NK Chats To… L.M Brown

Hello, L.M Brown, thank you so much for joining me today. What’s your typical writing day like?

It depends on what stage I am at. Before I start a project, whether it’s a novel or a short story, I plan it out. I think of the characters and their main story as well as the backstory.

This could take weeks or months with a novel, especially because I never start a novel now without reading at least 5 or 6 novels that I think might be similar.

With a story it could take an hour or so, and then I start writing. I like to get up before 6 when the house is quiet, and I work all the time I can. The re-write is my favorite part and its much easier to get up at 5 when I am there, because I have something to work with.

 

What’s the challenges of writing a collection of short stories? 

For a collection, there needs to be a common thread linking all the stories together, so not every story might fit the collection.

For Were We Awake, the publisher didn’t think one story fit. It was a story about alcoholism and family dynamics, but Marc believed it was too normal and boring for a collection with ghosts, clowns, exotic birds and murders. So, I wrote a different story, and he was right. The collection was better for it.

 

What’s your favorite word and why?

I laughed when I read this, such a hard question. I like the word ‘pernicious’, though I can’t say I have a favorite word.

 

How do you approach the planning process when writing a book made up of short stories? What advice do you have for someone who would like to put together a short story collection? 

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Cover Reveal: Never Saw You Coming by Hayley Doyle

I am so pleased to be taking part in the cover reveal for Never Saw You Coming, the new novel from Hayley Doyle. 

Before we reveal the cover, here’s a little about the book:

Zara Khoury believes in love – so much so that she flies from Dubai to Liverpool to be with a man she barely knows. It’s a risk, but she’s certain that uprooting her life for Nick is the new start she needs.
 
Jim Glover is stuck. Since his Dad died, he’s put his dreams aside and stayed at home in Liverpool to care for his mum. Trapped in a dead-end job, he’s going nowhere – that is, until he gets a phone call that just might change his life..
 
Zara and Jim aren’t supposed to meet. But then fate steps in, and when their worlds – and cars! – collide, the real journey begins…
 
A gorgeous tale about taking risks and living life to the full – perfect for fans of Beth O’Leary and Josie Silver.

OK, are you ready for the cover? 

Drumroll…. Ta-dah!

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Unexpected Journey

I am excited to be back with the first Novel Kicks Writing Room of 2020. 

Today, it is writing about an unexpected journey.

Your character’s day begins like any other.

They wake up, have coffee, see the kids off to school, take the same bus and arrive for the same job they’ve held for a few years.

The plan is to work, go back home, eat with the family, have the same conversations, watch TV and then go to sleep for it all to start again the next day.

Yet, that evening, they are on a train and are far from home.

Write about what happens between work and this point and/or what happens after.

 

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Book Review: Snowflakes and Sparks by Sophie-Leigh Robbins

One small town. One swoon-worthy neighbor. One second chance at love.

Old Pine Cove is the one place on earth Suzie swore she’d never return to, but then her boss asks her to manage one of their bookstores there. Since it’s only temporary, she agrees. Besides, what could possibly go wrong?

Gosh, how naïve of her.

Alex Denverton opening the door with that smoldering look of his, that’s what could go wrong. It’s been ten years since she broke his car and his heart. How is she supposed to focus on work knowing he’s right next door? And why did she even agree to organize the annual Winter Walk with him?

One thing is certain, though. If Suzie wants to have a magical Christmas, she can’t ask Santa to make it happen. It’s up to her to decide: go big or go home.

 

Snowflakes and Sparks focuses on Suzie. Living in LA, working in a bookshop and hoping for promotion, she didn’t think she would ever return to the small town of Old Pine Cove but it’s where she finds herself, just before Christmas, managing the bookshop there.

She has not been in town long when she sees Alex. She’s not seen him since she left and broke his heart ten years earlier. He’s as gorgeous as she remembers and seems to have no anger toward her.

How was she supposed to concentrate with him next door? She has even said she’d help organise the winter walk with Alex. What could go wrong?

Snowflakes and Sparks was my introduction to Sophie-Leigh Robbins but it won’t be the last book of hers I read.

I read this at the beginning of December and it immediately put me in the festive mood.

I loved Suzie from the beginning. She is a very open, friendly and relatable character. I want to be her friend.

