giant and old high-school friend Godfredo Roco in one of the most beautiful tropical environments, but it’s the kind of job Max has been working toward his entire career.

Yet in the arena of global trade and diplomacy, stakes are high, and when a senior official of the Panama Canal Administration is found dead, Max finds himself in the frame for sabotage and murder, and at the centre of a web of political intrigue and betrayal that reaches far beyond the idyllic shores of Central America. The only person Max can trust is his new-found love, Karis Deen, a scientist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Except Karis herself holds a secret that could not only destroy Max, but could change the entire balance of world power.

 

Today, thanks to Clink Street Publishing and Christoph, I have an extract from The Expansion to share with you. Enjoy!

N.B: This is the scene that changes Max Burns life forever! Losing his parents and with them also the family fortune and a very comfortable and prosperous future.

They had reached a flying altitude of three thousand feet.

His fingers found what they were searching for: the smooth, plastic sheath that guarded the engine’s idle shut-off valve.

It would only take a moment.

Numb, he turned to his wife. She had covered her lips with her hand, and he heard a sob. In the darkness, the diamonds at her throat had lost their fire.

“It’s the best way. I can’t let them put you in jail,” he said. “Max will be able to make a clean start. One day, I hope he’ll forgive me—”

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Novel Kicks Chats to …Caroline Beecham

Caroline Beecham Maggie’s Kitchen is the latest novel from Caroline Beecham (which is due to be released by Ebury Press on 27th July 2017)  and I am happy to be welcoming her to Novel Kicks today. 

When the British Ministry of Food urgently calls for the opening of restaurants to feed tired and hungry Londoners during WWII, aspiring cook Maggie Johnson seems close to realising a long-held dream. After overcoming a tangle of red tape, Maggie’s Kitchen finally opens its doors to the public and Maggie finds that she has an unexpected problem – her restaurant is too popular, and there’s not enough food to go round.

Then Maggie takes twelve-year-old street urchin Robbie under her wing and, through him, is introduced to a dashing Polish refugee, digging for victory on London’s allotments. Between them they will have to break the rules in order to put food on the table, and, perhaps, find love into the bargain…

 

Thank you for joining me today, Caroline. Can you tell me a little about your book, Maggie’s Kitchen and what inspired it?

‘Maggie’s Kitchen’ is a novel that follows the fortunes of Maggie Johnson as she sets up and runs a British Restaurant in London during the Second World War. The story focuses on the relationships that she develops with the community and in particular with Robbie, a twelve-year-old runaway, and Janek, a Polish refugee. Together they struggle through government red-tape to open the restaurant and then battle food shortages and community crisis to keep their doors open.

The novel is inspired by real events and I was intrigued by the fact these restaurants were created to help with the food shortages during the war. It seemed timely to write a story about them given the renewed interest in ‘paddock-to-plate’ and ‘nose-to-tail’ eating and our obsession with food.

The novel includes excerpts from the original Ministry of Food’s War Cookery Leaflets together with recipes that have been updated to suit contemporary tastes. The story is ultimately about hope and finding courage in the most unlikely of places.

 

What are the challenges of writing historical fiction?

Being inspired to write fiction based on real events and/or people and their achievements feels like a real privilege but there is also the danger of becoming too obsessed with your research and wanting to include everything in your book.

The key is to recognise how much detail to use to create the setting and as signposts to make the era authentic, but also remember you are creating a fictional work that needs to be real for your characters.

I’ve learnt that the first step is to recognise when to stop researching and start writing. The next is to know when to leave the research behind and just write freely, knowing that you can go back and check facts and details later; the most important thing is story and character.

That said, I was surprised at how strict the editors were in their fact checking with places, street names, and bus routes from the time for instance, but I suppose that’s good news for readers!

 

What is the best and hardest thing about being a writer?

