Emily Parker is set to have the worst Christmas ever!
Her flatmate’s moved out, she’s closed her heart to love and she’s been put in charge of the school original Christmas show – with zero musical ability.
Disgraced superstar, Ray Stone is in desperate need of a quick PR turnaround.
Waking up from a drunken stupor to a class of ten-year-olds snapping pics and Emily looking at him was not what he had in mind.
Ray needs Emily’s help to delete the photos, and she needs his with the show.
As they learn to work together they may just open their hearts to more than a second chance…
To celebrate the release of One Christmas Star, Mandy and Aria have shared an extract today.
***** beginning of extract*****
Before Emily had a chance to reply, the sharing-size bag of Haribos was pushed under her nose by Dennis Murray, the forty-something teacher of the Year Five class. He shook the plastic and all manner of gum, sugar, sweet and sour flew into Emily’s sinuses in one mammoth rush. She picked out a sweet simply to get the bag away from her nose. Popping it into her mouth, the bitterness hit her taste-buds straight off, contorting her expression. She watched, one eye squinted, as Dennis put five sweets into his mouth at once, double-chin wobbling. He was a walking, talking pick ‘n’ mix addict but still his capacity for sugary sweet treats astounded her. Simon had liked sweets – Maltesers, Minstrels, Mars Bites, all the chocolate. Simon had liked chocolate the way Emily liked cheese…
‘So, what do you think the budget meeting is going to be about this time?’ Dennis asked, nudging Emily’s arm as the other teachers joined them in the main hall used for assemblies, performances, lunch and meetings such as these. ‘Christmas cancelled? No unnecessary expense until we’re back in January?’
‘I don’t know,’ Emily answered. ‘But no matter what it is, I can’t protest.’ She lowered her voice and leant a little into Dennis’s personal space. ‘Susan caught me giving Jayden Jackson help with his project this morning and I bought him a bagel because I know he isn’t getting breakfast at home.’ She wasn’t getting breakfast at home herself, but only because the cupboards always seemed to be bare now Jonah had gone. Plus, really strong coffee almost counted as a meal, didn’t it?
Dennis sucked through his teeth, bits of gum crushed between his canines. ‘A double-whammy.’
‘I know,’ Emily said with a sigh. ‘I only narrowly managed to avoid the proverbial third thing because the Sellotape on the Christmas stars held out just long enough until Susan had closed the door behind her.’ But she knew she was under scrutiny and it made her nervous. She pulled at the sides of her maroon corduroy skirt, shifting her bottom on the too-small chair. Had she picked one of the children’s chairs and not a grown-up one. That was exactly how her luck was right now…
‘Definitely no extra baubles for the Year Six Christmas tree this year then,’ Dennis remarked, chewing on more sweets.
Emily’s phone erupted, tweeting like a bird, from inside her all-colours vintage carpet bag. It had been a bargain. Well, actually it had been quite expensive, but it was a genuine 1950s artifact. And she’d been quite emotional on that particular visit to the antique boutique. Emotion and her love of vintage were a heady mix…by
My first favourite is series two of the Netflix show, Mindhunter.
OK so technically this was released in August but as I didn’t do a favourites for last month, I can give it a mention.
Series one, episode one had me totally hooked on this show. I pretty much bingewatched it over a day. I was beyond excited to get into the second series especially when you take into account how series one ended.
This was just as brilliant and amazing as the first and focuses on the Atlanta child murders whilst also continuing some plot points from the first series.
This series was incredible and I can’t wait for series three. It’s well written, has brilliant acting and is just… awesome. End of. If you’ve been wondering whether to give it a go, please do.
My second favourite is an app and it is Layton: Pandora’s box HD for mobile.
I have been a massive fan of the Professor Layton games from when it appeared on the Nintendo DS. I am not a big gamer but I love puzzle games and so this is right up my street.
Although I have played Pandora’s box before, it has been so long, it’s like playing a new game especially as I think they have added some new puzzles. I don’t remember playing them anyway so even if you’re familiar with the game, I think you will get something from this new format.
I was delighted to see it was available on the App Store and I love the fact that I can play it when I have a few minutes without having to carry the DS around.
The book I most enjoyed last month is I Wanted You to Know by Laura Pearson.by
One of the things I try to encourage on this blog is sharing work. As writers, feedback is important but for me, also putting my work out there is one of my greatest fears.
Today, I am posting a short story I’ve written. It’s called The Clerk. This is probably the first one I have properly finished that hasn’t been part of a writing course assignment. It was originally written for a competition.