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Novel Kicks Book Club: On The Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher

Hello 2020. A new decade, a new year and a new Novel Kicks book club read. 

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

This month, I have picked On The Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher. 

As usual, I have posted a question to start discussion. I look forward to seeing you in the comments. Anyone can take part too.

 

About the novel…

Your soul is too heavy to pass through this door,

Leave the weight of the world in the world from before.

Evie Snow is eighty-two when she quietly passes away in her sleep, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. I

t’s the way most people wish to leave the world but when Evie reaches the door of her own private heaven, she finds that she’s become her twenty seven- year-old self and the door won’t open. Evie’s soul must be light enough to pass through so she needs to get rid of whatever is making her soul heavy.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Come Get Father Christmas

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: Where is he?

Father Christmas has been kidnapped. It’s all over the news around the world.

However, your character is made aware of this when a red, hand-delivered envelope is posted through their door. The number one has been printed on the front. The note inside reads…

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Book Review: The Afternoon Tea Club by Jane Gilley

I am pleased to be welcoming Jane Gilley and the blog tour for her latest book, The Afternoon Tea Club. 

Marjorie, Stacy, Raymond and Dora each hold a different story to their chest – lost loves, abandoned dreams, crippling self-confidence issues, and simply feeling invisible. For each of them, the thought of letting those stories out is almost as terrifying as letting strangers in, and that makes for a very lonely life indeed.

But when these four strangers who have struggled to “fit in” end up on the same table for an event at their local community centre, little do they know that their lives are about to be entwined and changed forever because of an Afternoon Tea club.

Cue an unexpected journey of self-discovery, some unlikely new companions, and plenty of tea and biscuits along the way…

 

This novel had me at the title. Tea is one of my favourite things. There’s a lot more to it than that though.

The Afternoon Tea Club focuses on Marjorie, Dora, Raymond and Stacy.

All vary in ages but all are harbouring their own secrets and insecurities. These four characters are also lonely in their own ways.

When The Afternoon Tea Club is announced in their local area, each of our main characters goes although some are more reluctant than others. Dora, Raymond, Marjorie and Stacy are four unique characters who have more in common than they realise. I don’t want to say too much about the plot because, as normal, I hope you will decide to discover this book.

Marjorie carries a lot of learned behaviour and has much emotional baggage tied into the relationship with her husband.

Dora also has a lot of hurt from her past and it’s been something she’s been running from for a long time.

Raymond is probably one of the sweetest fictional characters I have come across. He’s a simple man who is still in love with his wife ever after her death.

Stacy is missing so many aspects of love from her life and she almost has to hit rock bottom to find herself again.

I think out of all of the characters, I related to Stacy the most. She and I don’t share life experiences but there was just something about her. Although, I think she may be a little braver than me.

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Christmas Gift Guide 2019: Stocking Fillers for Writers and Readers

It’s that time of year. In fact, it’s my favourite time of the year.. Christmas.

I am one of those people who likes finding presents for family and friends. I will sit for hours trying to find the perfect something – a gift they would like.

As I have been doing my own shopping, I have found some perfect stocking fillers related to writing or books so I have put together a gift guide.

If you’re struggling to find a present for the writer or reader in your life (or, if you want to observe the law of Christmas present shopping where you should buy something for yourself as well as for others. OK, I made that up but it’s a nice tradition to start right?)

I have tried to find things that are under £20 so let’s get straight to the guide.*

 

 

Literary Cat Mug – The Literary Gift Company – £13.99.

Words can’t describe how much I love this mug and it is going on my Christmas list for sure. This mug features nine cat silhouettes and kitty related quotes from people like Emily Bronte, L.M Montgomery and Winston Churchill.

It’s so pretty and for anyone who wants to know, it’s microwave and dishwasher safe too. If, like me, you or your gift recipient is a writer, reader or cat lover (or all three,) this mug is perfect.

 

 

100 Books Scratch Bucket List Poster – Gift Republic via Not on The High Street – £12.99.

 

I love these type of posters and really want one. This one in particular compiles a hundred of the best novels and, if you’ve not already guessed, you can scratch off the books as you read.

