Blog Tour: The Summer Holidays Survival Guide by Jon Rance

8652DD56-1A0A-4349-8002-E1CB8927B139The brilliant Jon Rance is back with his new novel, The Summer Holidays Survival Guide (perfectly timed for the approaching summer holidays.) 

Two parents. Three children. One senile grandad. Six weeks. How bad could it possibly be?

For teacher, Ben Robinson, the school summer holidays mean one thing – spending six weeks with his kids. This year, however, he also has his father and one very angry wife to contend with. The name of the game is simple: survive.

Ben embarks on a summer of self-discovery that includes, amongst other things, becoming besotted by a beautiful Australian backpacker, an accidental Brexit march and a road rage attack. There’s also the matter of saving his marriage, which is proving harder than he imagined, mainly due to an unfortunate pyramid scheme and one quite large bottom.

But when Ben learns his father has a secret, it takes the whole family on a trip to Scotland that will make or break their summer – and perhaps Ben’s life.

On the last day of his blog tour, Jon has joined me today to talk about his evolution as a writer. Welcome Jon. Over to you. 

Hello! A huge thank you to Novel Kicks for having me on their blog. It’s exciting to be here! So, my new book, The Summer Holidays Survival Guide, is out and just 99p for a limited time! Today, the last stop on my blog tour, I’m going to be talking about my evolution as a writer. Let’s get started!

For those of you who don’t know me, The Summer Holidays Survival Guide, is my seventh novel. It all started way back in the heady days of 2011! We had our daughter in 2009 and our son was on the way, and I was a stay-at-home dad. I chose to be a stay-at-home father so I could write. I’d written a couple of unpublished novels, but then I suddenly got my big break. My self-published novel, The Thirtysomething Life, unexpectedly shot up the charts and broke into the Kindle top ten. I was as shocked as anyone. On the back of that success, I got a two-book publishing deal with Hodder and Stoughton and then an agent. My novels are usually comedies that deal with issues like marriage, family, parenting, falling in love, growing up or as it says on my website – author of contemporary novels about life, love, and all the icky bits in-between. I think, to be fair, it’s usually the icky bits in-between I’m most interested in.

2A7B6CE2-B8AE-4242-8001-7A1CEB51920D

So, now you know a bit about me, let’s talk evolution. My first novel, This Thirtysomething Life, was a diary about one man, Harry Spencer, early thirties, trying to get through the pregnancy and birth of his first child. My latest book, The Summer Holidays Survival Guide, is the diary of one man, Ben Robinson, 44, trying to get through the summer holidays with his family. Evolution? Well, yes. I wrote my new book because I realised last summer, as I was on a six-week holiday with my own family through England and Scotland, how far we’ve all come and how much has changed. I wrote, The Summer Holiday Survival Guide, as an update on my first book. It’s what happens down the line when the kids are older, the parents are older, and all the complications that come with that. It was as much a reflection on my own life as anything else.

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Book Review: Daisy’s Vintage Cornish Camper Van by Ali McNamara

Daisy’s vintage Cornish camper vanWelcome to the gorgeous Cornish town of St Felix, where there’s magic in the air…

When Ana inherits a broken-down camper van from her best friend, she takes the chance for a quick trip to Cornwall – some sea air and fish and chips on the beach is just the tonic she needs.

But St Felix has bigger plans for Ana. She discovers a series of unsent postcards, dating back to the 1950s, hidden in the upholstery of the van. Ana knows that it’s a sign: she’ll make sure that the messages reach the person that they were meant for. And as the broken-down van is restored to gleaming health, so Ana begins to find her way back to happiness.

 

When Ana inherits a VW camper van from a friend, she heads to the seaside town of St Felix in Cornwall unsure of what she is going to do with it once she gets back to London.

However, when she arrives at the garage where the van is being stored, she is taken aback at how much work needs to be done to it to even make it road worthy, meaning she will have to stay longer than planned. This is where she meets the handsome Malachi, who promises that he can restore the van to its former glory.

