Blog Tour

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 I’d written a couple of unpublished novels, but then I suddenly got my big break.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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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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Book Extract: 29 Seconds by T M Logan

29 SECONDS29 Seconds is the new novel from T M Logan and was released by Zaffre on 8th March. 

Give me one name. One person. And I will make them disappear . . .

When Sarah rescues a young girl in trouble, she expects nothing in return. But her act of bravery puts a powerful and dangerous man in her debt. He lives by his own brutal code, and all debts must be repaid – in the only way he knows how.

He offers Sarah a way to solve a desperate situation with her intolerable boss. A once-in-a-lifetime deal that will make all her problems disappear.

No consequences. No comeback. No chance of being found out.

All it takes is a 29 second phone call.

BECAUSE EVERYONE HAS A NAME TO GIVE. DON’T THEY?

 

TM Logan and Zaffre have shared an extract from 29 seconds today. Enjoy! 

******

This time Sarah couldn’t stop the tears. She stood with both hands on the back of her chair, head down, shaking with emotion as great racking sobs tore through her. This wasn’t happening. But crying was a luxury she couldn’t afford: she didn’t have the time. She found a tissue and wrenched her office door open, stumbling down the stairs, wiping at her eyes as she went. She ignored the concerned looks of two students in the front lobby, pushed through the double doors into the car park and almost bowled over Marie coming the other way.

‘Sarah,’ Marie said, taking a step back. ‘You OK? What happened?’

Sarah shook her head but kept on walking. ‘Fine. I have to go.’

‘You don’t look fine.’ ‘I have to get the kids.’

‘What did he say? Are you OK? I texted you.’ Sarah stopped and turned, still shaking with anger. ‘I think I’ve finally had enough. God, I hate him.’ Marie handed her a tissue.

‘You didn’t get the contract?’

‘No, I didn’t bloody get it!’ Her voice cracked as she tried to get the words out.

‘I’m sorry, Sarah.’

‘Sorry.’ She swiped angrily at fresh tears. ‘I’m not having a go at you.’

Marie placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

‘I know. I can’t believe it, though. What are you going to do?’ ‘No idea. I have literally no idea.’

‘D’you think he gave the contract to Webber-Smythe?’

‘I don’t know. I think so. Look, I have to pick up the kids from school.’

‘I’ll text you.’

Sarah nodded and turned away. She got straight into the driver’s seat of the car, shoved the phone into its cradle on the dashboard, and turned the key in the ignition. She reversed out and gunned the engine, weaving through groups of students as she headed down the hill.

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Claudia Carroll: Starting to Write a New Novel…

Claudia Our Little Secret JacketThe blog tour train is here. Today, Claudia Carroll joins me to talk about her process when writing a new book. Her latest novel, Our Little Secret was released by Avon on 8th February. 

Over to you, Claudia.

Before starting any new book, I’d write out a pitch for it first, just a page or so, nice and short. Then I send it to my agent and editor and see what they think. If I get the thumbs up from them, one of my little tips is to write it out as a short story first, nothing that’ll ever see the light of day, it’s just an exercise for me really, to see if the story idea has legs. Sometimes, I’ll start the short story and the fizz will run out of it, in which case I know that it’s back to the drawing board for me. But if the short story leaves me feeling there’s so much more I want to write, but don’t have room for, then I know I’m onto something.

When it comes to plot, I’m a planner and I think every author is, really. I always think that starting off a novel without a plan is like getting into a car without knowing where you’re going…you’ll just end up driving round in circles.

Once my editor, agent and I have agreed on a pitch, then I do a skeleton outline of any new story before I’d even sit down to write a line. It makes life so much easier later on, on the days when I find I’m a bit stuck. It takes me quite a long time to get to really know my characters, so I’d begin by writing out a rough biography for everyone of them, to try to make them as three dimensional as possible, it helps me hugely.

A reader will quickly lose interest if they just don’t like the hero or heroine. You really have to try to layer them carefully so that they really jump off the page. Remember at the start of a new book, you’re asking a reader to go on a 400 page journey with your characters, and particularly your leading lady, so it’s vital to get character right early on.