As a newbie writer, I have not had the courage to post anything like this on Novel Kicks.
You could say I am putting my money where my mouth is. So, here goes. I hope you enjoy it and if you don’t, that’s OK too.
I’m off to hide under my duvet.
***** Beginning of The Clerk*****
I open my eyes.
It takes moments to focus. Below my arms is the rough fabric of a green worn armchair. Around me, the windowless circular room is cluttered with endless piles of neatly stacked paper.
I can hear noise but I can’t see where it is coming from. When I manage to stand, I can just about see a typewriter that seems to be operating on its own.
I move around, not wanting to disturb anything. I don’t see a door.
‘Ah, there you are dear.’
A small, plump woman dressed in a black baggy cardigan, a long skirt with her hair pulled into a bun shuffles into the room. Placing the papers she is carrying down on the nearest table, she takes a seat, gesturing for me to do the same.
‘Come on girl, time is short.’
‘Where am I?’
A tea-tray appears and floats toward us. She hands me a cup.
‘I’m dreaming right?’
‘I suppose you are in a sense.’
‘Where am I?’
‘Not the most original of questions dear. You can do better.’
‘You don’t know me.’
‘I do my dear.’
‘I’m sure I’ve not met you before.’
‘I have known you from the moment you were born.’
She pours more tea.
‘Let me explain, dear. I’m Bertha. It is my job to document.’
‘Document what exactly?’
‘Your life my dear.’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘I am a clerk. Everyone has one. I document all the events of your life.’
‘All this, she says, pointing to the papers, ‘is your life.’
Anxiety sets in, ‘how am I here?’by
Today is a celebration for me. Novel Kicks is ten years old.
Back in 2009, it was a little different to what it has now become but the main focus of it remains the same. I wanted somewhere for people who like to write fiction and for people who love to read to come and discuss books, stories and the writing of them.
I hoped then that I would still be going for as long as I could so to have made ten years, for me, is amazing.
Some times it’s been hard, like when I have been trying to run the blog alongside night shifts for work or where the anxiety has been a little strong. The to-read pile is something that remains taller than me but I still love it.
I love posting about books I’ve enjoyed reading or a writing prompt to help writers like me who need a push to write that story.
I have had the privilege to question some of my favourite authors about their writing days, favourite authors and fictional characters – writers I have and continue to look up to like Lisa Jewell, Giovanna Fletcher, Jane Fallon, Cecelia Ahern and Jane Green to name but a few. Many of these amazing authors I have met in person too and yes, I got completely tongued tied on most of these occasions. I seriously fangirled myself to embarrassment. Haha.by
Hi Jenni, it’s great to be welcoming you back to Novel Kicks.
Thank you so much for having me back. I can’t believe my second book is out already. I had a real thrill ride with The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker. The book had so many amazing reviews and I was delighted to get an Amazon bestseller flag. Let’s hope The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadowsis as enthusiastically received.
Which fictional character would you like to spend the day with? What would you do?
This is such a hard question. In fact, I left answering it until the end because there are so many characters I could have chosen. I considered people from historical novels where I would get the opportunity to spend some time in an exciting period of history – perhaps with a Regency lady or a certain Victorian cotton mill owner *wink*. I thought about characters with special powers, like Harry Potter and various superheroes (flying through the air with Superman would be a blast). I considered the simple rural idyll that would be spending a day with Anne Shirley at Green Gables, or Miss Marple in her beloved St Mary Mead. Perhaps I could pamper myself and spend the day with someone wealthy or influential, perhaps party with Jay Gatsby, or Holly Golightly? So many fabulous characters, so many choices…
In the end (wait for it…) it’s a toss up between Mr Daydream (who could give my imagination a boost and therefore some fabulous material for my novels) and Mr Impossible (so I can do EVERYTHING and ANYTHING) from the fabulous Mr Men. These were the very first books I read by myself and they have a special place in my heart. I’m sure I could have some up with something more intellectual but I’m embracing my inner child. Besides, I’m curious to see how they mange to drink a cup of tea with those stumpy little arms (Mr Tickle being the obvious exception).
Which songs would be on a playlist for The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows?
This is quite an easy question because Theo, who works with Maisie at the auction house, has a particular penchant for the 1980s. Although he is an expert in modern design (i.e. post-war) that’s the decade that really interests him, and this is reflected in his music taste. He plays a lot of The Jam, The Police, The Clash (late Seventies/Eighties) so a soundtrack would have to include these bands. This contrasts with the flamboyant Johnny (Maisie’s boss) who has more classical tastes, so perhaps some Mozart and a sprinkling of Shostakovich (as it is mentioned in the book). And then, to keep the author happy, I’d have to throw in a few recent dance tracks – which is largely what I listen to when I write. So it would be quite an eclectic mix.