Ana isn’t sure but Malachi seems to be a little flirty.

She also soon meets Noah on her arrival in town along with his shop assistant Jess. When she finds some old postcards hidden in the van, she embarks in a mission to return them to the original owner.

She gradually wonders whether St Felix is going to be better for her than she thought.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Opposites

Novel Kicks Fiction FridayFiction 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: Opposites

Your first character is a shop assistant. They are making it very clear to everyone around them that they are not happy. They are a pessimist.

The customer is having a wonderful day. They are naturally happy and see joy in everything. They are the optimist.

Write a conversation between these two about the weather.

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NK Chats To… Rosie Clarke

rosie clarkeYour latest novel is called Mulberry Lane Babies. Can you tell me a bit about it and what has changed for your characters since the last novel?

New characters and new loves bring changes. Peggy’s husband returns to the lanes and she finds it difficult after being in sole charge of the pub. Janet has to come to terms with her life, and Maureen is busier than ever. They have heard of the new flying bombs the Germans have invented but as yet they have not struck.

However, life is hard enough for the residents. Maureen is the character who has the most to bear in this book. Her motivation is to succeed and hold her family’s business together while looking after her children and her husband. Janet also has too much pain to carry but will eventually move on and Peggy is caught in a dilemma but there is hope that she will be happy one day.

 

What are the challenges with writing a series of books?

Making sure that you get the continuity right and don’t bring in a character that was written out without having a good reason. You need to keep the characters true but they also need to grow and develop, because otherwise they become stale. Also, you need to bring in new characters but still carry on the threads of the earlier books. Most difficult of all is deciding how much of the previous book to retell. Just a hint here and there is probably best, but some readers want to be reminded and others don’t.

 

What was it that drew you to the historical setting? What was the planning process like?

I like the period of the Second World War, because it was poignant and tragic and I know it well. It is also very popular with readers who cannot get enough of it. First of all, you plan your main characters and the setting for their lives and then just decide how they will unfold.

 

What is your typical writing day like? Do you have any rituals or habits?

I write every morning on a laptop. Sometimes I revise in the afternoons. I used to write all day but I find that the morning is when the best ideas come and work done in the afternoon can be laboured. No, I don’t have rituals. I just get on and write.

 

Which song would best describe you and why?

I don’t think I could name a song that describes me. I like country music as well as ballads.

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Blog Tour: One Summer in Italy by Sue Moorcroft

one summer in italyA lovely big welcome to Sue Moorcroft and the blog tour for her latest novel, One Summer in Italy. 

When Sofia Bianchi’s father Aldo dies, it makes her stop and look at things afresh. Having been his carer for so many years, she knows it’s time for her to live her own life – and to fulfil some promises she made to Aldo in his final days.

So there’s nothing for it but to escape to Italy’s Umbrian mountains where, tucked away in a sleepy Italian village, lie plenty of family secrets waiting to be discovered. There, Sofia also finds Amy who is desperately trying to find her way in life after discovering her dad isn’t her biological father.

Sofia sets about helping Amy through this difficult time, but it’s the handsome Levi who proves to be the biggest distraction for Sofia, as her new life starts to take off…

 

Mick Arnold has reviewed the novel, plus Sue has shared a recipe but first, an extract..

*** start of extract***

The next day, Sofia set out down the hill to visit Gianni at Hotel Alba, butterflies doing aerobics in her stomach and Via Virgilio’s crawling traffic loud in her ear. Her thoughts were on what lay ahead – getting to know her uncle’s family. Her family, in fact.

1D420D12-02B0-4A15-8790-97E4C3D82D76At the beginning of her journey she could see Hotel Alba on the facing slope but it was hidden from her view by a multitude of other buildings as she got down into the centre of Montelibertà. Traversing both Piazza Roma and Piazza Santa Lucia, busy with tourists and loud with as many English and American voices as Italian, she followed the route she’d memorised up Corso Musica, a street that, once past the theatre with a sort of bandstand outside, quickly narrowed. It wasn’t until she branched into Corso Sant’Angelo and rounded a sharp bend that Hotel Alba popped into view again.