The best thing about writing is being able to immerse yourself in fascinating subjects and people and different and interesting worlds; and your imagination of course. Initially I had wanted to write non-fiction because of my background working in television as well as to carry on storytelling in a different way after stopping fulltime work when I had children, but then I found myself drawn to fiction because it seemed to offer up more opportunities.

That’s what happened with ‘Maggie’s Kitchen’; I could have developed a documentary about these British Restaurants that few people had heard about but the characters of Maggie, Janek and Robbie emerged quite quickly, and the rest they say is history!

The hardest thing about being a writer is having the space and time to write. Everyone is very busy these days and juggling a family with other work commitments can be challenging.

When people asked what I did before I was published, I used to apologetically explain that I was writing a novel and they either rolled their eyes or were genuinely interested, but I didn’t feel as if I could legitimately say that was my work, even though I was totally committed to it and quite disciplined about spending time writing because I knew the novel wouldn’t write itself and that was what I had to do.

Now I realise that I need space around writing, not just the physical sitting down at the desk or doing research space but real headspace and that’s not always easy to get. I understand now why there are so many writers’ retreats and I think I need to apply for one!

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Novel Kicks Chats To: Kevin Dickson

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Kevin Dickson

Hello Kevin, thank you for joining me t0day on Novel Kicks. Your novel (which you’ve co-written with Jack Ketsoyan) is called Blind Item. Can you tell me about it?

Sure! The idea for Blind Item came out of conversations that Jack Ketsoyan and I had when I was a tabloid editor and he was a publicist with chaotic clients that I needed to do stories on.

After he came to trust me, we would share the darkest things we’d seen in our jobs, and we swore one day that we’d fold them all into a novel.

With Blind Item, we set out to write a dark romance that was set in the real Hollywood, the city were fame is just another job, and being famous is the worst job of all. We wanted to tell a funny, touching and truthful story that used our experiences as a springboard, and we threw in a generous sprinkling of the scandals that we’d seen over the years.

 

You’ve been an entertainment journalist for over twenty five years. How did this help with writing the novel? How much in the book is based on true events? (If you’re allowed to say… obviously.)

For a lot of entertainment journalists, their job entails showing up to interviews and spending very formal time around celebrities. I used to do that job. Once I entered the tabloid world, things became lot more informal.

I’ve always believed in journalistic integrity and if someone says something is off record, it’s off record. I think this surprised a lot of celebrities, but as they came to trust me, I began to get invited to private parties at their houses, and I never sold them out.

For many years, I was able to see a side of Hollywood that doesn’t get reported on. It was fun for a while but like anything that you have to do for work, it got old. But the behavior and the ridiculous excess that I saw definitely informed Blind Item.

The book is a fiction, it’s the story of a group of friends who live a life that’s very similar to both Jack’s and my own, when we were starting out in this town. We then saddled our poor characters with a lot of the lurid things that we saw happen, but I’d imagine that this is something that most writers do, go with what you know, write from your experience, but transform it into something more.

 

Blind Item Cover Final

Imprint, July 2017

What was your typical writing day like when writing Blind Item? Do you have any rituals before sitting down to write (needing coffee, music, silence, etc?)

It’s all about ritual for me. On the days that I was writing Blind Item, I would get up and check my phone exhaustively, literally exhaust the news, email, social media and whatnot, so that it would not distract me (and ultimately, as we entered the home stretch, I deactivated Facebook because of its capacity to enable procrastination.)

Then I would pile my two dogs into my car and go get a ridiculously strong coffee at Starbucks.

I would come home and think about the playlist for the day. I can only write to very few albums. I have to know them inside out. But it changes, and I think the material dictates what music I’m able to write to. For most of Blind Item, I only listened to Nocturne by Siouxsie, Last Splash by the Breeders and Golem by Wand. Just three albums on repeat.