How did your writing process differ from your previous novel?
In many ways it was quite similar. I’m a pantser, not a plotter, so apart from the bare bones of the story and a definite idea of the ending, I do tend to launch myself in rather randomly, not even writing chronologically. However, for Maisie I had to produce a synopsis for the publisher before I began writing and this did help me focus my ideas a bit more. There was also a time pressure for Maisie, whereas Lucy was written before I had a publishing deal so I had longer to play about with it. However, deadlines are Good Things. They help you focus.
The only thing I really did differently was a mid-book plan. I always refer to my first draft as the Bowl of Dropped Spaghetti stage – because in my head that’s what it feels like. After that, I need to pick all the jumbled spaghetti up and sort it out. Writing Maisie was the first time I’d produced a coherent plan but it was only at this post first-draft stage. I put all the scenes I’d written on Post-it notes and then planned the book – a bit backwards but it worked. My clever techie son set me up with two screens and I simply pulled across sections in order onto a blank document. I am at the Bowl of Dropped Spaghetti stage with Book 3 now so shall employ this method again.
Which authors have inspired you?by
Goodbye May and hello June.
I know I say this every month but it is hard to believe that we are almost to the longest day of the year when it doesn’t seem long ago we were celebrating new year.
I will admit, I am a Christmas girl but I am loving these longer summer evenings although does anyone feel they seem to have ages in the evening, get into something and then look up and it’s nearly midnight? Just me?
As it’s still the first week of June, I reckon I have just enough time to squeeze in a May favourites.
There were many things I loved in May. It was a little hard to pick a handful but, yep, I managed it. Haha.
The book I loved in May was Tick Tock by Mel Sherratt. I have already done a review of this book and if you want to read it along with an extract, click here.
It was great to be back with DS Grace Allendale and each book in this series just keeps getting better and better.
Grace and her team are investigating the murder of a young girl. The killer is out there and it all suddenly becomes very personal for Grace.
Tick Tock was full of suspense. I wanted to know what was going on but at the same time, I didn’t want it to end. It’s brilliant. An honourable mention to The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine which came a close second.
My favourite TV show in May was …. Line of Duty.
I was really late to this show having only finished watching the previous series days before the new one began. My husband and I were just gripped and it is so incredibly addictive. We saw the ‘are you still watching Line of Duty?’ a few times on Netflix which may as well say ‘are you still up watching this? Go to bed you idiot.’
This show is thrilling, brilliant and utterly frustrating. My favourite character is Ted Hastings. Go find those bent coppers, Ted.by
I am happy to be welcoming Chloe Seager to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her new novel, Friendship Fails of Emma Nash.
Emma Nash is back….and determined to work out the world of friendships and relationships once and for all (…ish).
Now she’s in the sixth form, Emma’s expecting life to be a breeze but when her best friend Steph suddenly has a boyfriend who she’s spending more time with Emma’s not sure what to do with herself.
So Emma’s got a mission in mind: making new friends. Signing up for the school fashion show seems like the perfect opportunity. Although soon, through a series of mishaps that are absolutely not Emma’s fault (well, sort of), her world is teetering on the edge of disaster again.
Would going back to creating a life for herself online reaaaaaallllyyy be so bad?
I have reviewed the book below but first, something a little different.
In the novel, the protagonist Emma tries to make new friends after feeling a little left out of her current friendship circle.
Chloe has suggested that I write about which fictional character I would like to meet.
This question is one I love to ask authors. I find it a fascinating one to ask and no two answers are the same.
The problem is, when I sat down to think about which character I would like to meet, picking one was a lot harder than I thought it would be (sorry to all authors to which I have asked this question.)
All the wonderful books I have read since my childhood, how can I pick just one? When I read, all the characters become as real to me as someone sat next to me.
So… I didn’t. I cheated and picked five, (I know, greedy right.)
When I made up my list of five, I started to think of all the different personalities. I imagined us all around the table. Of course, we may disagree but we would all be having a lovely time.
The first fictional character on my list is probably Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. I would maybe sneak Darcy in too. They come as a package deal right?
I would be so excited to be able to have a conversation with the popular Bennett sister. I’d want to know her true feelings about Mr Collins and Lady Catherine and about her life at Pemberley.
