Laura

I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts. I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

NK Chats To… Kasi Blake

Hi Kasi, thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me about your novel, The Business Engagement and what inspired it?

I started off writing for Harlequin years ago. Then I moved on to YA Urban Fantasy/Paranormal books. I love writing YA, but it was nice to write about adults for a change. The Business Engagement is Contemporary Romance, a story of two lawyers that can’t stand each other. When the story begins, they are both experiencing huge problems at work. Skylar decides a fake engagement would solve everything. I have always loved Marriage of Convenience stories. That’s what inspired me to do this book.

 

What’s your typical writing day like?

Well, sometimes I get up before dawn to start writing. But when I get up late, I catch up on emails first. I do some marketing and whatever else that needs doing. I usually don’t really start to write until evening, and then I am usually up until midnight working on a book.

 

What are the challenges you found when writing your novel?

It’s always difficult to get to know the characters well enough that you know how they’ll react in any given situation. There are just so many moving parts when it comes to writing and endless challenges.

 

Which fictional character would you like to meet and why?

From this book, it would be Grandma Dot. She’s a pistol. From any of my books, it would be Nick Gallos/Tyler Beck from Bait: Van Helsing Academy because he is a gorgeous rock star with a bigger than life persona. He tours the world killing vampires.

 

From idea to finished book, what’s your writing process like?

After I get the idea, I make a list of possible scenes. I have to check to make sure all the romance elements are there. Then I dive in. When the book is finished, I put it aside for a while and work on something else. After I’ve forgotten how the story goes, I read it as a reader would, but I pay special attention to what’s wrong. I rewrite. Then I send it out to my wonderful beta readers. They let me know all the problems they spy out, and I rewrite again. Eventually, it gets looked at by an editor. The book goes through several rounds of revisions and editing before it’s ready to go.

 

Which authors do you admire?

S.E. Hinton got me started writing back when I was in the 7th grade. Her books inspired me. I also love to read Cassandra Clare, JK Rowling, Stephen King, Sarah Rees Brennan, and Nora Roberts.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

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NK Chats To… Simon Whaley

It’s my pleasure to help kick off the blog tour for Blooming Murder. Hello Simon, thank you for joining me today. 

Hi Laura. Many thanks for inviting me onto Novel Kicks to discuss my first novel. It’s lovely to be here.

Can you tell me about your novel, Blooming Murder and what inspired it?

Blooming Murder is set in the fictitious market town of Mortiforde, somewhere on the Welsh Borders, and tells the story of two towns fighting it out in the annual Borders in Blossom competition, to become the Borders Most Blossoming Market Town. For the fifteenth successive year, Mortiforde is up against their arch rivals Portley Ridge in this flower competition final.

My main character, Lord Mortiforde, (Aldermaston to friends and family), who is still finding his feet as the new 8th Marquess of Mortiforde, is tasked with helping Mortiforde win this year. Unfortunately for Aldermaston, Portley Ridge is determined to secure their fifteenth successive win, and have a few deadly tricks up their sleeve.

The inspiration came from an old news item I discovered on the BBC News website once, although I won’t say too much, because it might spoil the plot!

But I’m also inspired by my home county of Shropshire. When I moved here from the outskirts of London over 20 years ago, I was struck by the strong sense of community here. There’s a determination in the people who live here. When something needs doing, the community gets up and does it!

 

What’s your typical writing day like?

It doesn’t always happen, but I try to spend most of my mornings working on my bigger writing projects, such as the Marquess of Mortiforde Mystery series. Then, before lunch, I’ll go for a walk. Being hunched up over a keyboard all day isn’t good, and I’m fortunate to live amongst the beautiful scenery of the Welsh Borders.

My walking time is often some of my best creative time because walking is great for thinking. Charles Dickens sometimes walked twenty miles a day when he was writing. (I’m not sure how he found the time to write – I’d be too exhausted to write after walking that far!)

In the afternoons, I work on commissioned article features for magazines like The People’s Friend, BBC Countryfile, and Writing Magazine.

 

What are the challenges you found when writing your novel?

I’m a discovery writer, rather than a detailed planner, so although I have a rough idea of how things will develop, it’s not until I sit down and start writing that I discover where the characters are going to take me. They don’t always take me where I expect them to, so there were times when I found myself getting stuck. And while walking is great for creatively resolving problems, I don’t always resolve my current dilemma on the first walk!