This poster features classic novels like Murder on the Orient Express and Great Expectations to more recent books like The Help, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Handmaid’s Tale. This would make a great reading challenge for the new year if you or someone you know have wanted to read some of the greats but haven’t know where to begin.

 

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Cover Reveal: The Beach House by P.R. Black

Today, I am joining P.R Black and Aria by helping to reveal the cover for his latest novel, The Beach House. 

Having enjoyed The Family, I can’t wait to read this novel. Before we reveal the cover, here is a little about The Beach House…

 

This vacation is about to turn deadly…

Cora’s on the island vacation of her dreams: a private beach in paradise, a romantic proposal, and an eight-figure cheque following the sale of her new fiancé’s business.

When their island turns out to be not so private after all, Cora tries to make the best of a bad situation by inviting their strangely friendly neighbours to celebrate with them.

But it doesn’t take long for her once-in-a-lifetime holiday to take a very sinister turn…

 

OK, time for the cover. Drumroll….. 

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Book Extract: Country Lovers by Fiona Walker

A big lovely welcome today to Fiona Walker and the blog tour for her novel, Country Lovers.

 

They say you should never go back, but glamorous Ronnie Percy did just that, to the home she ran away from with her lover.

But not everyone is finding it easy to forgive and forget.

Daughter Pax, fighting for custody of her small son as her own marriage disintegrates, is furious to have to spend New Year’s Eve waiting for some stranger her mother has invited to help run the family stud farm.

Even more annoyed is the staunchly loyal stud head groom, Lester. Does Ronnie think he’s lost his touch with the horses? And anyway, who is this so-called Horsemaker, Luca O’Brien? Why does he seem to be running away from something? And what is the true story of his relationship with grey stallion Beck, once destined for the Olympics, now broken and unrideable, screaming his anger from the Compton Magna stables.

Passionate, sexy, gripping, laced with her trademark wisdom and humour, this is bestselling Fiona Walker at her dazzling best.

 

To celebrate the release of Country Lovers, Fiona has shared an extract today. I hope you love it as much as I did. 

 

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

 

Convinced the stud’s revival would bring her family closer together, Ronnie refused to be daunted by the hard work needed to make it profitable by the trustees’ deadline. She just had to attract owners, generate stud fees and sell horses fast. Horse-trading was in her blood.

In the room behind her, Ronnie’s two small dogs were rooting round the skirting boards on the hunt for mice, sneezing at the dust. Tough, low-slung black and tans – mother and daughter Lancashire Heelers – their tails gyrated at fresh scent.

‘Catch ’em, girls,’ she urged. ‘Got to make this place habitable.’ She glanced round the room, part of a long-neglected staff flat. Blast the housekeeper for going AWOL just when they needed her most, a handwritten note delivered last week to say she was fed up working for nothing.

Well, she couldn’t afford to buy Pip back when she had a new work rider to pay.

Hired before she’d changed her mind about staying on, Luca O’Brien was an added expense Ronnie knew she must justify. Having poached him from a big Canadian showjumping yard, she’d vetoed both daughters’ demands to withdraw the job offer at the last-minute. No rider could make a horse look as good as Luca; added to which he wasn’t afraid to muck in and get his hands dirty, could manage a yard, and never stopped smiling. Lester had his teeth gritted too tightly in disapproval to muster much joy these days.

She watched the small, bowed figure in the distance, throwing open the gate to the winter turn-out then limping back to the broad-span barn to let out a stampede of yak-like woolly beasts, kicking and squealing as they charged into the field to shake off the straw, playfight and roll. Somewhere beneath all the matted hair and mud were some decent youngsters, she hoped. And whinnying furiously from his stallion box in the yard, trumpeting his superiority, her beautiful grey powerhouse would wow fellow breeders just as soon as she figured out how to defuse the bomb in his head.

Her phone face lit up on the windowsill, notifications pinging. ‘At last!’

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Book Review: Eve’s Christmas by Julie Butterfield

Working for a department store where Christmas arrives in August, Eve prefers her own festivities to be low key with nothing more complicated than an oven ready turkey and frozen peas while she spends the day in her pyjamas. Unfortunately, this year her husband has invited his best friend to visit, the glamorous and sophisticated Abby, and Eve reluctantly decides that she needs to inject a little sparkle into their laid back and slightly shabby Christmas.