Lizzie is such a strong, opinionated and outspoken character, I’d be so interested to know what she’d make of the global political climate, social media etc. What would she make of today’s society? Would she embrace it or find it ‘somewhat savage?’by
Could it really be possible that The Princess Bride movie is thirty this year? A staple of my childhood memories, I used to love watching this film. Many a time I would quote lines from the movie. Even now, as I reach my late 30’s, it still remains one of my top films.
OK, so it is a little cheesy but it’s brilliant.
Before I go on, I feel I do have to give a spoiler alert.
The cast is amazing. Of course, I can’t see Cary Elwes without also shouting ‘because unlike other Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent,’ as well as quotes from this film.
Mandy Pitinkin (Homeland) steals the movie with his turn as Inigo Montoya.
I remember always being a little fascinated by Andre The Giant.
Peter Falk (seriously, Colombo,) and Fred Savage who was well-known at the time for the Wonder Years. There were so many brilliant people in this movie.
I also can’t believe that this is the film that ‘introduced’ Robin Wright who is of course now kicking TV butt in House of Cards.
The film has a whimsical feel to it that I loved even as a kid. Westley and Buttercup’s relationship was so romantic. I loved it. It had the sword fights yes but I adored it for the romance.
The movie is incredibly funny too. I watched it for the first time in a while and I still find it as comical as I did the first time I watched it.
When I think about my favourite element of it though, it has to be the quotable lines.by
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.by
I 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.by
I follow many book related people on You Tube. One of my favourite types of video to watch are the tags. In my perusal, I came across the ‘My Life in Books’ tag.
It looked fun so I thought I would answer the questions myself. If you fancy having a go too then I’d love to read your choices in the comments. Tags like these fascinate me as everyone will have various answers and rarely will two be the same. OK, so here we go.
Find a book on your shelf for each of your initials.
I wasn’t sure whether this meant titles of books or the author so as it is for fun, I have done both. My initials are LEP (Laura Elizabeth.) Looking at my shelf, I have Lisa Jewell (the L) with 31 Dream Street. I loved this book when I read it. It’s very romantic and whimsical and the cover is beautiful.
For the ‘E’ initial, I have Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin. I adored this book when I first read it. The behaviour of the characters (Rachel, Dex and Darcy,) are bad and yet I had sympathy for all of them. If you’ve not read this book (and the sequel, something Blue,) then I totally recommend them.
For P, I have The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory. I have seen the movie but am yet to read the book. I love this era of history and I know that it may not be completely accurate but I still love it.
For the book titles with my initials, I have Landline by Rainbow Rowell (which I still need to read. So many books, so little time.)
E. A novel by Matt Beaumont. It’s written in the format of e-mails. If you’ve ever worked in an office, then this book will have you recognising many of the characters. I love it. It’s hilarious.
Finally, I have P.S, I Love You by Cecelia Ahern. I love this book (the film was OK but the book had more charm.)
Count your age along your book shelf.
Which book is it? I had to count, cough, thirty-five steps. The book is Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. This was a book that I borrowed from my friend Michelle. I’ve not read it or returned it yet (sorry Michelle) but it’s been on my TBR list for a while. I’ve heard it’s similar to Event Horizon.
Book set in your city, state and county?
I am originally from Bournemouth and this was the question I am struggling most with as I couldn’t recall any books set in my county or town. Then I spotted A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke on my book shelf. A fantastic book that is partly set in Christchurch which is close enough to where I grew up. Another book I totally recommend.by
Nat’s husband has just said the six words no one wants to hear – ‘I don’t love you any more’.
Caroline’s estranged mother has to move into her house turning her perfectly ordered world upside down.
Living on the same street these two women couldn’t be more different. Until the beloved local community centre is threatened with closure. And when the only way to save it is to form a community choir – none of the Hope Street residents, least of all Nat and Caroline, expect the results…
Nat’s husband has just told her that he doesn’t love her anymore. She is left alone in the family home with their son. Her life is an organised chaos and she is not sure what she is going to do next.
Caroline’s life is well-ordered until her estranged mother comes to visit and turns Caroline’s life upside down.
Nat and Caroline couldn’t be more different and under normal circumstances, their paths wouldn’t cross. These women are not the most compatible of friends. They are thrown together when the local community centre is threatened with closure.
The question is, can they put their differences aside for the greater good?
Nat and Caroline both have their own struggles and both are very quick to judge the other – something I’ve certainly been guilty of in the past.