 

What songs would make up a playlist for your book?

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A Moment With… Angela Jackson

Best-selling author Angela Jackson, who has just launched her new book, The Darlings, reveals her top five tips on writing:

 

  1. YOU DEFINITELY DON’T NEED TO WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW

You have an imagination, so use it! My second novel, The Darlings, is written mainly from the point of view of a thirty-something male comedian. I’m not in my thirties, I’m not a man, and I’d be stretching it to claim to be a comedian, but I did my research. One of our jobs as writers is to head down research rabbit holes to find out why people have affairs, sail around the world, change their religion, leave their partners, change careers, kill people. If you find yourself losing track of time as you research your subject area, it’s a good sign you’ll enjoy writing about the subject. If I’d have stuck to writing solely what I know about, I’d have submitted 70,000 words on the merits of a good cup of tea.

 

  1. BE YOURSELF

I once spent a whole academic year silencing my voice. After a buoyant start to an MSc in Creative Writing, once I was ‘put in my place’ by a particular tutor a couple of times, I sat in classes cowed and uncharacteristically silent. Even though I won a prestigious writing award during the same year, I didn’t trust myself to write another good sentence. I started to believe the ridiculous idea that commercial fiction, which is what I write, wasn’t good enough. If you find yourself thinking along these lines: STOP! You don’t need to be a ‘heavyweight’. You don’t need to produce a classic. I look at material I wrote during that wretched year, and it feels utterly forced and lifeless. That’s because I was trying to be someone else. I was trying to be a ‘serious’ writer. It didn’t work. You don’t need to write what you know, but you DO need to allow your own writing voice to emerge.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Christmas in July

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 if you’d like. 

Today’s prompt: Christmas in July.

Your character doesn’t like holidays and celebrations at all.

They particularly don’t like all this Christmas in July nonsense.

So, what happens if they fall and suddenly find themselves in a world where it is always Christmas?

First line ‘Gold, red and green lights, what is this?’ 

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Novel Kicks Book Club: The Humans by Matt Haig

Wow, I know I say this a lot but how are we in a new month already? Not only that, we’re halfway through 2021. 

This month, I have picked a book that has been in my TBR pile for a long time. It sounds intriguing. I’ve picked The Humans by Matt Haig.

Our book club is open to all whether you’re in the middle of reading it, haven’t started yet or have already read it, I would love to discuss it with you in the comments below. The best thing about our book club is that you can talk about this book from the comfort of your sofa.

I’ve added a question below to get the discussion going. See you in the comments.

Click to buy the book on Amazon UK

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Book Review: The Darlings by Angela Jackson

When Mark Darling is fifteen years old, he is the golden boy, captain of the school football team, admired by all who know him. Until he kills his best friend in a freak accident.

He spends the next decade drifting between the therapy couch and dead-end pursuits. Then along comes Sadie. A mender by nature, she tries her best to fix him, and has enough energy to carry them both through the next few years.

One evening, Mark bumps into an old schoolfriend, Ruby. She saw the accident first hand. He is pulled towards her by a force stronger than logic: the universal need to reconcile one’s childhood wounds. This is his chance to, once again, feel the enveloping warmth of unconditional love. But can he leave behind the woman who rescued him from the pit of despair, the wife he loves? His unborn child?

This is a story about how childhood experience can profoundly impact how we behave as adults. It’s a story about betrayal, infidelity and how we often blinker ourselves to see a version of the truth that is more palatable to us.

Mark is haunted by the tragedy of killing his best friend when they were still at school. Even though he now has a wife who saved him from rock bottom and a baby on the way, the events of his schooldays still haunt him.

Enter Ruby. A girl from those days who was there. Who saw everything.

Mark is drawn to Ruby but can he stop himself before he crosses that line and loses everything in his life?

I’ve not read ‘The Emergence of Judy Taylor’ so I’m new to Angela Jackson’s novels.
The Darlings intrigued me from page one. Mark is a character you have both empathy and dislike for all at the same time. He struggles mentally with the fact that he accidentally killed his friend. He behaves in a way that isn’t great. As a reader, this really conflicted me and it was really interesting to see how much of the past can influence the future. I think everyone can relate to that aspect in some way.

