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A Moment With…Three of my Favourite Scenes by J. Paul Henderson

larry and the dog peopleJ. Paul Henderson’s latest book, Larry and The Dog People was recently released by No Exit Press.

Larry MaCabe is a man who needs people more than most… The problem for Larry is that most people have little need for him.

Larry MacCabe is a retired academic, a widower, and until a chance meeting with the administrator of a care home, also friendless. At her suggestion, he adopts a Basset Hound and joins her one Saturday at the local park. He becomes a regular visitor, and for the first time in his life the member of a gang.

While his new companions prepare for the annual Blessing of the Animals service on the Feast Day of St Francis, Larry puts the finishing touches to a conference paper he’s due to present in Jerusalem and arranges a house-sitter.

Neither the service nor his visit to Israel go to plan, and on his return Larry is charged with conspiring to blow up a church and complicity in the deaths of four people. All that stands between him and conviction is a personal injury lawyer and things for Larry aren’t looking good…

 

Today, J Paul Henderson shares his three favourite scenes from his latest novel.

 

It would be good to say that I enjoyed writing all the scenes in Larry and the Dog People, but I didn’t.  It’s the same with all books:  there are some scenes you have to write in a story – and these you work on the hardest – and there are scenes you want to write.  Fortunately, the former are far fewer in number than the latter, and it would have been easier to pinpoint three of these than choose from the ones I enjoyed writing.  That said, these are three of my favourites.

 

Laura’s relationship with her Aunt Elizabeth (Chapter 2)

Laura Parker grows up on a small dairy farm in Vermont, where life is uncomplicated: people milk cows and that’s about it.  When she’s fifteen, the family is informed that a distant relative, Elizabeth Longtoe, has been taken into care and placed in a nursing home in nearby Brattleboro.

Elizabeth is the first cousin of Laura’s deceased grandmother, an invalid and alone in the world. To all but Laura, she remains a distant and therefore unimportant relative.  Although her parents do visit occasionally – more out of duty than love – it’s Laura who heads to the nursing home on a regular basis, and a bond develops between the two women.  The experience of visiting her great-aunt is also the impetus for her future career in care administration.

Elizabeth Longtoe is a kindly soul and stoical. She’s had a hard life, complicated by the fact that she married outside her race, but is accepting of its hardships and has no regrets.  She’s a person who counts her blessings, no matter how few they’ve been, and she appreciates that there are others in the world worse off than her.  (I’d like to think that I was Elizabeth Longtoe, but needless to say I’m not.)

The conversations between Laura and her great-aunt happen over time, but are structured as a continuous monologue. Below is an excerpt.

“Children? No, we weren’t blessed that way, dear.  It wasn’t meant to be.  And maybe that was a good thing, because there were times when we couldn’t even afford to put food in our own mouths.  I know what you’re thinking, though.  You’re thinking that if we’d had children I wouldn’t be living here now, aren’t you?  You’re thinking that I’d be living with them.  No, I wouldn’t have wanted that, dear.  You don’t give life to a person just so you can suck it out of them when you get old.  They’d have lives of their own to live, children of their own to look after and there’s no way I’d have wanted to burden them.  I’m an invalid, Laura.  It wouldn’t have been fair.”

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: More Free Writing

Novel Kicks Writing RoomFree writing can produce many ideas for fictional stories. If you’re familiar with the concept of morning pages then you will know that this is a valuable source of inspiration.

The writing exercise for the writing group this week is to try and free write over the next seven days for a minimum of five minutes a day or three pages of A4.

I’ve included a one word prompt list below if you wish to use them. Let yourself write without judgement or editing.

When you develop something in your free writing that interests you, just make a note of it.

Most important of all…. have fun.

Prompts:

Day one: Treasure

Day two: Orange

Day three: Mighty

Day four: Injury

Day five: Travel

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Around The World

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… Around the World.

Your character has some sort of life changing event (a break up, a near death experience. It’s up to you.) They decide to make a list of all the things they’ve wanted to do but never had the courage to.

The list includes places they’ve wanted to visit and experiences they’ve always wanted to take part in. Their journey will take them around the world. The experiences could include sky diving, joining a theatre group. Anything.

In order to pick what is done next, they pick six things out of a hat and use a die to choose what comes next. The only rule is that a deadline has been set.

Where will the adventure take them? Use this to write one place and experience they take part in.