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NK Chats To… Rhiannon Navin

DB69C4AA-BCAB-4E13-BB7F-527E04EC847DOnly Child is the debut novel from Rhiannon Navin (released by Mantle on 8th February,) and I am so pleased to welcome her blog tour to Novel Kicks today. Rhiannon, your novel sounds like such a powerful read. Can you tell me about Only Child and what inspired it?

ONLY CHILD is the story of six-year old Zach, told from his perspective, who lives through the terrifying trauma of a shooting at his school. During his rampage, the gunman takes nineteen lives and Zach’s formerly tight-knit community is left shattered. While the adults in Zach’s life, especially his parents, deal with their grief in all-consuming ways, Zach is mostly left to his own devices to confront the after effects of the trauma he’s had to endure and his feelings of grief and fear. I found the inspiration for ONLY CHILD in a personal experience that occurred in my life a couple of years ago, when my twins were five years old. They had just started Kindergarten when they had to participate in their first “lockdown drill” at school. Lockdown drills are a common practice here in the U.S. where, unfortunately, mass shootings happen on an almost daily basis. Children as young as five years old, or even younger, have to practice how to take cover in the event that a shooter might come to their school and try to kill them. On the day of my twins’ first drill I found my little Garrett hiding underneath our dining room table. He said he was “hiding from the bad guy,” and he was petrified. That really hit me incredibly hard and led me to want to explore what living through an actual horrifying event like a school shooting and its aftermath would look and feel like through the eyes of a child.

 

Can you describe your writing process from idea, planning, writing and editing.

ONLY CHILD was my first writing experience, so I really made up my writing “process” as I went along. The idea for the story came to me in a flash and I scribbled down the first few scenes rather furiously in one of my children’s school notebooks. A few chapters in I realized that I should probably take a step back and plan out my story a little; get to know my characters and picture where they might be headed. I read a few books on writing (Stephen King, Anne Lamott!) and a few more technical books on outlining a novel and I went to work creating a loose game plan for the book. I found that, at times, the game plan helped me navigate my way through the story and other times, the story itself took me down a totally unexpected path. I was incredibly fortunate to find a fantastic writing coach who helped guide me throughout the entire journey of writing my first, second, third…I don’t quite remember how many drafts exactly. I wrote ONLY CHILD in about a year, give or take, and when my writing coach and I thought I was in a good place with it, she also helped guide me through the querying process.

 

Do you have any writing rituals – coffee? Writing in silence?

No real rituals, but I try to set myself up in a situation that (theoretically) eliminates any excuses to get up for at least a couple of hours. That begins with having walked the dog, checked and responded to all urgent emails, having gone to the bathroom, and prepared a cup of tea (to be sipped slowly in order to not repeat the previous step too soon.) It also includes placing my phone clearly out of my reach—that’s one of the toughies. It’s incredible, the kind of pull your phone has on you, especially on the days when your mind wanders and you’re looking for an excuse to do anything BUT write. I need to know that I have a long, interruption-free window ahead of me; otherwise I can’t relax enough to dive in.

 

What are the most challenging things about being a writer?

When I first started writing ONLY CHILD, I wrote without any expectations. I didn’t expect anyone to necessarily even read it, let alone to find an agent, or a publisher. It was a wonderful first writing experience for me because I had found this story that grabbed me and pulled me in, and I only focused on that. If anything was challenging for me at the time, it was allowing myself to take the time to write the story, and to justify putting writing ahead of other things in my life—the laundry, the dirty dishes in the sink. Now, the most challenging thing about being a writer is the question: “How is book number two coming?”

 

A7B0B4A2-6CB6-4A39-9B9E-A62B383F50CDWhich authors do you admire and why?

Wow—there are so many authors I admire. I don’t even know where to begin. Anne Lamott pops into my head immediately. I just love how authentic she is and unapologetic about how messy and unglamorous and hard writing is. And she is absolutely hilarious. I love any writer who can make me laugh out loud. Amor Towles falls into that same category. I’m currently reading “A Gentleman in Moscow” (yes, I know I’m very late to the party) and this story makes me laugh all the time. His writing is absolutely beautiful, every word is placed just so. I admire J.K. Rowling so very much. Her personal story of overcoming adversity is very inspiring and I’m in awe of how she’s managed to turn a whole generation—and many more generations to come—of children into lovers of books. And adults, too! I’ve seen it happen first-hand with my older son. He read the whole series when he was quite young, in first grade, and he’s been hooked on books ever since. J.K. Rowling literally helped my son discover his love for reading.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