As with Mark, I also struggled with Ruby. She goes into a relationship with Mark knowing his situation but she falls in love. I think she becomes a victim of that.
As I progressed through the book, I wondered whether these two could be redeemed.
Yes, what they do isn’t very nice but when you’re connected by something so tragic, it does create a bond especially if you’re still needing to get past these events. I found the way both the story and the characters split my opinion really interesting.

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Book Review: The Orange Grove by Rosanna Ley

An unforgettable story of past love and family secrets, set in sunny Seville

Holly loves making marmalade. Now she has a chance to leave her stressful city job and pursue her dream – of returning to the Dorset landscape of her childhood to open Bitter Orange, a shop celebrating the fruit that first inspired her.

Holly’s mother Ella has always loved Seville. So why is she reluctant to go back there with Holly to source products for the shop? What is she frightened of – and does it have anything to do with the old Spanish recipe for Seville orange and almond cake that Ella keeps hidden from her family?

In Seville, where she was once forced to make the hardest decision of her life, Ella must finally face up to the past, while Holly meets someone who poses a threat to all her plans. Seville is a city full of sunshine and oranges. But it can also be bittersweet. Will love survive the secrets of the orange grove?

Holly has made a decision. She is leaving her stressful job in Brighton and is moving back home to Dorset to pursue her dream of opening her own shop, Bitter Orange.

Knowing her mother has always loved Seville and has not visited since the 1980’s, Holly is a little confused when Ella doesn’t seem enthusiastic about the trip and she starts to ask questions when they go to source stock for the new shop. What awaits Holly in Seville? What is her mother hiding?

The Orange Grove was my introduction to Rosanna Ley and so, when I began The Orange Grove, I didn’t know what to expect but the cover alone was a good sign. It’s so pretty. I always love when books are set in Dorset. Growing up there, it holds a special place for me.

It didn’t take long for this story to draw me in. Rosanna’s descriptions of Seville felt so dreamy and vivid. I could imagine myself in that setting, surrounded by beautiful oranges trees. I could smell the orange blossoms. I could see myself in the hustle and bustle. I have never visited Seville but now I want to. It sounds stunning.

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Book Review: Two Metres From You by Heidi Stephens

Love might be closer than you think . . .

Gemma isn’t sure what upsets her more. The fact she just caught her boyfriend cheating, or that he did it on her brand-new Heal’s cushions.

All she knows is she needs to put as many miles between her and Fraser as humanly possible. So, when her best friend suggests a restorative few days in the West Country, it seems like the perfect solution.

That is, until the country enters a national lockdown that leaves her stranded. All she has for company is her dog, Mabel. And the mysterious (and handsome!) stranger living at the bottom of her garden . . .

When Gemma finds her boyfriend with another woman, she bolts to her friend’s cottage in the West Country. It’s only for a few days. It’s an opportunity to hide and figure out what she’s going to do next.

What Gemma isn’t counting on is the next door neighbour, Matthew and the announcement of a national lockdown due to COVID 19.

Heidi Stephen’s debut novel deals with life in lockdown perfectly. There are so many situations that we can all relate to in some way or another and this is done with such charm and humour.

Gemma is a delight (if not a slightly frustrating character at times.) However, she has a vulnerability to her that’s incredibly endearing. Due to how the story begins, you immediately feel empathy and solidarity with her and this helped draw me into the story, wanting to know what came next and whether she’d be OK.

Being in Crowthorpe, away from her life gives her a different perspective about what she wants and needs.

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Book Review: Not In My Name by Michael Coolwood

Private Eye meets Agatha Christie

What if the British people had been given a vote about invading Iraq in 2003. And the referendum split the nation with a 52% to 48% yes vote.

A young activist is beaten to death after an anti-war demonstration.

The police say her murder was random. It wasn’t. More activists will be murdered. The activists only trust each other.

Maybe that trust has already been betrayed. Witty, political and provocative, this New Adult mystery is based on real events, and keeps the reader guessing to the very end.

Not in My Name is set in an alternative 2003. A referendum on whether to intervene in Iraq has just got a 52% Yes, 48% no result.