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Book Review: Cold Feet: The Lost Years by Carmel Harrington

Hodder & Stoughton, September 2017

Hodder & Stoughton, September 2017

Reeling from the sudden death of Rachel, his beloved wife, Adam has no time to grieve. He has to keep going, for the sake of their baby son.

Jenny moves back in with ex-husband Pete, eight and a half months pregnant with another man’s child. Can their relationship overcome past jealousies?

Karen and David agree to an amicable divorce – but that’s before he sleeps with the divorce lawyer . . .

 

Cold Feet is one of my favourite TV shows. It has been for a long time. I was so pleased when they announced they were bringing it back for a sixth and seventh season. Then once I realised that there was also a book, there was much excitement but also a little trepidation. Could the book live up to the greatness of the TV show? Would the characters feel the same?

In a nutshell, in my opinion. Yes.

The Lost Years focuses on the few months after Adam leaves Manchester with the baby, a suitcase and the memory of Rachel. He is with his Dad, not knowing what to do next.

Pete and Jenny are trying to navigate around their resurrected relationship and then the impending arrival of the new baby whilst Karen, David and Robyn are not sure what to make of their new dynamic.

I won’t go too much further into the plot but what I will say is that this book retains the charm.

I loved catching up with these characters. After five series I had become so invested in them. This book was like catching up with old friends and so I couldn’t put this book down to be honest.

I loved the fact that Rachel is still involved despite the fact that she isn’t technically around. The humour and warmth of the TV show still comes across. Also, like the TV show, there were moments when I was in tears.

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Book Extract: Sun, Sea & Sex by Greta Horwood

Sun Sea Sex CoverA big hello to author Greta Horwood and the blog tour for her novel, Sun, Sea & Sex which was released by Author House UK in August. 

About Sun, Sea & Sex:

The book tells of the trials and tribulations of Zeeta, who has overcome many obstacles and survived different relationships. A loving marriage led to a horrendous one. Her second marriage was to a man with a depraved sexual appetite.

The sunny parts were when everything was going well. There were choppy seas between when things were not going right, not just in a relationship but in general life.

Also there were times when the sea was calm and all three women were coping well. The sex within relationships was, in the most part, good to excellent. In Zeeta’s second marriage, sex was a nightmare.

She endured and suffered.

Happy ever after on a Caribbean island. Zeeta survived with the help of two friends—one from her school days, Sheila, and the second one was Peggy, her boss and a very good friend. Their relationships and stories are part of this book.

 

Greta has very kindly shared an extract from Sun, Sea & Sex with us today. Here’s a brief introduction to the scene; 

Zeeta was at college, a new life full of new experiences.  A chance accident where Zeeta was pushed to the floor, by a revolving door, led to an unlikely friendship with an Arabian Prince, Armaan.  He was to advise her about men and gave her a sex education without the actions.  Her time with Armaan left her wanting more, but she did not know what more meant.  Being kissed by Armaan led to more feelings of wanting more.  It left Zeeta confused.  He abruptly stopped his kissing, that led to more confusion, he was pushing her away.  Zeeta could not understand, she loved him, but having no experience of love, she could only guess the feelings she had were love.

Armaan appears throughout the book, during other relationships.  Meeting him at these other times, Zeeta knew she loved and wanted him.

The Extract….

(Warning: Adult content.)

Armaan was back.  I can’t explain my feelings in seeing him.  I was overwhelmed by them.  Yes I missed him, but what I was feeling was more than that.  We continued with our easy friendship and he said he was delighted to be back.  He was now married and his wife was expecting their first child.  He was a different person now, I think the worry of not having a wife was bothering him, but now he was married, life had suddenly became enjoyable.  He said he enjoyed my company and although he was 14 years older than me, I was not empty headed like the gigglers.  We continued our friendship and I often felt he was preparing me for the life I would eventually lead.  He said my blue eyes and personality would attract many man, but I would know who was right for me.  He said beware of false promises, men will say they love, but often it is a way to easy sex, so beware of false promises.

He said he had stones cast for my future and these foretold of a happy life with two children.  He said choose a husband older than myself, he would be considerate.  That happened my husband was  older than me and he was considerate.

We had many of these talks, he was the perfect gentleman and I loved him.  Well I thought these feelings I had for him were love, I had never felt like this.  I had limited experience, but hoped the feelings I was having, were love, they were very pleasant.

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October’s Novel Kicks Book Club: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S Lewis

lion witchHappy October. It’s officially autumn. Halloween is almost here, the days have already become shorter (boo,) and shockingly, Christmas has already started to appear in shops.

