It’s ☘️St Patrick’s Day ☘️weekend so to celebrate the KINDLE edition of my debut YA romantic thriller is FREE today. Love if you read and if you have the time rate on Amazon or Goodreads. Debut authors need all the support they can get from the writing and reading communities. I hope you enjoy 😊
I wonder if anyone, anywhere is celebrating with a popcorn party? I’m worried they’re not; that popcorn lovers are unaware of this celebration of the simple maize kernal. It’s a little bit of magic the way this hard brown seed like thing heats and bursts into either a snowflake or a mushroom shape. When I think of popcorn I remember the ban I put on microwave popcorn because it left the kitchen smelling like a tanning shop. Every sleepover that weird smell would linger whilst girls drifted around looking for phone chargers whilst their eyelashes remained stuck to my pillows.
I’ve grown up with popcorn. It was part of the attraction of going to the cinema; Butterkist toffee popcorn. Definitely the best in my opinion.
Last Monday my daughter returned to uni after being home for a few days. It was a Netflix…I mean a reading week. She’d taken a short break in Germany with her boyfriend and mates. Landing at the airport she got a coach home and just appeared…with her dirty laundry and an empty purse. Although we phone, text and face time we hadn’t seen each other since Christmas. I’d been feeling pretty lousy for a while; very slow and unsteady with constant head and neck pain. For some unfathomable reason I can’t settle down to Netflix alone; I’m wired only to watch TV when I’ve company so her visit was a real pick-me-up.
What I like about my daughters is they’re givers…other than when they empty the fridge and leave with shower gel and makeup remover. Kitty made dinners, numerous cups of tea, painted my toe nails, gave me a manicure and lifted my spirits.
In pjs all day, eating an abundance of sweet popcorn, we binged romances: I Feel Pretty, To All The Boys I Loved Before and Kissing Booth. It was our love of this genre together with thrillers that led me to writing. There just isn’t enough romance. Right now our screens are dominated by fantasy, superhero and reality TV. I need a dark, mind games, noir romance. As a fully trained popcorn eater I can transfer popcorn from hand to mouth without my eyes straying from the tv screen; even under intense movie pressure. I want to feel unsettled, desperate, filled with longing as a man who can’t be trusted moves in on a girl who can’t trust. So I write what isn’t available on Netflix and I genuinely think Netflix would benefit from a movie version of Random Attachment.
My boys love reality TV; there’s not a hint of romance unless girlfriends are on the scene. They are brill in that they are self-reliant; they cook, clean, launder. Paddy makes me a coffee when he has one but they are lads and it’s mainly gym, football and Netflix boy stuff in our house now.
Anyone who follows me knows I have bad days; physically, mentally and emotionally. I swing from confident to self-doubt, buoyant to sunk, thoughtful to selfish, mobile to housebound. Myelopathy with fibromyalgia is a very limiting, unpredictable condition. Reading and writing brings the world to me. I’m living through my books and that’s why they are emotional. Social media remains a friend and foe. Everyone has been lovely, not a negative word has come my way but it’s harder than I imagined to get followers to like your comment or retweet. It’s a bit demoralising when you put heart and sole into a blog and it gets seven views and one like. Daily I check out others’ blogs; they are aesthetically brilliant, relevant, witty; I can see how hard it is to stand out. But it’s a challenge. I’m on a journey to become an established author and blogger and on the way I hope to make genuine connections with YA readers and popcorn enthusiasts.
This is a hard one for me. I’ve no interest in wealth, status or looks. Due to health issues I rarely travel beyond my High Street. This makes instagramming and twittering a challenge. Would I love to win the lottery? Oh my god YES! But I’ve never had spare cash…ever…in my lifetime so I don’t chase it. However I do want to sell my book…because when I give it away I feel more like a mum than a writer. Selling it cements my identity as an author and that I do need, that I am chasing. I want Random Attachment to pop up all over Twitter and WordPress and maybe I’ll have to travel the world (1st class because of my condition) making tv appearances. For someone with no money I dream big.