If I really have to choose one (!) favourite word, it will have to be “Wanderlust.” Which is a German word that doesn’t really have an English equivalent or literal translation. It means “a strong desire to travel;” and I do love to travel more than anything. But beyond just the literal sense of feeling the urge to travel, I like to use the word “Wanderlust” to describe the desire, or the bravery, to step outside of your comfort zone, to explore and try out new things, to expand your horizon. So, I hope to always have “Wanderlust,” in all aspects of my life. My second favourite word is champagne.

 

Are you working on anything at the moment? Are you able to tell me a little about it?

Yes, I am and I’m beginning to feel it pulling me in the way ONLY CHILD did at the beginning. But I’m going to wait a while longer to talk about it if that’s OK.

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NK Chats To… Daniela Tully

Daniela-Tully-webDaniela Tully’s debut novel, Hotel on Shadow Lake was released by Legend Press on 1st February. It’s lovely to welcome you and the blog tour to Novel Kicks today, Daniela. What’s your book about and what inspired the story?

Thank you for having me! Let me start with what inspired the story: my grandmother had a twin brother, a German fighter plane pilot, who died during WWII. As he felt his death nearing, he wrote a farewell letter to my grandmother and their mother, at the end of 1944. That letter, however, was held up in the East, when the Berlin Wall was erected, and only reached my grandmother in 1990, after the Wall had come down. The letter in my novel contains much more than a “simple” good bye (the reader doesn’t learn the content until the end). In my novel, the recipient disappears without a trace after receiving the letter. Twenty-seven years later, a landslide in upstate New York uncovers her remains. Her granddaughter back in Germany thought she had come to terms with the disappearance of her grandmother, who was her surrogate mother, her best friend, and a storyteller of spellbinding, mystical fairy tales. But when her grandmother’s body is found in a country her grandmother had no connections with, the granddaughter begins to question everything. Who was this woman? What made her leave Germany? What were her ties to the captivating yet chilling Montgomery Hotel, located near the site of her death? As Maya seeks answers in the States, she finds herself sidetracked by her own assumed identity—and how much it enchants the charming heir of the Montgomery dynasty. She soon discovers that the best way to the truth about her grandmother might be through surrendering herself to the majestic Montgomery Hotel, the strange family that owns it, and the spirits that live on in the dark surrounding wilderness…

In the plot strand set in the past, the reader travels with Maya’s grandmother, Martha Wiesberg (Martha was also my grandmother’s Christian name) to a Germany on the cusp of World War II. And later in the novel we return there again, but for reasons that I cannot disclose here, as they are not only connected to the twist in my story, but also deliver some of the reasons why Martha Wiesberg disappeared in 1990 – and why she had to die. It also sheds light on a historical aspect of the Second World War that hasn’t received too much attention yet, but one I find a fascinating angle.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Do you have any writing rituals? 

I often made attempts to write from home, but they have never been as fruitful as those times when I leave the house to write. I write best on the move (road trips, planes, trains) and second best in a public setting like a coffee shop.

 

HoSL_high res coverWhat planning did you do prior to beginning the novel? Do you have any planning tips to share? 

I don’t know the entire plot before I start writing. With Hotel on Shadow Lake, I knew the first scene and the final one, but not every plot point in between. And my writing process got hung up on that at first. My husband, who is a screenwriter himself, suggested to me to just start writing those scenes I already had in my head, a wise piece of advice, because from then on the flow became natural; the characters, as clichéd as this might sound, did start talking to me at some point, telling me what to do.

 

Did you prefer to have a complete first draft before editing and how do you think is the best way to approach the editing process?

Yes, I do prefer to have a complete draft before digging into changes. As this is my debut novel, I was probably more protective of my words than other more seasoned writers, so at first I was always on the defensive, instead of embracing those changes that improved the pacing.

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Book Extract & Review – Part Two of the Ottercombe Bay Series by Bella Osborne

Ottercombe Bay Part 2A lovely big hello to Bella Osborne who is returning to the blog today with the blog tour for Ottercombe Bay: Gin and Trouble, part two in a four-part serialisation. 