Phoebe Green is part of a group that opposes the referendum result. They are seen as traitors and the enemy.
When one of their group is killed, Phoebe is determined to get to the bottom of it but it’s not long before the situation goes from bad to worse.

Immediately, this book caught my attention. It’s a very interesting look at how divided a country can be and how quickly we can turn on each other. It scared me and yet the characters fascinated me all at the same time.

It’s both a political and murder mystery which had me invested in the plot very early on.

All of the characters are hiding something and this did add to the intrigue. I really had trouble figuring out what was going to happen or how it was going to end. I didn’t see the end coming actually. I found that, at some point, I suspected everyone of having a hand in Cassie’s murder.

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Book Review: Always and Forever at Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters

What if we’re all just searching for something?

Anna Stewart is lost. After barely surviving a car accident as a teenager, Anna is scared of settling. Flitting between jobs, boyfriends and homes whenever she gets bored, she has no idea what the future holds. Then her brother Brodie, minister of Glendale, suggests she moves to the beautiful Scottish village, lining up a housekeeper job for her at Glendale Hall.

Out of options, Anna agrees to the move, knowing that she can always run away again. Once at the hall, her culinary skills impress everyone, and she agrees to give Hilltop Farm’s new manager, Cameron, cooking lessons. Sparks fly between Anna and the handsome Scot, but Cameron is looking for love – something that Anna definitely isn’t.

But it’s wedding season at Glendale Hall, and Anna is about to discover that her new home has a way of working its magic on even the coldest of hearts. Will she really be able to just walk away, or could Anna have finally found a place to belong?

It’s summertime in the beautiful Highlands village of Glendale – pack your bags and come on holiday with this gorgeously uplifting, romantic read. Fans of Milly Johnson, Heidi Swain and Holly Martin will love this charming romcom.

Anna never likes to stay in one place too long. She’s running from her family and a past she blames herself for.

When circumstances mean that she has to take a job for the summer in Glendale, she isn’t happy about being near her brother. However, as it’s only for a couple of months, she puts her head down and get on with things.

Can Glendale work its magic on Anna like it has for other village residents?

Always and Forever at Glendale Hall was my introduction to the series but this can be read as a standalone or first if, like me, you’ve not read the previous three novels.

I found Anna to be a relatable character. At the start, she seems so lost. She has a persona of strength but there is such a vulnerability to her because of an accident she had when she was thirteen.

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Book Review: The Bridesmaid by Nina Manning

‘Promise me? If you hear any secrets, never tell me. That would make you a most treasured friend. More than a friend really. You’re almost like a sister to me…’

Your best friend….

From the moment they met as children, Sasha knew that beautiful, wealthy, and confident Caitlin would always be her absolute best friend.  Sasha would do anything to make Caitlin happy.  

Even keep her darkest secrets…

The years have passed, but their friendship remains.  And when Caitlin announces she’s getting married there is only one choice for the role of bridesmaid.  

Sasha will make sure Caitlin’s wedding is as beautiful and perfect as she is.  Won’t she? 

Your worst nightmare?

But Sasha is growing tired of always being in Caitlin’s shadow  – always the bridesmaid, never the bride.  And as the big day approaches, cracks begin to appear between the two woman.  Secrets and lies swirl between the two friends like confetti. Both of them are hiding dark secrets, both of them are lying. 

Could the secrets that once bound these two friends, rip them apart for good?

 

When Caitlin announces that she’s getting married, Sasha is the choice of Bridesmaid. However, secrets that have been buried for years are just bubbling below the surface and Sasha doesn’t know how much longer she can keep things to herself.

When I read the blurb for this novel, it sounded right up my street and I couldn’t wait to get started. It is a slow burner to begin with. I think this sort of start adds to the tension and pulls you right in.

Caitlin and Sasha’s relationship was one I found both fascinating and frustrating in equal measure. They are a good example of how two people, who wouldn’t have chosen each other otherwise, are thrown together as friends simply because they were in the same place at the same time. Even though they are supposed to be friends, social status, class and background play huge parts, even when they reach adulthood.

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Book Review: Things Are Looking Up by Maxine Morrey

What if what you really need is right there in front of you, if you just take a moment to look up?