Perhaps no one will read this blog…I get that I’m not cutting edge but I still have opinions and ideas. It’s nice to while away the time with such a diverse community. I love talking about books…especially mine…sorry I can’t help it; I’m a version of The Picture of Dorian Gray!
So here’s my round up of last week. Grab a bag of popcorn and settle down.
DEAD TO YOU by Lisa McMann
YA. A missing child is reunited with his family nine years later when he is sixteen. Great concept; not original but reinvented nicely. SPOILER ALERT!!!! I swallowed the fact that a DNA test would have been conducted early on, before Ethan was reunited with his parents. Sometimes for a great story to unfold there might need to be a little neglect of procedure; acceptable in YA but not Adult. SPOILER OVER I loved Ethan; he was authentic, vulnerable and angry. Lisa’s male POV was convincing. I loved Cami and how natural she was with Ethan. Their relationship was tender, honest and believable. I enjoyed Lisa’s quality, pacy writing style.
Unfortunately the timing was flawed. First the extended family reunion? This boy barely knows his immediate family; it would be totally overwhelming! Then school? I can’t imagine in any missing child case a child being rushed back to school after such a short reintroduction to family life. “Mama says you’re going to school on Monday.” WTF? He’d been missing nine years! He’s 16, having panic attacks, doesn’t want to go to school but dad says he’s got to go? If my son was missing a week and said he wasn’t ready for school I’d say fine, I’ll sort it. But I’m enjoying the book so I let the writer off the hook. This ‘Mama’ business is odd. In most books it would be the precursor to a haunting. Why couldn’t she just be mum or mom? My last point. Although it’s YA and from Ethan’s pov, for the ending to hit hard I needed more invested in the relationships between Ethan and his parents. I was very disappointed in the abrupt ending. Almost as if it’s tripping over itself to set up for a second novel; without giving care and attention to the first. It should have been the most moving chapter where we feel bitterly disappointed for Ethan and his mum. It was too casual and rushed. So its a 3.5/5 for me
Right. This is a fairly disturbing movie. It’s not your slasher or paranormal jump out of your seat horror. I don’t want to define it; part of why I liked it was it didn’t immediately fall into a horror category. It’s an uneasy watch and a film I would rather have missed out on. Reason being I know one night I’ll wake up at 1.11 or 3.33 and feel a little uneasy and this film is going to creep under my skin and give me the heebee jeebies. As usual Toni Collette is excellent but the film is stolen by Milly Shapiro and Alex Wolff. My only criticism would be length; it’s about half an hour too long. 4/5.
STATE TROOPER by Bruce Springsteen
In my teens I was a big Springsteen fan. I saw him at Wembley Stadium on 4 July in the 80’s. Not that it’s relevant but my dad died five years later on 4 July. I’d not thought about Bruce in years because there is just so much amazing new music that I roll forward more than backward. One of my top films is Rust and Bone which features this song. It’s just so melancholic and a reminder that the choices we make during our lives can leave us surrounded by loved ones or lonely as a cloud.
WHILE YOU SLEEP by Stephanie Merritt
Adult. A woman with family issues crosses the sea to a remote Scottish Island where she rents a house with a dark history. Being a writer has not softened my reviewing of fellow writers. I hope that I’m fair but I do worry I have a touch of the Simon Cowell’s; that perhaps I’m a little mean. It’s difficult when I’ve been raised on literary giants like Val McDermid. Yes, it’s increasingly difficult to be original because it feels like everything’s been done…and done brilliantly. I’ve read some good thrillers recently and While You Sleep did not come up to scratch. ‘Edgy and terrifying’ this was not. Stephanie Merritt can write; I think she’s capable of weaving a good tale, I liked her writing style very much. Unfortunately the sexual, Rosemary’s Baby, hocus pocus was thrown at us too soon and too obviously. Either something bold strikes quickly or tension should build. Also there are only so many times I can read: hairs stood on end, goosebumps; it was very stereotypical fear, sex, occult. It didn’t grab me. It had potential but if you’ve ever experienced living in a spooky place by the sea, you’ll have heard every Gothic tale a hundred times so it takes something original to creep you out. Sorry this was very tame and I didn’t feel about the characters one way or another.