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 Gin and Trouble, Bella and Avon have shared an extract. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 

 

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

Jason was turning out to be a useful person to know. As the local bobby, everyone knew him and therefore he had a wide network he could tap into, particularly as he had a colleague with an uncle working in the local planning department. After a warm-up phone call from Jason he was happy to meet Daisy for a chat. She had made an effort, steered clear of both espresso and Bug’s furry patch on the sofa, and she felt ready for her meeting.

An older-looking gent with thinning hair and thick glasses collected her from the waiting area at the council offices and they did introductions.

‘Thanks for meeting me,’ said Daisy, starting to feel a little less prepared as she followed him into an office and saw a mountain of paper on his desk.

‘No problem but you will need to submit a formal application through the proper process. Anything discussed here today does not in any way constitute agreement of any changes to the property or land we are discussing. I hope you appreciate this?’

Daisy swallowed hard. With formal wording like that he would get on well with Great Uncle Reg’s solicitor. She hadn’t even suggested anything yet and she was being told off. ‘Yes, of course. I’m just looking for guidance. Some ballpark areas that may be worth exploring.’

‘This is the last application we received for the property,’ said the planning officer, passing Daisy a pile of papers. She had a quick flick through and spotted some blueprints – it looked like her grandfather had taken the whole thing seriously and spent some money in the process.

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Extract: Recluse Millionaire, Reluctant Bride by Sun Chara

Recluse MillionaireRecluse Millionaire, Reluctant Bride by Sun Chara has been released today by HarperImpulse. 

Is his reluctant bride a business risk or a personal necessity?

Stan Rogers, recluse millionaire, must negotiate a risky deal with Stella Ryan, the exotic beauty from his past, to gain custody of his son. But how can he close the deal with her, the one and only woman who flips his switches and pegs him as the enemy?

Martial artist Stella knows she should steer clear of Stan, the man who had shattered her heart and could still destroy her. Four years have passed since their hostile business deal, and now, the American financier is proposing holy matrimony…but she’s the reluctant bride wondering, what’s he up to?

 

To celebrate the release of her new book, Sun Chara and HarperImpulse have shared an extract. Enjoy!

Chapter 3

“Doesn’t look like snow to me, not by a long shot,” she said again. “At least not for another couple of months.”

“We like to be prepared in case it’s early this year.” He hauled himself off the sofa and reached out for the blanket and pillow.

She clutched them tighter, like a protective device. “What about trekking to the limo and driving from there?”

“Not in this darkness, unless it’s an absolute emergency,” he said, tone flat. “Dangerous, especially if you’re not familiar with the trail.”

“To me, this is an emergency.”

“Not enough to risk a broken leg in a pot hole? Be serious, Ms. Ryan.” He raised a brow. “What’s one more day going to matter? You could leave early tomorrow without risk.”

What he said made sense, but she didn’t have to like it. She certainly didn’t want to stay shacked up with him, miles from anywhere. It was time to be proactive, and get her own ticket outa this sticky mess.

“You’re invited for dinner. Minni ’ll—”

“I’m not hungry.”

“Fine.”

His indifference infuriated…then she glanced down at the bedding in

her hands. Odd, she hadn’t had them when she first lay down by the fireside.

She frowned, and an image pushed its way to the forefront of her mind. Somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, she’d felt a gentle hand lift her head and slip the pillow beneath…cover her with the blanket. She thought she’d been dreaming but—

“Did…uh…you bring the blanket?”

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12 Days of Clink Street Christmas: Extract From The Shield by C.J. Bentley

The Shield CoverIt’s time for the 12 Days of Clink Street Christmas and today, author C.J. Bentley joins me with her book, The Shield which is book one in the Finder Series.

People lose their belongings. That is a fact of life. It can happen by accident, but sometimes it can happen when you put them in a very safe place and forget where that safe place is. Not many people are good at finding them again.

A young, gutsy girl with a kind heart, who’s searching for her own identity growing up in the 1960s, just happens to be very good at finding things. Can she be the one to help return whatever is lost – anywhere and at any time – to its original owner? 