Sofia paused to drink it in. Tall and white with the ubiquitous terracotta tiled roof, it was probably twice the size and twice the age of Casa Felice, and looked as if it was a cut above. Stonework framed the windows and arched like eyebrows over the doorways. Imposing urns set at intervals around the building were extravagantly planted with red, white and purple petunias. The road and pavement leading up to the hotel were cobbled, and the main doors stood welcomingly ajar.

Subduing an urge to retreat, if only to the nearest large window to check her appearance after a twenty-minute walk, Sofia strolled through the imposing doors, hoping her attack of nerves didn’t show. In the vaulted reception area, the ceiling was hung with impressive glass chandeliers. Walls and ceilings were painted white but the floor was glossy black marble, and the sofas dotted about were black too. Bureaus and side tables were painted a dull pewter. Paintings depicting busy market places and teeming cafés dotted the walls, bold splashes of colour standing out against the otherwise monochrome elegance.

Several guests sat around with either phones or tablets in their hands. Sofia guessed that the best free wifi was in this area.

***end of extract***

 

Sofia’s Lasagne

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Events: Balham Literary Festival

furious city bedlam stacksThe Balham Literary Festival is in its third year.

The festival for 2018 is well underway and has been since the beginning of May. There’s some great events happening throughout June so there is still time to buy tickets to attend.

On 7th June, at 19.00, Oxfam Balham is playing host to Diana Evans and Guy Gunaratne. Guy is the author of In Our Mad and Furious City and he will be joined by Diana Evans, who is the author of Ordinary People.
Entry for this is £5 or if you’d like to have a copy if In Our Mad and Furious City and Ordinary People to take away with you, tickets are £25.

On 9th June, Natasha Pulley, author of The Bedlam Stacks will be in conversation with the author of The Story Keeper, Anna Mazzola.

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NK Chats To… Louise Pentland

Louise PentlandHello Louise, thank you so much for joining me on Novel Kicks today. Your debut novel is called Wilde Like Me. Can you tell me a bit about it and what inspired it?

It’s so thrilling to be a published author, I feel truly honoured to be involved in the publishing industry which I can tell you has some of the nicest people in the world in it. I feel really excited to write more and have a few more books under my belt!

Wilde Like Me is a love story with a difference. It’s not your typical fair maiden being rescued by a prince on his stead. The book’s heroine is 29-year-old single Mum called Robin Wilde, and when we first meet her, she’s finding the gig of being a single parent really tough and is struggling to keep on top of things. Throughout the book, we see Robin battle with what she calls, The Emptiness, and discover the real key to what makes her happy. It’s fun and exciting but also has some really poignant moments which I love. I can also tell you there are definitely some real life inspirations in this book. When I began writing Robin’s story, I was a single working Mum myself, trying out the dating game again, and I knew first-hand what a struggle it can be!

 

What are the challenges with writing a novel especially the first novel? What’s the best part?

I’ve found juggling my time hardest when writing the first novel. I’m a full-time vlogger and a Mummy to 2 little girls so squeezing it all in has been a bit tricky but so worth it when I hear readers tell me what they thought of the characters or what the book has meant to them- that’s by far the best part.

 

What was the planning process like and how has your writing process evolved since your first book compared to the second?

When I first sat down to write Wilde Like Me I really didn’t know how to put a whole book together. I had all these ideas buzzing around but no real skill in making a story arc or keeping it flowing. My editor Eli taught me how to sew chapters together and how to make sure it kept a good momentum so the second book has been much smoother in that respect- and less phone calls to Eli!

 

What is your typical writing day like? Do you have any rituals or habits?

I write best first thing in the morning before I’ve looked at anything else or I’ve distracted myself with other work like editing videos or updating social media, so I try to do a couple of hours as soon as I wake up.

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June’s Novel Kicks Book Club: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Eligible Curtis sittenfeld

Borough Press, 2016

June is here. Was May a long month or was it just me? 