So that’s it but I want to say be kind to yourself, be forgiving, read a little and love a lot.
PS If you like YA here’s the link to my novel x https://www.amazon.co.uk/RANDOM-ATTACHMENT-Gertrude-T-Kitty/dp/1790375347/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=random+attachment&qid=1552570680&s=gateway&sr=8-2
I wouldn’t say I was born to write. If I hadn’t become disabled I’d still be teaching in an FE college. It’s ironic that I worked whilst raising my children yet I ended up unable to work when my children were independent.
As a working mum I felt I had to do it all: contribute financially, maintain a career, cook amazing nutritional meals, clean my house till it gleamed, launder, raise happy, well-balanced children and drop it till it’s hot in the bedroom. I spent ten years close to exhaustion. I think that’s why my condition went undetected for so long; I thought every working mother felt this crap.
I think about how hard the suffragettes worked for equality, their risks, their compromise, even their blood and somehow that’s been misinterpreted. Women can’t do it all; nobody can.
As a woman I want opportunity, choice and equality for my daughters. On the same hand I want my sons to be able to take parental leave without feeling their jobs or promotions are threatened.
I won’t claim to have raised my girls and boys the same; in fact I didn’t raise my two girls the same. I took into account my children’s strengths and weaknesses. Their opportunities though were equal; they all did martial arts, swimming lessons, played with each others toys, learnt to cook, put a wash on, cut the grass and paint.
I was born in 1967, to Irish parents. I felt being pretty, well-mannered, happy and singing were my parent’s expectations of me. So I worried I was fat but covered it with a smile whilst singing Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.
I married a man of Irish descent and continued on my path of being the woman who did it all as and that’s what he expected.
Yet stay at home mums criticised me for abandoning my children and colleagues resented the time I took off for my children. My mother in law decided I didn’t fulfill either role particularly well.
I raised my kids to be independent, to enjoy life as individuals, to be content with their own company and not be ruled by money but by dreams.
They still have childhood wounds and insecurities. My marriage, though happy, had glitches. As parents we’ve done a better job than our parents but we’ve made mistakes. My children have seen how I’ve deferred to my husband throughout our relationship and it’s led to the girls being assertive and the boys being respectful of women’s opinions.
I don’t differentiate between my children emotionally; boys are as susceptible as girls to doubt, identity anxiety and mental turbulence especially now they’re expected to be shredded. My husband had a hang up about boys crying but I wanted my sons to let it out, express themselves, be open with their feelings.
But today I’m focusing on women.
There are so many amazingly strong and focused women who have paved the way for the rights women have today. In a way it’s a lot for women to live up to. I’d probably be a disappointment. Even though I was emotionally strong and juggling the world I was letting the side down. What was I to do? Be someone I’m not? I was raised to please, to put others before myself, to be subservient. I didn’t know how to challenge my husband. How to negotiate sharing the load. I didn’t have that skill set when our marriage fell into a traditional pattern. Of course this all turned on its head when I became ill.
I went through a few bleak years; multiple surgeries, chronic pain, immobility. What floored me was losing my identity. I couldn’t teach or keep house. I spent weeks at a time in bed, high on drugs, low on energy. Who even was I? Other than a burden.
It was the impetus of three women together that changed, not just the course of my life, but who I now am; Grace (Gertrude), Alison; the writer; that’s me (T) and Caitlan (Kitty). My daughters said write a YA novel; mum you can do it. In among the regular round ups of how the novel was progressing we came up with a title The Rebirth of Henry Whittle. Which is the first in a trilogy; Henry Whittle’s Revenge and RIP Henry Whittle. The bantar was never ending because we’d turned it into a Netflix series and regularly changed the cast. We created a soundtrack. We looked and found an agent. We got our heads around rejection from publishers. The girls supported me when I decided to withdraw from my agent and take ownership back of my work. Part of me hoped to secure another agent but my attempts were halfhearted. Proceeding down the traditional route without the woman who’d taken a chance on me and supported my development as a writer was too sad.