So the celebrations are upgraded to include champagne and canapes along with homemade gravy and organic turkey and plans are made for a Christmas that looks as though it has emerged from the pages of a glossy magazine.

But even the best laid plans can go wrong and as Eve struggles with her mini Yorkshire puddings and an interfering cat, she is suddenly faced with an unexpected guest and an explosive secret that threatens to put her vision of a perfect Christmas in jeopardy.

Eve prefers the quiet life at Christmas especially as working in a department store means that the festive season arrives in summer.

This year though, she has to trade her PJ’s and minimum efforts for all out glamour and perfection when her husband announces that his best friend, Abby is coming to stay for twelve days over Christmas.

Her home is soon covered with pages ripped out of magazines, pages of notes and failed cooking attempts as Eve becomes slightly obsessed with making everything perfect. She is surrounded by an excited youngest daughter, an eldest daughter who doesn’t waste a chance to remind her of the amount of waste generated over Christmas and a confused husband but she gets tunnel vision and is soon even redecorating the spare room in anticipation of Abby’s arrival.

I had a mixture of sympathy and annoyance toward Eve at the beginning of the book as I had a feeling it was not going to go as planned.

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Audiobook Review: Murders of Old China by Paul French

One country rich in history, 12 unsolved murders. Reopening the archives on China’s long forgotten past.  

Why did a remote police station, built to combat pirates, find itself at the centre of a murder-suicide after a constable went on the rampage? How did Chinese gangsters avoid conviction after serving a deadly dinner to Frenchtown’s elite? And why is the Foreign Office still withholding a key document to solving a murder that took place in the Gobi desert in 1935?

By delving deep into 12 of China’s most fascinating murder cases, Murders of Old China delivers a fast-paced journey through China’s early 20th-century history – including its criminal underbelly. 

Uncovering previously unknown connections and exposing the lies, Paul French queries the verdict of some of China’s most controversial cases, interweaving true crime with China’s chaotic and complicated history of foreign occupation and Chinese rival factions. 

I rarely feature non-fiction on Novel Kicks but when I was asked if I wanted to take part in the blog tour for Murders of Old China and read about the premise, I jumped at the chance.

Murders of Old China is an Audible original and is narrated by the author, Paul French. He looks at twelve murder cases that happened in China in the early 20th century.

Each chapter focuses on a different case and even though it’s non-fiction, it felt that I could have been reading a fictional murder mystery novel. Some of it was almost unbelievable.

The mystery and the twists and turns in these cases appealed to my love of puzzles and history.

This has made me want to know as much as possible about this era that I have previously not known anything about.

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NK Chats To: Sasha Wagstaff

Hi Sasha, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about Christmas in Chamonix and what inspired the novel?

Hi there! Thank you for putting these fabulous questions together for me. So, first things first – I absolutely loved writing Christmas in Chamonix. I have recently fallen in love with skiing (although I have really struggled with it – Lily’s fear of heights echoes my own!) and I have always adored Christmas. My parents have always been huge fans of Christmas and made it such a special time of year for myself and my brother, with lots of traditions and magical moments – which I now carry out with my own children.

So Chamonix was mostly inspired by my absolute love of Christmas. But it was also the opportunity to take readers into a beautifully Christmassy environment – with falling snow, gorgeous, festive decorations and the delicious food and drink involved. Add skiing into that – and I was in writing heaven! Skiing is such an exhilarating sport…it’s amazing if you master even a small part of it, let alone manage to ski down a steep mountain and not fall over!

 

How do you approach the planning of a novel and how has it evolved since your debut novel?

I approach the planning of a novel with military precision – and always have done. With lots of creativity thrown in, of course, but for me, it’s about being organised and disciplined. So I begin with the idea. I expand it with lots of notes (I use a different, A4 sized notebook with a lovely cover for each new novel) and begin writing character notes to flesh out my main players. I then write a synopsis which will be two pages or fifteen, depending on how much of the story flows out at that stage, but the main point is to get down the beginning, the middle and the end. After that, I write a full version of this, which is where I will structure scenes and make sure each section moves smoothly on to the next one. With some cliff hangers thrown in here and there. I find this process easier and more fun than I used to in the early days and it also makes writing the novel itself fairly straight forward as I have a strong structure as a guideline and I’m essentially then delving into the thoughts and feelings and emotions of my characters.