With June comes exceptional weather (so far) and the official longest day. I am loving the lighter evenings and more excuses to curl up in the sunshine with a book.

This month’s title is a modern reworking of Pride & Prejudice.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. 

About the novel…

As usual, I have posted a question to get the discussion going and the great thing about our book club is that anyone can take part and being online, you can do so from the comfort of your own armchair/lounger/bed. 

For sisters Liz and Jane, coming home to suburban Cincinnati means being paraded at the Lucas family’s BBQ, where burgers are served alongside the eligible men.

But it’s difficult to focus on re-booting their love lives when the family’s mock-Tudor house starts to crumble around them.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: On Your Way…

Novel Kicks Fiction FridayFiction 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: On Your Way….

You are asked to leave the only home you’ve ever known. You have no money, no car and the only clothes you have are the clothes you’re wearing plus a blanket you managed to take before you left.

You’re alone. None of your friends want to help or pretend they don’t know you.

Carry on the story.

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Book Review: Shelter by Sarah Franklin

ShelterI am pleased to be welcoming Sarah Franklin to the blog today and the tour for her debut novel, Shelter. 

Early spring 1944.

Connie Granger has escaped her bombed-out city home, finding refuge in the Women’s Timber Corps. For her, this remote community must now serve a secret purpose.

Seppe, an Italian prisoner of war, is haunted by his memories. In the forest camp, he finds a strange kind of freedom.

Their meeting signals new beginnings. But as they are drawn together, the world outside their forest haven is being torn apart. Old certainties are crumbling, and both must now make a life-defining choice.

What price will they pay for freedom? What will they fight to protect?

 

Shelter is a story about WWII told from a unique point of view.

Connie has found herself in the Forest of Dean in the middle of the Second World War. She is training to be a lumberjill. To begin with, she is there to escape things from her past but she also comes to find some solace in the trees.

Seppe is a POW from Italy who has been brought to a camp on the edge of the forest. He doesn’t share some of the views of his fellow prisoners and this doesn’t make him very popular.

It’s not long before Connie and Seppe’s paths cross and something begins to happen that neither of them were expecting.

From the first page, I loved Connie. She has something about her that is very likeable. She isn’t afraid to speak her mind but she’s not cruel. It’s clear she has things she is hiding/escaping from and as these are revealed through the book, it’s not difficult to feel empathy for her.

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Cover Reveal: The Letter – Kitty’s Story by Eliza J. Scott

The Letter - Cover RevealThe Letter – Kitty’s Story by Eliza J. Scott is due for release on 29th June and today I am happy to be taking part in the cover reveal for this book. 

Life is anything but peaceful in the chocolate-box pretty village of Lytell Stangdale, where life unravels, and hearts are broken. Full of heart-warming moments, this book with have you crying tears of joy, laughter and sadness.

Thirty-four-year-old Kitty Bennett is trapped in a loveless marriage to criminal barrister, Dan, who’s gradually isolated her from her family and friends. Until the day she (literally) bumps into her first love, the handsome and easy-going Ollie Cartwright – someone she’s done her best to avoid for as long as she can remember. Looking into Ollie’s eyes awakens feelings for him she thought she’d buried deep years ago, and he clearly feels the spark, too. As she walks away, Kitty can’t help but wonder what might have been…

Dan senses that his marriage is on shaky ground and knows he needs to win his wife round. He turns on the charm, skilfully using their two children, Lucas and Lily, as bargaining tools. But Kitty’s older brother, Jimby, and her childhood best-friends, Molly and Violet, have decided enough is enough. For years they’ve had to watch from afar as Kitty’s been browbeaten into an unrecognisable version of herself. They vow to make her see Dan for what he really is, but their attempts are no match for his finely-honed courtroom skills and, against her better judgement, Kitty agrees to give her husband one last chance. But, all-too-soon, a series of heart-breaking events and a shocking secret throw her life into turmoil…

Will Kitty stand by Dan, or will she be brave enough to take the leap and follow her heart to Ollie?