I think they soothe my brain. I don’t hear them while I’m writing but they give my subconscious free reign to go live in that made up world. Once I had exhausted myself for the day, I’d go for a hike to clear out and return to myself.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

It changes all the time. I like animal words, like panda and pangolin. I like palindromes, like kayak. I like onomatopoeia, and I love invented words. I’ve always loved a word I heard in France, I don’t know how to spell it, but it was something like les roploplos, which an old lady told me was a plural noun for really big boobs.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Using Photos For Inspiration

Novel Kicks Writing RoomThis week, we are going to look again at characters you could potentially include in a novel.

Find a photo (an old family one or if it’s easier, one from the internet. There needs to be at least three people in it.)

Look at each individual person, list the following about them;

Ten characteristics.

Five hobbies.

Five likes and dislikes.

Ten things that they would own.

Do any of these people have similarities with any of the characters you are trying to develop?

Add anything to your notes that might be relevant.

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Book Review: The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara

SummerofSerendipityI want to give a big, lovely welcome to Ali McNamara and the blog tour for her new novel, The Summer of Serendipity which has recently been released by Sphere. 

One summer, property seeker, Serendipity Parker finds herself on the beautiful west coast of Ireland, hunting for a home for a wealthy Irish client. But when she finds the perfect house in the small town of Ballykiltara, there’s a problem; nobody seems to know who owns it.

‘The Welcome House’ is a local legend. Its front door is always open for those in need of shelter, and there’s always a plentiful supply of food in the cupboards for the hungry or poor.

While Ren desperately tries to find the owner to see if she can negotiate a sale, she begins to delve deeper into the history and legends that surround the old house and the town. But for a woman who has always been focussed on her work, she’s remarkably distracted by Finn, the attractive manager of the local hotel.
But will she ever discover the real truth behind the mysterious ‘Welcome House’? Or will the house cast its magical spell over Ren and help her to find true happiness?

Serendipity Parker is a property seeker. Finding the perfect home for her client is her priority. When she finds herself in the small Irish town of Ballykiltara, she thinks her search is going to be easy. The Welcome House seems perfect. The problem is, no one knows who owns it.
As Ren begins to research the house and the myths and stories surrounding it, she wonders if she will ever find out who owns this house that seems to always be open to all who need it.

From the title alone, I knew I was going to enjoy this book. Serendipity is one of my favourite words and the title just conjured up the feeling of sun, adventure and romance (the cover lends itself to the romantic feeling of the novel.)

I’ve been a big fan of Ali Mcnamara since her first novel, Notting Hill with Love Actually. I also loved Breakfast at Darcy’s (if you’ve read that, Dermot and Darcy make a small reappearance.)

It was lovely to go back to Tara and the area I loved from that novel and to be honest, it all sounds so charming and picturesque, I am about ready to pack my bags and move there. I can tell that Ali has a real love with Ireland by the way she describes it. The prose is so rich.

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A Moment With… Audrey Davis

FBprofilepicI’m saying a big hello today to Audrey Davis. Her debut novel, A Clean Sweep has just recently been released via eBook.

Love comes around when you least expect it. Fifty-something widow Emily isn’t expecting romance. Nor is she expecting a hunky twenty-something chimney sweep on her doorstep.
Daughter Tabitha knows something isn’t quite right with her relationship, while her boss – Abba-loving Meryl – thinks she’s found the real deal. Are they both right, or pursuing Mr Wrong?
Emily’s sister, Celeste, has the perfect marriage … or does she? Can a fitness tracker lead her down the path to happiness or heartbreak?
Susan is single, overweight and resigned to a life of loneliness. There was the one who got away but you don’t get another try, do you?

Sharing her route to publication, it’s over to you, Audrey.

It’s been five weeks since my first novel – A Clean Sweep – was published on Amazon but I am still giddy with excitement. I am an author! An actual, people-are-buying-my book author (or otter, as my lovely Dutch friend pronounces it). OK, I’m a very long way from topping the best seller list but that’s probably because I’m clueless about the marketing side. More of that in a little while …

My writing journey began several decades ago – yes, I am old – when I trained as a journalist and worked for many years in provincial newspapers and various magazines. My relationship with my now-husband Bill took me to Singapore, Australia and the south of England before we moved to Switzerland in 2002. Along the way we raised two boys, now all grown up and living in the UK, but we remained in the land of cheese and chocolate. Any dreams of writing were put aside as I focused on never-ending house renovations which still challenge my French-speaking abilities but at least I provide entertainment for the local workers.