 

Do you think character or plot is more important?

Well, that’s a seriously good question! Ok. So even with a killer idea, if you don’t have the right personalities in place to play the story out, it’s going nowhere and it’s just a concept with no heart and soul. Equally, if you have fantastic lead players and strong secondary characters but no real idea of what the story is about or where it’s going, the reader won’t feel invested as there isn’t anything for them to connect with and relate to. For me, they are equally important. You need a killer idea and you need relatable characters your readers can fall in love with and care about.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

My favourite word….I’m loving these questions! I love the word ‘serendipitous’. Which means ‘occurring or discovered by chance in a happy or beneficial way’. I just think it’s a really positive word and one which puts me in a strong headspace of believing that everything happens for a reason and that there is something to be grateful for everywhere you look.

 

Can you tell me about your typical writing day, where you like to write, do you need endless amounts of coffee and silence or do you prefer noise?

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Novel Kicks Book Club: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn

Hello December. I am excited as this is my favourite time of the year.

The trees and lights are going up and the cold weather has certainly arrived so there is no better reason to curl up with a cup/glass of something and a book (I know I say this every month,) and I am hoping you’ll join me with reading this month’s book club.

I’ve chosen Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn.

This book sounds like a lot of fun and has an interesting premise. As normal, I have posted a question to kick off the discussion. Hopefully see you in the comments.

 

About Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares.

I’ve left some clues for you. If you want them, turn the page. If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.

At the urge of her lucky-in-love brother, sixteen-year-old Lily has left a red notebook full of dares on her favourite bookshop shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept. Curious, snarky Dash isn’t one to back down from a challenge – and the Book of Dares is the perfect distraction he’s been looking for.

As they send each other on a scavenger hunt across Manhattan, they’re falling for each other on paper. But finding out if their real selves share their on-page chemistry could be their biggest dare yet….

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NK Chats To… Emma Jackson

Hi Emma, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your new novel, A Mistletoe Miracle?

Beth, my heroine, has returned to her childhood home – the Hotel Everdene – after a bad breakup. Her confidence is badly shaken & she’s struggling to know what to do next in life. When her mother is stranded in a blizzard, Beth is left in charge of the fully booked hotel, feeling completely out of her depth. But one thing Beth isn’t, is a quitter and, with a bit of help from Nick, a gorgeous guest, she does her best to make sure Christmas doesn’t end in catastrophe!

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Do you need coffee? Silence? Where do you like to work?

It varies through the week. On a Monday & Tuesday, when my 3yo is in nursery, I usually get back from the school & nursery run by 9.30. Then I run around tidying up the mess from breakfast, make a start in some housework & settle down to write at my desk at around 10.30-11.00. I have a fantastic pull down desk in my bedroom which my partner put in as a surprise for me when I was away at the RNA conference in July & I love it so much. I always have music playing, the house is so quiet without the kids in it, and I probably spend too much time creating special playlists for each project. The rest of the week when I have my 3yo home, writing takes place in the evenings on the sofa with my headphones on!

 

Emma’s writing space

What’s your route to publication been like?

It feels like it has been very long. I started writing my first novel over a decade ago & I did query it but in hindsight I had no clue what I was doing! Writing became sporadic over the last eight years as we started a family & I became a stay-at-home mum. Some people might think that gives you lots of time to write but I find it so hard to concentrate on writing with my kids around me.

Then I joined the RNA at the beginning of 2019 & really got serious about finishing my manuscript, sending it for the NWS critique & submitting it. Orion announced their new digital first imprint called Dash at the RNA Conference & I sent it along. Overall, I probably submitted A Mistletoe Miracle to twenty agents & publishers, and entered half a dozen competitions. So, lots of no’s but you only need one yes!

 

What would be on a playlist for this novel?

As I mentioned earlier I have an extensive playlist for this novel on Spotify (which I’m going to make available very soon). Also, Beth is a music tutor so music is very important to her & lots of songs feature in the story. Three Little Birds by Bob Marley, Come Away with Me by Norah Jones & Words Are Dead by Agnes Obel all play a significant part in her journey.

 

What’s your favourite word?

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