Book Review: A Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell

There is a stranger outside Caroline’s house.

Her spectacular new beach house, built for hosting expensive parties and vacationing with the family she thought she’d have. But her husband is lying to her and everything in her life is upside down, so when the stranger, Aidan, shows up as a bartender at the same party where Caroline and her husband have a very public fight, it doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary.

As her marriage collapses around her and the lavish lifestyle she’s built for herself starts to crumble, Caroline turns to Aidan for comfort…and revenge. After a brief and desperate fling that means nothing to Caroline and everything to him, Aidan’s obsession with Caroline, her family, and her house grows more and more disturbing. And when Caroline’s husband goes missing, her life descends into a nightmare that leaves her accused of her own husband’s murder.

 

Caroline sees a stranger outside her new beach house. Her house that reflects her outwardly perfect life.

Her husband however is lying to her and everything in her life is turning upside down.

So, when Aiden shows up, a bartender at the party where she has a very public row with her husband, she turns to him for comfort… and revenge.

Although their brief fling means nothing to Caroline, Aiden becomes obsessed.

Then Caroline’s husband goes missing and her life descends into chaos where she is suspected of her own husband’s murder.

I’d not read any of Michele’s novels so this was my introduction. It did not disappoint.

This novel pretty much had me on the edge of my seat all the way through.

It’s a rollercoaster of suspense, tension and an ending that blindsided me.

The style of writing was interesting. It jumps around but I was soon completely into the story.

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Book Extract: The Widow’s Mite by Allie Cresswell

I don’t think there’s a better way to begin a new week than to welcome Allie Cresswell to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for her latest novel, The Widow’s Mite. 

Minnie Price married late in life. Now she is widowed. And starving.

No one suspects this respectable church-goer can barely keep body and soul together. Why would they, while she resides in the magnificent home she shared with Peter?

Her friends and neighbours are oblivious to her plight and her adult step-children have their own reasons to make things worse rather than better. But she is thrown a lifeline when an associate of her late husband arrives with news of an investment about which her step-children know nothing.

Can she release the funds before she finds herself homeless and destitute?

Fans of ‘The Hoarder’s Widow’ will enjoy this sequel, but it reads equally well as a standalone.

 

Allie has shared an extract today. Grab that cuppa, a comfortable chair, a biscuit and enjoy. First, Allie gives us a little introduction. 

 

Allie: Writing a novel about bereavement brought all kinds of issues into the limelight. Apart from exploring the emotional corollaries – what does grief feel like, how and when does it strike? – death brings practical consequences that had to be studied. How does being, suddenly, alone feel and what differences does it entail in day-to-day life? There must be a hundred small divergences that impact everything from the ironing pile to the shopping list, the signing of birthday cards, holiday choices,  TV viewing.

Then there are the landmark occasions, previously shared, but that now must be faced alone.

Here, a group of single women discuss their plans for Christmas

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

‘What are you all doing for Christmas?’ Gloria asked, helping herself to the last sausage roll.

‘We always do a Christmas lunch at church,’ Gwen said, gathering the dirty plates and tea cups back onto the tray, ‘for those who find themselves alone. Last year there were twenty or so of us – we barely had enough turkey. The helpers get there early to start the prep, and then there’s the meal and the clearing up afterwards. It was gone four by the time I got home, so the whole day had gone by pretty well.’

Minnie felt the familiar swell of sadness press her throat and behind the eyes. She had not thought about Christmas. Last year she and Peter had spent it at a hotel in the country. Lots of log fires and mulled wine. Artfully decorated trees in every room. A local choir singing carols on Christmas Eve. Then, on Christmas day, a big breakfast followed by a brisk walk. An exquisite lunch at a table for two. The chef had dressed up as Santa – she had glimpsed the chequerboard pattern of his kitchen trousers beneath the furred hem of his cloak. Peter had given her a gold watch set with diamonds round the face. Her hand pushed back her cardigan cuff to reveal it. She had not sold it although she was sure it was worth several hundred pounds. She could not believe that this year she would be reduced to lunch in the draughty church hall with the rest of the lonely old souls who were not wanted elsewhere. The very thought of it made her eyes well. In and of itself it was so pitiful, but in comparison to last Christmas it was tragic. Dolly [her dog], always so sensitive to Minnie’s emotional compass, made a whimpering sound. Thankfully Gloria had followed Gwen out of the room to help with the dishes so Minnie was able to wipe her eyes and pull herself together before the others reassembled.