I was very poorly in the Autumn and after a week in hospital in November I panicked that I’d get too ill to fulfill my writer’s dream and so calling on my daughters to scramble a cover together I plunged into self publishing. I didn’t research it; I have to conserve my energy for writing and I’d no spare cash for professional editing. I didn’t know the rules of social media or the protocol of book reviews so I bowled in with…look at my book! When you have a degenerative disease and spinal cord damage your health is unpredictable from hour to hour. Pretty much you’re in the shit. I’ve thesaurused; SHIT is THE word!
I’m Twittering; trying to genuinely connect with readers, particularly young adults, through posts that reflect me. My book shamefully has appeared in every post. In my defense, other than my children and marriage, my relationship with writing is my greatest comfort. Today Gerty advised me to stop the hard plug; she’s right of course. It’s because Random Attachment defies my disability; it’s concrete evidence of my empowerment. I am a woman of substance, yet a free spirit. I’m soaring so high even though my body is sluggish. So I know I’ve been OTT, pushy, presumptuous. Yes I’ve much to learn and I will learn. Yesterday I conquered widgets on WordPress.
I’m three months into my self publishing career; I’ve sold books; I’m an author. I have reinvented myself. Historically I haven’t exhibited feminist behaviour and I’m not writing groundbreaking literary masterpieces, more Mills & Boon with edge. Yet finally I’m a woman my family are proud of; a risk taker, a chancer, a dreamer.
I live with uncertainty but I know one thing for sure…I will write till I die.
I genuinely think a book can alter the course of your life. For children uninterested in reading, the right book can open up an infinity of worlds, trigger new emotions and enable children to think outside the parameters of their own life and their parents’ views.
A book is a companion to those who find it hard to socialise. You simply don’t feel lonely when you’re reading quality books. There’s no pressure to respond; to say the right thing. Even the super confident can struggle conversing in this climate of political correctness. The older generation are under pressure to remove vocab and phrases they’ve used for decades. Their language might be narrow, racist, sexist; unacceptable but not easy to delete when you’ve been fed it from infancy. So I could see some of the elderly losing confidence and relying on books as company. A book accepts you regardless of your disabilities, struggles, insecurities and prejudices.
I’m unsure if YA books were around when I was a teen. I’m losing my memory and my faculties because I feel like I progressed from The Famous Five to P D James. I can’t remember any books in between, other than difficult English Lit books. Chaucer? For goodness sake what were the examining boards thinking of. A teen is not going to develop a love of books when faced with The Canterbury Tales at fifteen/sixteen. They need novels that captivate, with characters they identify with. Adults might love reading YA but that’s not automatically reciprocal. I have four children and Mice and Men and An Inspector Calls four flippin years is a killer. Some contemporary books please!
I introduced The Famous Five to my children and Gerty, Tom and Paddy stalled. They couldn’t connect with the kids, they were too far removed from their reality…but Kitty was well in there and funnily enough Literature emerged as her career path.
From my first born to my last, YA has sprouted like dandelions. I was literally salivating each time I took my kids to Waterstones. I loved touching the books, feeling the covers, especially when titles were embossed. I wanted my kids to be swept up in fantasy or on a knife edge or gooey over kissing.
A Series of Unfortunate Events, Harry Potter, Darren Shan, Martyn Pig, Shadows; some fantastic YA literature was emerging. I fell into a habit of reading my children’s books probably to justify the cost but also to make it a shared experience. Just like we watched Disney together, Dr Who, X Factor, Buffy and now Love Island
Alongside I’d be reading Val McDermid, Stephen King, Mark Billingham, Jilly Cooper.
I can easily reel off my three favourite books:
- Killing Me Softly by Nicci French
- The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
- 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
I don’t read for reading’s sake; I’d rather watch NetFlix. I’m not someone who can read any genre, in any style. I avoid overly descriptive novels with a plethora of multiple syllable words. Not because I don’t understand them but because the author showing off can effect the flow of a book and the depth of the characters. My only exception to this is Donna Tart; I’ll happily engage my brain there.