As a kid, I always loved this time of year (October is my birthday month so I am a little biased.) I used to love getting home from school and stepping into the warmth of our house. I would make a cup of tea and toast and would sit and either read or catch Fun House or Finder’s Keepers on telly.

This month I wanted to pick a book that reminded me of the autumns of my childhood. For October, I’ve picked The Chronicles of Narnia; The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Hands up the people who remember the BBC adaptation. That theme tune that will now be worming its way into your head right?

I love books and I love chatting about them even more. Who wants to join me to chat about Lions, Witches and magical secrets worlds?

I have posted a question to kick things off in the comments box below.  The 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.

 

About the book:

Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie are sent to live with their reclusive Uncle in his mysterious country home. Lucy soon discovers a wardrobe that hides a doorway into the magical world of Narnia.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: In-Between

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…

Your character dies suddenly and ends up in a place between heaven and hell.

In order to be processed properly, they have to go through a series of tests to see whether they qualify to go up to heaven.

If they pass, they get to spend eternity in happiness. If they fail, they go to the other place.

Your character has just arrived for processing.

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NK Chats To… Jane Sanderson

jane-sanderson-300x450Jane Sanderson is the author of This Much is True which was released in June 2017. 

After decades in a deeply unhappy marriage, Annie Doyle can barely bring herself to care that her husband Vince is finally about to die.

But as the family gathers to see out his final days, Vince utters a single word that will change everyone’s lives completely:

‘Martha.’

Who is Martha? And why is Annie so quick to dismiss the mention of her name?

As Annie’s long-held secrets start to emerge, the lives of everyone she holds dear will be changed forever…

 

Hello Jane, thank you so much for joining me today and congratulations on the release of your book, This Much is True. What was your typical writing day like when writing this book?

Ah, if only there was any such thing. Every day seems to be different, depending on what other demands there are on my time. I work at a desk in my bedroom at home, and am easily distracted by almost everything that happens around me: dogs barking downstairs, postman knocking at the door, phone ringing, washing to be done, drying to be folded, dogs to be walked, dinner to cook … do you get the picture?! I write between all those other activities – half an hour here, an hour there – until the book gets more than halfway finished, and then I always make a priority of it, find the discipline to turn a blind eye to other things, and forge ahead to the end. On the whole, I’m probably most productive either very early in the morning, or late in the evening.

 

Can you tell me a little about This Much is True and what inspired the novel?

It was actually inspired by walking my dogs, here where I live, in Herefordshire. But that really was just a starting point for a story about secrets, lies, and the redemptive powers of friendship. Annie Doyle is a deceptively complex woman, whose ordinary existence hides some extraordinary truths, and who can only deal with the miseries of her past by ignoring them. I wanted Annie’s fledgling friendship with Josie and Sandra to be a catalyst for change; through their example she begins to see another way of being. Of course, I also wanted to explore the idea of secrecy in friendships too – the lines we don’t cross, the things we never tell. Annie has more to hide than most of us, but I believe we all protect our secret selves, to one extent or another.

 

Do you have many pages of planning and research for this book or did you just see where it took you?

I have a notebook with random memos to myself about things I mustn’t forget, but that’s all. I research as I go, and I don’t really plan at all. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but it works.

 

What’s the editing process like for you – how do you approach it?

It’s a fluid process, and I edit (that is, rewrite, correct, add material) as I write, rather than at the end. I don’t do drafts – my first draft tends to be my only draft, but it will have undergone an awful lot of tweaking as it took shape. Then, of course, the manuscript goes to the editor for their input, and the copyediting stage is equally crucial to weed out the continuity errors and grammatical blunders, but on the whole I try to be as efficient as possible during the actual writing of the story. It’s my journalist’s training, I reckon – it dinned into me the importance of producing ‘clean copy’.

 

What elements do you feel make a good novel?

Great characters and believable dialogue. If those elements are in place, I’m happy. Plot matters – of course it does – but sometimes a great novel can actually be about very little; if the reader cares about the characters, and can hear them when they speak, then that’s the basis of a truly good read, in my view.

 

Do you have any writing rituals – coffee, music, silence, a specific place you need to write?

Silence, generally, and I always write at a small desk at my bedroom window, which has a beautiful view of the Brecon Beacons in the distance, but I have to keep the shutters closed because the light bleaches out my screen! Coffee and tea are essential to my day, whether I’m writing or not.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Knowing Your Market

Novel Kicks Writing RoomI am a big reader. When asking published authors for advice, I think the majority of them have said that reading is one of the most important things a writer can do.