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Book Extract: You’ve Got My Number by Angela Barton

Hello and welcome to Angela Barton on what is the final day on her blog tour for her new novel, You’ve Got My Number. 

About the novel…

Three isn’t always a magic number … 

There are three reasons Tess Fenton should be happy. One, her job at the Blue Olive deli may be dull, but at least she gets to work with her best friend. Two, she lives in a cosy cottage in the pretty village of Halston. Three, she’s in love with her boyfriend, Blake. 

Isn’t she? 

Because, despite their history, Blake continues to be the puzzle piece in Tess’s life that doesn’t quite fit. And when she meets intriguing local artist Daniel Cavanagh, it soon becomes apparent that, for Tess, love isn’t as easy as one, two, three … 

 

Angela has shared an extract today. Grab that cup of coffee, tea or a glass of wine (go on, it’s Sunday,) and enjoy. 

 

***** beginning of novel****** 

 

Introduction: My hero, Daniel, has a twin sister. Although Denise is a secondary character, I share a particularly difficult time of her life with my readers. A bizarre happening involving a parrot plays its part in this storyline, but as unbelievable as it appears, it was taken from reality – it happened in my life.

 

It had taken a shockingly short time since returning from their idyllic day out on Hampstead Heath, for Denise’s happy, organised life, to turn upside down. After the boys had been bathed and their knees had been scrubbed clean of grass stains, she’d taken a long hot shower. She sang beneath the deluge of water as the rose-scented bubbles decorated her skin. Her mind had been full of their day out, her family, the bottle of wine she would shortly share with Simon and the bar of Galaxy chocolate secreted away from her sons.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Freaky Friday

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction 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: Freaky Friday. 

Your character and their spouse have not been getting along lately.

One morning, you wake up and you’ve swapped bodies. You also currently have no idea how to get switched back.

How does this affect the relationship?

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Book Extract: When The Time Comes by Adele O’ Neill

I am happy to welcome Adele O’ Neill to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for her novel, When The Time Comes. 

Here’s a little about the book…

Her husband says it’s suicide. The police say it’s murder.

Liam Buckley was a married man with two teenage children when he moved out of the family home to start a new life with his lover. His wife Jennifer never forgave him, but now she needs him to come back: she’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and the kids can’t cope alone.

One day after Liam moves home, Jennifer is found dead. Liam thinks it’s suicide. But the police, led by DS Louise Kennedy, are convinced it’s murder.

Liam hires a retired detective to help prove his innocence, but it’s no easy task. The children are distraught, and Jennifer’s best friend, Sarah, is waging a campaign against Liam, determined to expose him for a liar and a cheat.

As secrets surface from the complex web of Buckley family life, DS Kennedy must decide. Did Jennifer Buckley end her own life, or did Liam take it from her? The answer, when it comes, will shock them all…

 

Adele and Aria have shared an extract today. Grab a cup of tea, a comfy chair and enjoy. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

When I think of my ex-wife Jenny, it’s her smile I see, the roguish way she used to lift the corners of her mouth just enough to suggest that underneath the warmth and kindness, she’s a bundle of fun. Abbie, our fifteen-year-old daughter, is just like her, or I should say, just like how Jenny used to be, before everything changed.

She has the same luscious auburn hair that falls in waves down her slender back, the same porcelain skin that sizzles at the slightest hint of sunshine and the same affinity for random knowledge and clever facts. She puts her older brother and me to shame whenever The Chase or some other quiz programme is on, although I suspect that Josh lets her win sometimes. A shiver runs down my spine now, when I picture the four of us then, how we used to be. Nothing in any of our lives worked out exactly the way we wanted it to.