I can’t help think how fortunate I am to have access to so many books. When I’ve a little spare cash spending £7.99 on a book is worth it. Consider the cost of the cinema or any activity that takes an hour or more and you’ll see it’s a bargain. When I’m broke (regular occurrence) it’s the library and the charity shops for me.
As a teen, living on a council estate, in a flat charged with emotion, I would escape to the library. I actually remember resting my head against a row of novels, silently crying. It was my refuge; here I could be anyone and go anywhere. Libraries need to flourish, to connect with the kids that aren’t coming to the library. We, the people of Britain, debate no end why children turn to antisocial behavior? Millions is probably spent analysing and procrastinating when the answer is simple. Children need free facilities: school breakfast clubs, social clubs, swimming and libraries; lots of libraries. Ones with cafes and I don’t mean Costa, I mean a hot chocolate for 50p, a bag of crisps for 50p, a coke for 50p. There should be sofas and cushions and a free book section where a kid can take a book without being a member. Let’s be fair, unfit parents don’t sign you up to the library. I was terrified joining the library. I thought they wouldn’t want someone like me. I never understand how, surrounded by amazing literature, some librarians can be unwelcoming and unapproachable. Jolliness should be on the person spec and there should be book recycle schemes.
As an author I love that my book is on a journey, from one reader to another, one home to another. I’m more than happy for my book to be passed to a hundred people. I count myself lucky if someone has purchased my book and liked it enough to pass it to a friend. I just hope I didn’t disappoint…but it’s good to know…I’d like to think being new to writing I can improve. That the girl holding a book in front of her face to hide the tears can learn to put a smile on a similar kid, forty years later.
I hope every reader and writer has a lovely WORLD BOOK DAY.
Hi, HAPPY ST DAVID’S DAY. I’m not Welsh but I do like to celebrate happy times. I wrote a novel, I wished, I’d read as a teen. One that would have made me feel less: lonely, awkward and down on myself. So for all of you: girls, boys and adults who love YA, who remember times when they felt less worthy, different, dark…download for free. It’s not a sad book…it’s just a real book…with a hint of fiction and a sprinkle of happiness and most of all hope. Every day has the potential to be good, amazing, fantastical…keep that close to your sole in sad times.
I welcome all reviews…but it’s here to enjoy xxxxxxx
I’ve dwelled a lot this week. I was at book club on Friday; the food was tasty, I had a glass of wine, I listened to tales of South Africa, safaris, vineyards; which I enjoyed…but there’s traces of bitterness running through my veins. I had a career, a good wage, holidays. People are struck down all over the globe with illness that’ll alter them, their lives, their loved ones. My disability could be significantly worse. It’s just so unreliable and tedious that I want to scream until my bones rattle. Being fit, healthy, swimming, dancing was at the core of my being and my core’s been extracted during key hole surgery. I won’t be going on safari; a lion bar’s the nearest I’ll get. My body is so squishy I’m a gummy bear. My point is to explain I have a lot of dips and lows. My writing; Random Attachment and The Rebirth of Henry Whittle is a constant source of comfort. Every day I wake with the purpose of connecting with readers. My audience is an extended family. Only yesterday Lynne gave my book a plug and I felt shiny all day.
So when I pick up a book, I want to love it. I want the writer to draw me out of my front room and into some macabre darkness with characters so brilliant…even if they’re boring I need them to be amazingly boring. I don’t expect to find reading a chore, or stereotypes, or the wheel reinvented.
So my first book this week was Alice Kuipers Life on the Refrigerator Door. I loved the concept, very original, which is hard to achieve. It dealt with a difficult subject incredibly well…the P.S. Letter got me. As a mum you can’t bear not to be there for your child. As a daughter losing a parent is devastating. I loved the doodles, reminds me of my kids books. I would have liked more distinction between the two voices; a few times I had to stop and think. Perhaps this was deliberate in that Claire was so independent whilst supporting a working mum. Being disabled myself, with my children often caring for me, sometimes I wonder who’s the child and who’s the adult. Putting illness and death aside, it struck me as sad how one of life’s most influential, meaningful relationships (good or bad) was reduced to rushed notes and mundane tasks. I’ve been a fulltime working mum myself; relying on childminders and nurseries so this isn’t judgemental it’s an observation. I guess it’s an alarm bell that life is fragile; we need to be in the moment and make time for loved ones.