Also, knowing your market is always advantageous when deciding what genre to write in – knowing what works and the elements you need to write the best novel that you can.

That is what I thought we could look at today; Learning what is good or bad.

Pick ten books from the genre in which you want to write.

Read the blurbs and make a small two sentence summary about what it’s about.

What is it about these books that appeal to you?

What does not appeal about them?

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Blog Tour: Book Review of No Way Back By Kelly Florentia

No Way back

Urbane Publications

Kelly Florentia is my guest today with the blog tour for her new novel, No Way Back. 

When two eligible and attractive men are vying for your heart, it should be the perfect dilemma…

Audrey Fox has been dumped by her unreliable fiancé Nick Byrne just days before the wedding. Heartbroken and confused, the last thing she expects when she jumps on a plane to convalesce in Cyprus is romance.

But a chance meeting with handsome entrepreneur and father-of-one Daniel Taylor weaves her into a dating game she’s not sure she’s ready for. Audrey’s life is thrown into further turmoil when she discovers on her return to London that Nick has been involved in a serious motorcycle accident that’s left him in intensive care.

Distraught yet determined to look to the future, Audrey must make a decision – follow her heart or listen to well-meaning advice from family and friends? Because sometimes, no matter what, it’s the people that we love who can hurt us the most…

My verdict on No Way Back. 

I fast became a fan of Kelly’s writing after reading The Magic Touch so I was very eager to get my hands on No Way Back.

No Way Back is told from the point of view of Audrey who is looking forward to marrying her boyfriend of eight years, Nick.

Banner_NWBHowever, when he leaves her just before they are due to get married, Audrey is heartbroken. She escapes to Cyprus with her parents for a few days. This is where she meets a mysterious man on the beach. Having seen that he is there with his wife and child, she doesn’t think anything of it until he turns up again back in England and things with him aren’t what she first thought.

Can this man help her get over Nick or is she not ready? Is this person right for her?

Audrey is a wonderful character and from the start of No Way Back I warmed to her immediately. She has had her heart-broken in such a horrible way and I want to step into the novel and give her a hug. I got invested in her story very early one and came to really care about her.

Most of the supporting characters around her are great. Louise and Audrey’s parents especially.

They are all very protective over Audrey and all tell her she shouldn’t see Nick which, at the time Audrey can’t understand but the reasons soon become obvious and there are things going on that have been kept secret.

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NK Chats To… Lola Jaye About Her New Novel, Orphan Sisters

Lola JayeOrphan Sisters is the new novel from the fabulous, Lola Jaye and I am excited to be a part of her blog tour to celebrate the paperback release. 

Their Nigerian parents have emigrated to England in search of a better life for their family. Nineteen Fifties London is a great adventure to the girls but not always welcoming. There are signs in windows of lodging houses warning: ‘no blacks, no dogs, no Irish’.

When tragedy strikes and the girls lose their father, their mother is unable to cope. When she fails to recover from the surprise birth of another child all three girls are sent to an orphanage. Lana is determined to keep her sisters together but when baby Tina gets adopted, she must admit their family is about to be torn apart – perhaps for ever…

 

Hi Lola. It’s so lovely to welcome you to Novel Kicks today. Your new novel is called Orphan Sisters. Can you tell me a little about it and what inspired you to tell this story?

Orphan Sisters is a saga spanning thirty years but primarily set in 1960’s London where three little girls were supposed to be living the dream of their immigrant parents. However, they end up living a nightmare many migrants, even today, often face. I have always been so inspired by my parents, aunties, uncles and all those who came to the UK from the former colonies in the hopes of a better life. They faced racism, hardship and were basically told to ‘go back to where you came from!‘ constantly. Having not read much on migration when it came to Nigerians, I wanted to tell their story.

 

What’s your typical writing day like and do you have any rituals whilst writing (silence, coffee, a specific place to write etc.)

When I’m not being distracted by endless cat pictures on the Internet, I settle down with a glass of water by my side and just write. After a couple of hours I will break and make a smoothie, watch a TV program perhaps and then start writing again. My needs are subject to change though. For example, in the UK I generally sit at my desk in my living room with the television out of sight and in silence. But in Atlanta (where I lived for two and a half years until recently) I sat in a lovely little bubble tea shop and wrote whilst the hustle and bustle didn’t seem to disturb me at all!

 

What challenges did you face when writing a book in a historical setting?