Milly has been waiting for this moment forever and finally it’s just an hour away – an interview with Vogue magazine and the opportunity to get her Louboutin-clad foot in the door.  There’s just one problem – totally engrossed in her mobile phone, Milly doesn’t see the bus that is fast approaching – until it’s too late…

When Milly next opens her eyes, the consequences of her accident become clear. Everything she has worked for and dreamed of suddenly feels out of reach. But there is one bright spot on her horizon – the reappearance of her ex Jed, in all of his six-foot-four, broad-shouldered glory, with the most piercing ice blue eyes Milly ever saw.

Once used to working in a whirlwind, Milly now has the chance to reconsider how to live. Will she rush back to the treadmill, get her head down and back to business, or is there a whole other life waiting for her, if she’ll just look up to see it?

Milly is on the verge of getting the job she has spent most of her working life trying to get; much to the detriment of everything else.

What she didn’t plan on, was getting hit by a bus.

When she wakes up a week later, she finds herself homeless and jobless.

Her ex also comes back into her life… her very handsome, sweet ex.

It didn’t take me long to get completely engrossed in this novel. I immediately felt immersed in the London setting and I could imagine myself walking around London with Milly.

Milly was a character I could get behind. Yes, she has flaws and there were many points where I found her frustrating, but she felt very real and like an old friend. I wanted everything to work out for her. It was lovely to see her journey as I progressed through the book as she gets to know herself again.

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Novel Kicks Book Club: The Long Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper

How beautiful is this weather? What a lovely way to start June.

For this month’s book, I’ve picked The Long Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper.

I’ve started this novel and I’m already enjoying it. It’s perfect for reading in the garden or on the beach (now that we are allowed out.)

I’m looking forward to reading this and discussing it with you. Our book club is open to all, whether you’ve not started reading yet, are halfway through, or finished. As usual, I have posted a question below to get the discussion started.

See you in the comments below and happy reading!

 

About The Long Long Afternoon:

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Book Review: The House Guest by Charlotte Northedge

Kate trusts Della, and Della trusts Kate.
Their downfall is each other.

When Kate moves to London after the disappearance of her sister, she’s in need of a friend. A chance meeting leads Kate to Della, a life coach who runs support groups for young women, dubbed by Kate as ‘the Janes.’

Della takes a special interest in Kate, and Kate soon finds herself entangled in Della’s life – her house, her family, and her husband. It’s only when she realises that she’s in too deep that Della’s veneer begins to crumble, and the warnings from ‘the Janes’ begin to come true.

Why is Della so keen to keep Kate by her side? What does Kate have that Della might want? And what really lies beneath the surface of their friendship?

Kate has long lived in the shadow of her elder sister’s disappearance. Even when she leaves the family home in Cambridge for a new life in London, finding her sister is still priority.

Then she meets Della and is invited to take part in life coaching sessions. Della seems to have it all and Kate is soon under the spell. Are things as they seem though?

When I first started reading, I wanted to reach into the page and give Kate a big hug. She’s so lost.

I really don’t want to give much away when it comes to the plot of this novel as I am hoping it’s one you’ll discover for yourself.

This was a thriller that immediately drew me in. How it starts and then proceeds had me intrigued and desperate to know what was happening and how it fitted together.

It was obvious to me that certain characters and situations were not as they seemed and, like Kate, I didn’t know who to trust. I also questioned whether things were too good to be true.

Unexpected twists and turns throughout had me reading well past my bedtime.

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Cover Reveal: The Promise of Summer by Bella Osborne

I am always so excited when Bella Osborne releases a new novel and today, we are helping to reveal the cover for her latest book, The Promise of Summer. 

Here’s a little about the book…

Ruby’s life is about to change for ever…

After years of dating losers, cheats and one guy who did something unrepeatable to her kettle, Ruby has all but given up on romance. But then a stranger sits next to her on a train to London and explains his plan to propose to the woman of his dreams. Maybe true love does exist after all?

When the man accidentally leaves the engagement ring behind, Ruby is determined to save the day. But she hasn’t counted on fellow passenger Curtis stepping in and insisting he should be the one to track the stranger down.   
 
As summer closes in, the unlikely pair make a promise to reunite the ring with its owner. But can they find their own happy ever after along the way?

Are you ready to see the cover. Drumroll. Three, two, one! 

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