‘Sorry, Louise, it’s just a little…’ I don’t how to finish the sentence and fill my cheeks with exasperated air. ‘Overwhelming,’ I manage. ‘Hard to get my head around, you know?’ I look at her expectantly, hoping for a modicum of sympathy.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Inanimate Objects

It’s all about inanimate objects today. 

For today’s exercise, it’s a little bit of free writing but with the following situation in mind.

Write from the point of view of an inanimate object. Maybe something in an antique shop or something in the corner of the room you are sat in.

How old is it? Where has it been? What has this object seen?

Also, you could allow it to have an interaction with a human in which they can understand one another.

Write for at least fifteen minutes.

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Book Review: The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu

From a Tang Dynasty legend of a young girl trained as an assassin with the ability to skip between dimensions on a secluded mountain sanctuary to a space colony called Nova Pacifica that reflects on a post-apocalyptic world of the American Empire and ‘Moonwalker’ Neil Armstrong, award-winning author Ken Liu’s writings are laced with depictions of silkpunk fantasy, Sci-Fi and old Chinese folklore, wrapped up in a mesmerising genre-bending collection of short stories.

Ken Liu is one of the most lauded short story writers of our time. This much-anticipated collection includes a selection of his latest science fiction and fantasy stories over the last five years – sixteen of his best – plus a new novelette. In addition to these seventeen selections, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories also features an excerpt from book three in the Dandelion Dynasty series, The Veiled Throne.

 

When asked to take part in the blog tour for The Hidden Girl and Other stories, I couldn’t wait to get started.

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories is a collection of sixteen science fiction and fantasy stories. Most of them focus around technology and the human condition.

The first thing I want to comment on is the cover. It is absolutely beautiful.

I had not read any of Ken Liu’s writing before so I didn’t quite know what to expect. This is a stunning set of stories that really go into the amazing but sometimes devastating reality of technology and our reliance on it.

The Hidden Girl also examines how humans relate to one another and what we are capable of doing to each other.

These stories provoked such emotion and have made an impact. It was hard to pick one I liked over the others. However, Thoughts and Prayers was particularly hard to read when you consider what is happening in terms of gun control and internet trolling.

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Book Extract: We Are Animals by Tim Ewins

I am pleased to be welcoming Tim Ewins to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for his new novel, We Are Animals. 

Here’s a little about the book…

A cow looks out to sea, dreaming of a life that involves grass.

Jan is also looking out to sea. He’s in Goa, dreaming of the passport-thief who stole his heart (and, indeed, his passport) forty-six years ago. Back then, fate kept bringing them together, but lately it seems to have given up.

Jan has not. In his long search he has accidentally held a whole town at imaginary gunpoint in Soviet Russia, stalked the proprietors of an international illegal lamp-trafficking scam and done his very best to avoid any kind of work involving the packing of fish. Now he thinks if he just waits, if he just does nothing at all, maybe fate will find it easier to reunite them.

His story spans fifty-four years, ten countries, two imperfect criminals (and one rather perfect one), twenty-two different animals and an annoying teenager who just…

Will…

Not…

Leave.

But maybe an annoying teenager is exactly what Jan needs to help him find the missing thief?

Featuring a menagerie of creatures, each with its own story to tell, We Are Animals is a quirky, heart-warming tale of lost love, unlikely friendships and the certainty of fate (or lack thereof).

For the first time in her life the cow noticed the sun setting, and it was glorious.

 

Without further ado, here’s the extract. I hope you enjoy. Over to you, Tim. 

 

Thank you so much Laura, for letting me share an extract from We Are Animals with everyone at Novel Kicks! In this extract, the protagonist’s parents do not know that their son has stowed away on a stranger’s boat, dreaming of lands afar. I’ve chosen this extract as an example of one of the smaller love stories that pop up along the plot of We Are Animals.