I tended to get deeply involved with the research. There was so much I didn’t know about the history of race in the United Kingdom. Having lived in America, I’d become immersed in the American experience, but there’s so much to learn about regarding the UK. I found myself reading and over reading my research, having to remind myself that I actually had a book to write!

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Competitions: Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook Winner

Bloomsbury, July 2017

Bloomsbury, July 2017

The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook is the indispensable book for writers and we have a copy of the 2018 edition to give away to one lucky winner.

Congratulations to Vicky from Worcestershire, who has won a copy of the current edition of The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. An e-mail is on its way to you.

The latest edition was published by Bloomsbury on 27th July and includes a foreword by David Lodge.

The yearbook has been helping writers get onto the publishing ladder for over 110 years.

The 2018 edition also includes some fantastic new content and has over 4,000 listings of contacts across media and the publishing world.

Eighty-two articles from fifty authors means that it is packed with advice, inspiration and practical guidance to navigate the publishing industry. Poets, screen and stage writers, novelists and journalists have contributed.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: A Forced Reality

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: You are picked at random to take part in a reality TV show that will be shown across the whole of the nation.

If you refuse, you will be put on trial and face a possible death sentence so you don’t have much choice but to take part.

You have to get past so many rounds and be the only one standing to win. Write a scene at a point in this story – the part that has appeals to you.

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NK Chats To…Martine McDonagh

Martine McDonagh SQUARE ©CHRIS ISON_WEST DEAN COLLEGEHi Martine. I am so pleased to be welcoming you to Novel Kicks today. Would you tell us a little about your book, Narcissism for Beginners and how the idea originated?

Hi Laura. Some years ago I became fascinated by extremely narcissistic characters and their modus operandi, particularly those who set themselves up as gurus and ‘spiritual’ leaders, and wanted to explore the effect they have on those people closest to them.

 

What’s your favourite word and why? 

Ubiquitous. Hard to say why, it’s just a really satisfying word to say. There are very few words with that qu sound in the middle preceded and followed by the i sound, so maybe that’s it. Also, it makes you sound clever.

 

What’s your typical writing day like – do you have any writing rituals etc?

Unfortunately there’s no such thing as a typical writing day as my job takes up most of my time and I rarely stay in one place for longer than a week, so at the moment writing has to be done whenever and wherever I can fit it in. There’s always tea though, that’s a given, and sometimes coffee made with cream.

 

Did you plan much prior to writing your novel? Do you think it’s better to wait for a complete first draft before editing?

This novel has seven different narrative voices so I needed to do some planning to make sure I didn’t get into a complete muddle. I know not everyone does, but I always write a first draft in longhand from start to finish before I do any rewriting. I think it takes at least one draft to work out which story I actually want to tell.

 

What’s the best and most challenging thing about being a writer? 

Well, the best and the most challenging are definitely not one and the same. The worst is trying to balance being a writer with earning a living; writing always seems to lose that particular fight in my experience.

But the best aspects of writing are almost endless. Writing presents an opportunity to always be learning something new, in terms of skill and technique of course, but also when it comes to researching new ideas and subjects you never even knew you were interested in. I love the start of a new project when you’re like a kitten chasing after balls of wool rolling off in all directions.

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Book Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Penguin, May 2015

Penguin, May 2015

Jane hasn’t lived anywhere for longer than six months since her son was born five years ago. She keeps moving in an attempt to escape her past. Now the idyllic coastal town of Pirriwee has pulled her to its shores and Jane feels as if she finally belongs. She finds friends in the feisty Madeline and the incredibly beautiful Celeste, two women with seemingly perfect lives – and their own secrets.

But at the start of a new term, an incident involving the children of all three women occurs in the playground, causing a rift between them and other parents. Minor at first but escalating fast, until the whispers and rumours become vicious and spiteful, and the truths blur into lies.

It was always going to end in tears, but no one thought it would end in murder . . .

I am a big fan of Liane’s novels but for some reason I didn’t read this novel until after the TV series came out which of course i couldn’t help myself and watched.

Normally, I can’t read a book after seeing an adaptation on the screen. However, this was not the case for this book.

From the moment I picked it up, I was hooked and I couldn’t stop reading.

It was good to see three main female characters. They are all very different and yet in some ways, similar. They are all hiding their own secrets and facing their own demons. They all become connected in a way they couldn’t imagine.

Celeste’s perfect life may not be as perfect as it seems. Madeline is never one to take anything lying down and is quite a positive person but even she isn’t completely happy. Jane is new to the area but there is a reason she’s there.

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