This story is told from both the point of view of Nat and Caroline so you get a real insight into thoughts and emotions of these characters and the world in which they inhabit. I quickly became attached to them.by
I am very pleased and super excited to be welcoming the fabulous Sue Moorcroft and the blog tour for her new novel, Just For The Holidays, released today by Avon Books.
In theory, nothing could be better than a summer spent basking in the French sun. That is, until you add in three teenagers, two love interests, one divorcing couple, and a very unexpected pregnancy.
Admittedly, this isn’t exactly the relaxing holiday Leah Beaumont was hoping for – but it’s the one she’s got. With her sister Michele’s family falling apart at the seams, it’s up to Leah to pick up the pieces and try to hold them all together.
But with a handsome helicopter pilot staying next door, Leah can’t help but think she might have a few distractions of her own to deal with…
Mick has reviewed the book but first, Sue shares her top tips for surviving summer holidays. Over to you, Sue.
I love summer. I was brought up for several years in Malta and it’s there I think I must have developed my love of the sun. Here are my top tips for surviving summer holidays:
• Take plenty to read. Whether it’s your eReader, print books or magazines, just make sure everybody in your party has something. I know you’ve got your phones on which to browse the Internet or tablets to let you watch DVDs but airport delays or beaches lead to flat batteries, low signal or extortionate phone bills. I find a book a day a nice starting point. Loading my eReader for a trip is such a pleasure! And I generally take a magazine just in case something makes it impossible to read on my eReader and the app on my phone.
• Choose a holiday you actually want. This might sound like stating the flippin’ obvious but if you’ve browbeaten your holiday companions into going where you want, you may find that nobody has a good time – and that includes you if they remind you every five minutes and sulk. (Of course, if you’re the browbeaten one and you didn’t actually want to spend your holiday in a theme park, put your friends/family in a queue for a ride, find a sunny bench and take out your book …) Leah in Just for the Holidays allows her sister, Michele, to coax her into a holiday she doesn’t want and things go seriously wrong from the first. (It doesn’t help that Michele has a couple of secrets, including quite an important one that she hasn’t shared with Leah.)
• If you can afford it, treat yourself to a pre-holiday pamper. Leg-waxing and gel nails can keep you feeling good all through your long-awaited holiday.
• Stay safe. It’s a shame we have to think this way but many a fabulous break has been ruined by theft of money and/or passports and returning to find the home ransacked. Be aware, use the hotel safe, visit one of the ‘information for travellers’ websites for advice pertinent to the place you’re visiting.
• Take at least one sweatshirt and a raincoat. Even hot countries have summer storms or freak weather.by
Hello fellow writers. Happy Friday.
It’s been a funny old week hasn’t it with various things going on. One thing is certain for me though; there has been plenty to inspire stories.
One of the other things that I find inspires and motivates me are quotes.
I know that inspirational and motivational sayings are not everyone’s cup of tea. (My friend hates them,) but you should find whatever helps you (especially if you’re new to writing.)
I wanted to share some of my favourite quotes about writing. I hope they help someone out there to pick up that pen or open that laptop (note to self, take own advice.)
This is a list of my favourites. If you have one that is not listed here, let me know in the comments.
‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’ – Nelson Mandela.
(This is one that comes to mind when I am trying to begin. It is always overwhelming when I read all these published novels and think that my yet unwritten first draft is never going to be as good. The thing to remember….. all these published novels started off like mine and yours.)
‘It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.’ – Walt Disney
(This is along the same lines as the first one and I remember it to remind me to have fun whilst writing and to not allow uncertainty cloud the fun element.)by
We are now on that last stretch before the weekend with all the hope that the weather will decide to give us glorious, warm sunshine (I know but it’s good to be optimistic.)
I don’t know about you but April for me has just flown by. Life away from reading books and writing has kept me a little busy (there were also a couple of personal events that happened this month which meant some quiet days with a want to not do a lot.)
I have not done that much writing over the last month. I think I managed to do 2,000 words give or take. Those words still count and it’s still a decent word count to reach. It is easy to play down small words counts as only this and only that. It’s not easy to convince yourself that slow and steady is OK if it works for you to build your novel.
I go through this horrible habitual process when I begin something new. I will write, then I will stop, I will immediately read what I have written and then I will have this urge to begin again. I fight every time to break this habit.
A first draft is not going to be publication ready to begin with so every word you write does matter.
As a new writer, I tend to play down the whole thing; my brain won’t let me call myself a writer. Sitting in a room full of writers, I will feel like the impostor.by