I hope you enjoy it…

 

*****beginning of extract*****

 

Jan’s mother, still completely unaware of Jan’s lack of presence in Fishton, and of his unauthorised presence on England man’s boat, was washing the family’s clothes.

Now, there are three types of clothes washers. There are those who don’t use detergent and don’t sort their socks (the slackers), there are those who do use detergent but don’t sort their socks (the half-a-jobbers), and there are those who do use detergent and do sort their socks (the jobs-worths). Jan’s Mother was of category number three, religiously. It was when she was sorting Jan’s socks that she realised something must be wrong. There were seventeen in total, twelve of which she could match. She sat on her kitchen floor with the other five surrounding her. She’d had the odd odd sock before, and could handle that, but five? Something wasn’t right. ‘What a waste of detergent,’ she thought. Then she worried about the five missing socks. She hadn’t seen them when she’d been cleaning, and she prided herself on her housekeeping. Where were those socks?

Incidentally, you will notice that there are only three types of clothes washers – not four. No one has ever not used detergent but then sorted their socks. These people simply do not exist.

When Jan’s father returned home from the fish shop with their tea he found Jan’s mother sitting on the kitchen floor repeatedly tying the odd socks together and then untying them again.

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NK Chats To… Daisy Pearce

Thank you so much for joining me today, Daisy. Tell me a little about your novel, The Silence and what interested you most about the premise?

Hi! Thanks for having me. A lot of my ideas begin with an image and in the case of The Silence it was the image of a woman jumping into the sea with her toes pointed downward. I’d been reading a lot about gaslighting – a covert form of emotional manipulation – and how easily it could be used to isolate someone from their friends and family.

The two ideas came together almost at the same time. Stella (the central character) is a former child star and I liked the idea of her trying to untangle herself from her former fame.

 

What were the challenges of writing this novel?

Ha. All of them. All the challenges! Time, for one. I squeezed writing The Silence into every moment my daughter was asleep and then again when I forced myself to wake up early. It’s the commitment, I think. Financial, emotional, mental.

Sometimes the story was so suffocating I would happily have drop kicked my computer into the sun. Other than that, you know, it was a breeze!

 

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

A cup of tea. We live in a cold, cold house and so in the winter I started writing in bed with a hot water bottle so now that is where I write 99 percent of the time. I’m told it’s terrible for my sleep hygiene but I’m stuck in it now.

I work in a library, so I write in between the end of my work day and school pick-up and then again in the evenings. There’s a lot of opportunity for procrastination so I try to be really disciplined.

 

Which fictional character would you like to meet and why?

This is a great question and I’ve got two terrible answers for it. One, is Nanny Ogg’s cat Greebo from the Discworld novels but only – only – when he turns into a piratical man. The other is all the kids from the Losers club from the novel IT, the people I most identified with as an adolescent.

NK: My husband is a huge fan of The Discworld and I also think he would like to meet Greebo. 

 

In your opinion, what’s the most important thing to remember when developing characters?

Personally, I like to see flaws in a character. Jealousy, anger, bitterness. I need to see them as human and I need to care if they live or die. That’s what carries me through a book. I don’t neccessarily need to relate to them but I do need to know they’re not entirely whole. That helps, for me.

 

Which author has made the most impact on you as a writer?

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Novel Kicks Book Club: Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

Hello March. 

A new month means a new book to feature and discuss. Anyone can join and at anytime of the month.

The book we’re discussing this month is Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano. 

As usual, I have posted a question below to start the conversation. I look forward to talking about Dear Edward in the comments below.

About Dear Edward: 

A luminous, life-affirming novel about a 12-year-old boy who is the sole survivor of a deadly plane crash

One summer morning, a flight takes off from New York to Los Angeles. There are 192 passengers aboard: among them a young woman taking a pregnancy test in the airplane toilet; a Wall Street millionaire flirting with the air hostess; an injured soldier returning from Afghanistan; and two beleaguered parents moving across the country with their adolescent sons, bickering over who gets the window seat. When the plane suddenly crashes in a field in Colorado, the younger of these boys, 12-year-old Edward Adler, is the sole survivor.