OK, drumroll please……

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Book Review: The Forever Night Stand by Bena Roberts

Paperback-forevernightstand

Happy Bank Holiday everyone. A big hello to Bena Roberts and the blog tour for her novella, The Forever Night Stand. 

Sara has her back up against the wall. She is recovering from the side effects of chemotherapy and at her own “cancer free” party, she makes a decision that will change her life forever.

The adventure begins when she leaves her posh lifestyle in Scotland and moves in with her Bollywood loving parents, in West London. Her parents are tragically ashamed of Sara’s actions and her electronic monitor. She decides to make them happy again and considers re-marrying.

Enter Raj, a possible hero who comes with the promise of a huge Indian wedding in Goa!

George, the childhood love of her life who seems to be hanging around every corner. Or should she just go back to her husband? Sara faces the biggest dilemma of her life, after making the colossal mistake of her life. What will she do and whom will she choose?

 

My verdict: 

The Forever Night Stand is told from the point of view of Sara and George.

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A Moment With… Elliott Light

GenepoliceElliott Light, author of the Shep Harrington Small Town Mystery Series joins me today to talk about what he’s learned about writing a series and what he wished he’d known before writing one. Over to you, Elliott… 
 
I have recently read several interesting articles about writing a series. The articles provided a lot of insight into the concept and structure behind a literary series. My timing, of course, is a bit off, kind of like reading “Ten Mistakes Do-It-Yourself Submarine Makers Make and How to Avoid Them” after launching my first sub. The good news is that I survived to write another day.

The gist of the guidance offered online is to plan the series before you start writing it. Okay, so I didn’t do that, probably because I didn’t know that I was going to write a series. And to be fair, planning is more important when writing a series that has a single story arc (e.g., The Hobbit, Harry Potter) than it is when writing a series in which the books are episodes that can stand alone (e.g., Sherlock Holmes). But even in an episodic series, the consequences of not planning enough can be catastrophic and are hard to fix.

The Shep Harrington SmallTown® Mystery Series is currently three books: Lonesome Song, Chain Thinking, and The Gene Police (to be released in January 2018). In Lonesome Song, the main character, Shep Harrington, arrives in a small Virginia town (Lyle) and becomes embroiled in the death of Reilly Heartwood. Shep knows most of the people he encounters because his mother is from Lyle and he visited the town as a child. Shep immediately confronts two problems: Reilly’s death has been ruled a suicide and the Reverend Billy will not bury Reilly in the town cemetery. Shep has his own issues; he was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and served three years in prison as a consequence.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Strange Shoes

Novel Kicks Fiction FridayFiction 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: In a strange pair of shoes…

You buy a pair of shoes from a charity shop. They look new and like they’ve never been worn.

However, when you wear them, you assume the identity traits of the person who owned them before.

Write about an incident or event that happens.

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Extract: Shaken and Stirred by Bella Osborne

shaken and stirredHello to Bella Osborne who is returning  with the blog tour for Ottercombe Bay: Shaken and Stirred.

Daisy Wickens has returned to Ottercombe Bay, the picturesque Devon town where her mother died when she was a girl. She plans to leave as soon as her great uncle’s funeral is over, but Great Uncle Reg had other ideas. He’s left Daisy a significant inheritance – an old building in a state of disrepair, which could offer exciting possibilities, but to get it she must stay in Ottercombe Bay for twelve whole months.

With the help of a cast of quirky locals, a few gin cocktails and a black pug with plenty of attitude, Daisy might just turn this into something special. But can she ever hope to be happy among the ghosts of her past?

To celebrate the release of Ottercombe Bay Part Four: Shaken and Stirred, Bella and Avon have shared an extract. Enjoy. 

 

**** Start of Extract.****

The warm spring weather had brought the trees to life, the seagulls were back in full chorus and as the holidaymakers returned the sleepy town was waking up. Daisy needed it to be a good season.

Locos was busy because Easter was fast approaching, the celebrations for which appeared to start early thanks to Daisy’s Singapore Sling cocktail promotion, and she was rushed off her feet.

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