With the help of a beautiful yet mysterious wise woman and a chivalrous knight she does just that. She finds and returns his shield, lost in battle, which unbeknown to her holds a secret that is important to his King, the safety of the Kingdom and the life of the daughter of his best friend.
The Shield is the first story in The Finder Series, taking our heroine on extraordinary journeys back in time. Her first adventure takes place in Medieval England in 1340 where she meets King Edward III, his wife Philippa and their son, who will later become the Black Prince.

 

C.J. Bentley has shared an extract from The Shield with us today. 

“Can you lot see that dust cloud over there?” Jeanette was facing the field and had to move her head to where she meant as her hands were full. “It looks as though it’s coming this way I wonder what it could be”.

“Sometimes you get dust clouds when there hasn’t been much rain, the wind whips up and disturbs the dust, you know a bit like in the desert, mini tornados”, Richard liked his geography just as I liked my history. As we were so intent on carrying the heavy shield between us and joking as to who the first person to let go would be, we didn’t notice what was happening in the distance.

“Can you lot move around so I can see, my back is where you are looking,” Hugh turning studied the dust cloud for a while, “looks like a horse coming towards us don’t you think?”

“I think you must be eating lots of carrots if you can see a horse that far away,’ Linda moved her head round and watched the dust cloud approach, “do you know Hugh I think you are right it is a horse with somebody riding it and quite fast, looks like some sort of a flag flying too”.

“I think we should put this down and run,” Richard looked quite scared.

“Don’t be daft you lot, it’s probably one of the girls from the riding stables riding towards us trying to frighten us, if we stand our ground she will stop”. I wished I felt as confident as I sounded but something about the ‘cloud’ coming towards us reminded me of something, something, or someone, it couldn’t possibly be what I thought it was.

The way the person confidently rode the horse and looked to be encased in shiny armour which flashed as the sun hit it, the white horse moved in a colourful swathe of material in blues and reds, swirling around his legs as he galloped towards us. The shine of the rider’s metal suit of armour. The long pole from his foot to past his head, which was encased with a plumed helmet, was flying a coloured flag on the top. It all reminded me of my favourite book, ‘Ivanhoe’. What we were looking at was surely an apparition, my imagination playing tricks on me, but on the others too. Strange we could all see it, so no apparition then.

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My Writing Ramblings: The Season of Literary Abandon Approaches

rp_Laura-Book-300x2251-300x2251-300x225-300x225-1-300x225-1-1-300x225-1-300x225.jpgI love summer but I love when Autumn rolls around too and it’s for a few reasons. The colour of the trees, the excuse to cuddle up under a duvet as the weather gets cooler, Halloween and Christmas. I even love listening to the sound of the rain on the roof. Yeah, I am strange.

Another reason why I get so excited for this time of year is that the countdown has begun for National Novel Writing Month.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with NaNoWriMo, it is ‘thirty days of literary abandon.’

Founded by a group of writers in San Francisco in 1999, the idea is that for thirty days between 1st – 30th November, we tell the internal editor to leave us alone and just write. It’s all about getting the fifty thousand words written rather than worry about the quality. There is a whole load of advice on how to approach editing once the challenge is done.

My internal editor has a lot to answer for and I think this is why I love this chance to say goodbye to it for a while. The community surrounding NaNoWriMo is incredible and so supportive. I really feel like I am a part of something.

This will be my seventh year participating but it still hasn’t lost any of its excitement.

Your book can be in any genre and POV you like.

My routine is that I buy a new notebook in October. I know, any excuse right? I always set out to plan what I am going to write. Some years have a more detailed outline than others and more often than not I will start out with a plan and end up a pantster by the end of the month. That’s part of the fun.

The advantage of this challenge is the fact that by the end, you will have words down on paper or computer. Even if you don’t finish, you will still have more words written than you did at the beginning of the month. It’s a fun way to write.

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Book Review: Broadcast by Liam Brown

Broadcast_High Res CoverI am delighted to be saying hi to Liam Brown today and kicking off the blog tour for his new novel, Broadcast which was released by Legend Press on 15th September 2017.

The idea behind MindCast is simple. We insert a small chip into your skull and then every thought, every feeling, every memory is streamed live, twenty-four hours a day. Trust me – within a few months you’ll be the most talked about person on the planet.