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Book Review: Robert Ludlum’s The Treadstone Resurrection by Joshua Hood

The first novel in an explosive new series inspired by Robert Ludlum’s Bourne universe, perfect for those who binged Treadstone.

Operation Treadstone made Jason Bourne, but he’s not the only agent they trained.

Treadstone nearly destroyed Adam Hayes. The top-secret CIA Black Ops program trained him to be an all-but-invincible assassin, but it also cost him his family and any chance at a normal life. Which is why he was determined to get out. Working as a carpenter in rural Washington state, Adam thinks he has left Treadstone in the past, until he receives a mysterious email from a former colleague, and soon after is attacked by an unknown hit team at work.

Adam must regain the skills that Operation Treadstone taught him – lightning reflexes and a cold conscience – in order to discover who the would-be killers are and why they have come after him now. Are his pursuers enemies from a long-ago mission? Rival intelligence agents? Or, perhaps, forces inside Treadstone? His search will unearth secrets in the highest levels of government and pull him back into the shadowy world he worked so hard to forget.

The Treadstone Resurrection is the first novel in an explosive new series inspired by Robert Ludlum’s Bourne universe, introducing an unforgettable hero and the covert world that forged him.

When I discovered there was a new series based around Treadstone and that there was also a new book in this series (which incidentally coincides with the 40th anniversary of the franchise), I was excited to be part of the blog tour.

Treadstone pretty much destroyed Adam Hayes life. Now working as a carpenter in rural America, he is happy to have left his old life behind.

When he receives an e-mail from an old colleague, he is quickly pulled back into his old world and must recall his training if he is to stay alive.

I feel I have to be honest and admit that I’ve not read any of the original Robert Ludlum novels. My main exposure to the Bourne universe has been the movies and I am a fan of those.

Adam Hayes is a perfect anti-hero who is pulled back into his previous life as a Treadstone agent. You could feel his resentment crossed with a sense of justice as he tries to figure things out.

The development of his character happens gradually through the novel but I got the feeling that there was still a lot about him that the reader isn’t told about. There is still a big air of mystery about him. He’s complicated that’s for sure and I hope that his background is explored more should more books be released which I hope will be the case.

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Book Review: Cloth of Grace by Rachel J Bonner

When the fate of the world rests on your shoulders, how do you choose between what you ought to do and the only thing you really want?

Leonie finally knows who she is. But now she needs to decide who she is going to be. Her choice will affect not just her family, not just those she knows, but tens, hundreds of thousands, millions of people that she doesn’t. And every path that’s open to her will put Perry under the pressures that caused his breakdown before. How can she do what she must and still protect Perry?

Perry desperately wants to make things easier for Leonie. Somehow he has to find the strength to face the things that all but destroyed him in the past. But every way he turns, some aspect of his past lies waiting to pounce – even during his happiest moments. And he can never forget that Leonie’s life is in danger from someone, somewhere.

Gabriel has managed to negotiate peace, at least in theory. Now he must put that into practice and reunite Leonie with the family she never knew she had. Then disaster strikes right in the middle of his own sanctuary. Can he still protect those he loves, or has he been harbouring a villain the whole time?

It’s nice to welcome the blog tour for Cloth of Grace to the blog today.

Leonie feels that she now knows who she is. However, she needs to figure out where she belongs whilst dealing with the pressure that brings. She wants to protect Perry. There are also people who don’t want Leonie to live and this puts both her and Perry in danger.

Cloth of Grace is the fourth novel in the Choice and Consequences series. I had not read the previous three novels before beginning this one. I did manage to keep up with the story but if you can read the others in the series before this one, it will help give you a better picture of what is going on. However, if you want to begin with Cloth of Grace, there is a brief summary of the plot at the start of the book which I found very helpful.

I really like the premise of this series. The magical aspect is something I found particularly intriguing. The one thing I struggled with was the religious elements but that is my personal preference.