It was in February 2016 that I signed up for a Start Writing Fiction course run by Future Learn, an offshoot of Open University. Within a few weeks I was totally hooked, exchanging ideas and reviews with fellow students from all over the world. It was one short exercise that gave me the idea for a longer story which then grew … and grew. With no firm plot in mind I found characters popping into my head, along with vague notions of what might happen to them. Five thousand words became twenty thousand and on it went. I ran sample chapters by friends who were effusive in their praise (probably because they are very nice and polite people.)

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Secondary Character Development

rp_writeanything-300x19911-300x1991-300x1991-300x199-300x1991-300x199-300x199-1-1-1-1-1-300x199-1-1-1-1-300x199-1-1-300x199-300x199-1-1-1-1-300x199-1-300x199-1-1-300x199-1-300x199-300x199-1.jpgIn today’s Writing Room, the focus is on character.

Pick a secondary character from your work in progress

Write down five things that have happened in their lives that have been significant. Be as specific as you can. Once you’re done, expand on the event that you are most drawn to. You can use a character in your favourite book if you’d prefer. When expanding on this event, also note down how this has impacted on your plot.

For example, in my work in progress, there is a character named Maggie. She’s the mother of my main character, Carrie.

Significant event – husband left her with two children.

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Book Review: Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft

Sphere, June 2017

Sphere, June 2017

When twenty-two-year-old Olivia is coerced into marriage by the cruel Alistair Sheldon she leaves England for Egypt, his home and the land of her own childhood. Reluctant as she is to go with Alistair, it’s in her new home that she finds happiness in surprising places: she is reunited with her long-estranged sister, Clara, and falls – impossibly and illicitly – in love with her husband’s boarder, Captain Edward Bertram.

Then Clara is abducted from one of the busiest streets in the city. Olivia is told it’s thieves after ransom money, but she’s convinced there’s more to it. As she sets out to discover what’s happened to the sister she’s only just begun to know, she falls deeper into the shadowy underworld of Alexandria, putting her own life, and her chance at a future with Edward, the only man she’s ever loved, at risk. Because, determined as Olivia is to find Clara, there are others who will stop at nothing to conceal what’s become of her.

Beneath the Burning Sky focuses on twenty-one year old Olivia. She has been forced into marriage to Alistair Sheldon and is moved from England to Egypt where she grew up as a child.

Alistair is not the loving husband. The only thing keeping her going is the chance to see her sister whom she’s not seen for years and Edward, who is a Captain in the army and is living with Alistair and Olivia.

When her sister Clara goes missing, Olivia is frantic trying to find out what happened to her. The men are not forthcoming with any details only telling her it is someone after ransom money and Olivia finds herself shut out of the search for Clara.

When this book begins, you are immediately pulled into the plot. Olivia is in a place she has not seen since she was a child and you really do feel her trepidation as she arrives in Egypt. The description of her surroundings is rich and compelling.

I really wanted to keep reading to find out what happens to these women. It’s set in the 1800’s where women in this setting were pretty much treated like property and something that should be content with being controlled.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Being The Smartest Person in the Room

rp_friday-300x16411111111111111-300x164-300x1641-300x164-300x1641-300x16411-300x164-300x164-300x1641-300x1641-300x164-300x164-300x1641-300x164-300x164-1-1-1-1-1-300x164-1-1-300x164-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1.pngFiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can. Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

Today’s prompt is about getting what you want and the consequences. 

You wake up to find that you are the smartest person in the world which will allow you to get everything that you want. Fame, money, power. However, nothing is free. When someone gets luck, someone isn’t so lucky. Write from both perspectives with the two characters meeting up at the end.

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