When David Callow is offered the lead role in a revolutionary new online show, he snatches at the opportunity.

Rapidly becoming a viral sensation, David is propelled to stratospheric levels of celebrity. However, he soon realises the downside of sharing every secret with the world.

A prisoner to both his fame and his own thoughts, David seeks to have the chip removed, only to discover the chilling secret lurking at the heart of MindCast, and the terrifying ambition the show’s creator has for him.

Broadcast by Liam Brown follows David. He makes his living making videos and sharing every aspect of his life on the internet. When he is recruited to try a new technology that will take his videos to the next level, reluctantly he agrees.

Little does he know what he is letting himself in for and how much of himself he will reveal to the viewing public of the world.

The premise of this book interested me even before I started reading. It has been billed as a ‘Truman Show like nightmare for the You Tube generation,’ and that is a pretty accurate description.

This book explores the themes of the current social media obsession. The need to share aspects of our lives with strangers. When we meet him, David thinks he has the world at his feet. His videos make him a comfortable living and he seems to be happy sharing his life with the world.

Many of the characters in this book felt untrustworthy to me and like David, I didn’t know who was on his side. The doubt and confusion David feels comes across so well.

Like the internet, not a lot is as it seems. Broadcast also makes me think of the saying, ‘be careful what you wish for.’

Once he has signed himself up, it was intriguing to see how he copes with it and how much of his privacy he is really surrendering. This book, despite having finished it is one I just can’t get out of my head.

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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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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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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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NK Chats to… Penny Parkes

Penny Parkes has joined me today to talk about her new book, Practice Makes Perfect (released by Simon & Schuster on 29th June 2017.) Thank you for joining me today and congratulations for your new book. Can you tell me a little about Practice Makes Perfect?51b9ZXV0PiL

Well, Practice Makes Perfect takes us to the fictional Cotswold market town of Larkford, where we sneak behind the scenes of the medical centre there – The Larkford Practice. There’s a whole new management structure in place. In fact, the four senior doctors are not only entwined professionally, but also personally: 4 partners, 2 couples. So, I’m sure you can imagine how the boundaries between personal and professional become ever more blurry.

On the surface it might seem like the perfect situation and the powers-that-be certainly think so, because they’ve nominated Larkford as a Model Practice. But, as is often the case, if you shine a spotlight on things, it does rather tend to emphasise the flaws…

And, as always in Larkford, we get to see the doctors as a crucial part of their community – in good times and in bad. For Dr Holly Graham, in particular, that relationship works in both directions, as resident celebrity Elsie Townsend makes it her mission to help Holly find balance and fulfilment.

I’m hoping it will be like visiting old friends for those returning to the series after Out Of Practice and also stand alone as a wonderfully rural escapade for those new to the Larkford Valley.

 

What’s your writing day and routine like? Any rituals? 

I have to be fairly flexible, to be honest, to fit around family life, but that doesn’t stop me having an ‘ideal day’ that I try to work towards.  I normally see the kids off to school and then have my breakfast – an excellent excuse to muck about on social media while I top up my caffeine levels. Then, The Ginger Ninja and I like to have a little stroll, and this mainly serves not only to wear her out, but also to give me time to think about what I want to write that day. I have found (to my cost) that I am much more efficient if I sit down to type with an idea of where I want the story to go… Even if my characters don’t always behave themselves accordingly once I get started!

 

What type of writer are you in terms of planning and editing? 

I’d have to say that I’m a little of both – I like to sketch out a loose framework and then just let the plotlines develop on their own with a first draft. Only then will I start looking at the balance of points of view and more specific character arcs etc. and of course that’s where my incredibly insightful and lovely Editor, Jo, comes in with some much needed objectivity!

 

Do you have any advice for anyone experiencing writer’s block? 

I think the only thing to be aware of is that, creatively, you can’t drink from an empty cup – if you’re exhausted or ill or hammering out the words simply to up the word count, I think it shows in the quality of those words. Half the time, the days when I’ve pushed through writing with the flu, for example, all those pages have ended up on the cutting room floor anyway! Sometimes better to step away – rest, recover, see a friend – and then suddenly a chance comment in the queue at the supermarket will set my enquiring mind off on a roll… Inspiration is everywhere really, except possibly staring at a blank screen!

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