I got the feeling all the way through that the plot was building into something big and it didn’t disappoint. I won’t say what as I don’t want to give anything away.

Leonie is someone I could easily relate to. She’s trying to figure out who she is, where she belongs and what her path should be. I kept forgetting how young she was. She is a very powerful character and has a strength that I feel is a little underestimated by the characters around her.

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Book Review: The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver

Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. They’ve been together for almost a decade, and Lydia thinks their love is indestructible.

But she’s wrong. Because on her 27th birthday, Freddie dies in a tragic accident.

So now it’s just Lydia, and all she wants to do is hide indoors and sob ’til her eyes fall out. But Lydia knows that Freddie would want her to live her life well. So, enlisting the help of his best friend and her sister Elle, she takes her first tentative steps into the world and starts to live – perhaps even to love – again.

Then something unbelievable happens, and Lydia gets another chance at her old life with Freddie. But what if there’s someone in her new life who wants her to stay?

Lydia Bird is about to marry Freddie Hunter, the love of her life. Things are perfect.

Then Freddie dies in a car crash that also injures their close friend, Jonah.

Lydia doesn’t know what she will do without Freddie. She’s lost.

When she’s given pills to help her sleep, she takes them with relief. Then, once asleep, Freddie is there. She discovers that when she is asleep, she can be with Freddie. She can be with the man she loves. In this world, he never died and their life carries on. She couldn’t be happier and is quick to visit Freddie whenever she can.

It’s not long however before each life affects the other. Lydia has to decide where she belongs. Does she want the life she was promised or her ‘real world’ life?

Josie Silver is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. I adored One Day in December so I was excited to start reading this novel and I jumped at the chance to be part of the blog tour.

Lydia is a normal character and I felt that how she dealt with the grief was realistic and heartbreaking. It was not hard to empathise with her.

The supporting characters are also great and it was interesting to see things from their point of view – how a death like that affects not only the spouse but the people around them.

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My Writing Ramblings: 15 Things About Me

I know I seem to be saying this a lot but WHERE DID FEBRUARY GO?

It has slipped away that’s for sure. How was it for everyone?

As it’s Friday and almost the end of the month, I wanted to do something a little different and something I have not really done before (or if I have, it was ages ago.)

As I was preparing questions for authors, I began to wonder how I would answer some of these questions if I were answering them. The variety of answers is one of the things I love most about doing author interviews. Everyone is so different.

So below, I am answering fifteen questions about me – things that you may not know, others I may have answered before. I would love to get to know you too. If you fancy a go at answering these, please do in the comments below. I think this is going to be fun. Here we go.

 

Do you have a middle name?

Yes, I do. It’s Elizabeth. I did remember asking my Mum once if it was in honour of anyone. I think she may have said The Queen. Even if she didn’t, I am taking that.

 

Where were you born?

I was born in Bournemouth, which, for people not from the UK, is a seaside town on the south coast of England. I adore it and miss living there. There was something so lovely about getting out of school and heading down to the beach for an hour after school or deciding to walk home after work and listening to the waves as I walked along. I find that sound calming.

 

What did you want to do for a job when you were younger?

I wanted to be a teacher. I was always in awe of them. They seemed to be all-knowing.

Yes, I was one of those students that loved homework although I think that was as much to do with the fact that, the more I did, the more new notebooks I could insist on having. My stationery addiction began early.

I would even pretend to teach classes when I was much younger, using the side of my wardrobe as a blackboard. My Mum wasn’t impressed. Hahaha.

It was only as I finished senior school that I moved away from teaching and went into radio broadcasting.

 

What’s my favourite holiday destination?

Oh Walt Disney World. No question. You can forget about being an adult and no one cares. In fact, it’s encouraged.

 

Who’s your favourite author?

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Message to Mars

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction 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: Message to Mars.

You win a competition where the prize is to write a message.

The message will be sent to Mars. It’s the first communication from earth.

What would be in your message?

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