My song of the week is the amazing Billie Eilish who I’ve had on my playlist for a while. I feel I absorbed Billie’s music, mixed it with my history, added a bit of Kitty and Gerty and from that Mia’s voice merged. Billie is a 2019 Sia and Mia is so many girls out there.
I’m apologising to Tana French now for my lopsided review of In The Woods.
I have all the time in the world yet I resent my time being wasted. My quality of life is often poor so I don’t want to waste a minute of wellness. There are so many amazing books to discover, debuts and favourite authors, that if I get a quarter a way through a novel and it’s not offering what I need, I set it on a new path to someone more appreciative. As a reader I remember that loving a book is subjective, I can’t place all the responsibility on the writer. As a writer I know the importance of telling your story; never be too led by editors.
Before I charge in I want to commend Tana for her talent; it far exceeds my own which is what I look for in a storyteller.
I’m a little cranky. It’s not often I get cross with a book…but last night I was bristling with irritation. As an author I have this code; if a reader invests time in your book you need to give them what they want. For me that means no stone left unturned. Yes a cliffhanger is a literary tool to keep the reader on the edge of their seat but five hundred and ninety-two pages later I was unprepared for being discarded as thoughtlessly as Rob dropped Cassie. Sorry…but I really am peeved. I know that they’ll be a critically acclaimed second and third book where the mystery will be picked up but I don’t want to spend over twenty pounds to find out what happened to two kids.
I’m thinking back to Sarah Hilary’s debut. A murder’s committed. In the background lurks this interesting back story of a brother killing parents. It’s cleverly touched on but the murder is centre stage. The murder is solved and the reader knows in future books Marnie’s history will unfold. It’s a well-known recipe, a trusted structural device and Sarah Hilary does it total justice.
Every so often a book comes around that has you immediately asking questions…as a reader you are deliciously in the dark. Three children, two go missing, one remains; his shoes filled with blood that isn’t his. Brilliant!
Perhaps it’s because In The Woods had so much potential that I feel let down. The balance between the past and present was off.
Actually it didn’t start well. I thought the prologue was overly descriptive and wordy; trying far too hard to create a foreboding that we didn’t need because the circumstances of the children’s disappearance was unsettling enough. The Times’ review; ‘A terrific debut,’ kept me reading. The writing style in the body of the book was dynamic and filled with intrigue.
I’ll continue with what Tana did brilliantly. She invited us into a tender, honest relationship; bordering on my favourite crime team ever. I loved Cassie, I loved Rob. The first few lines of chapter one were genius. They hinted that Detective Ryan wasn’t who he appeared to be…but this failed to materialise…yes his name was false and he withheld a chunk of his history…but he was not a dark protagonist…he wasn’t even particularly troubled by his past until later events. In fact he demonstrated character flaws shared with the psychopaths Cassie regularly described. But he was so damaged, so charismatic, so vulnerable it was impossible for Cassie not to love him. And fierce, loyal Cassie gave him all the space he needed; she opened up to him and SLAM. I’m not sure if Rob’s freaking out over consummating their relationship was believable or not? Perhaps an initial discomfort or regret but I certainly didn’t believe days later he could turn nasty. Lock her out yes, be embarrassed, be disappointed, grieve for a possibly a lost friendship but flip into a cruel, bitchy, shallow cad…I’m not sure? Again he was exhibiting signs of dissociation and lacking in empathy but the writer was so spot on emotionally I felt sick for Cassie.
I liked that Dublin was in touching distance; it could have been Templeogue; it felt that familiar to me.
I didn’t like the subplot of the motorway and the uncle. It made the book far too long and I care about characters and missing children not about corruption. The interviews, the wiretap felt very disconnected from the main crime.
I wasn’t far into the book when I knew who the murderer was, the writer wasn’t subtle in that respect…but I was so wrapped up in Rob and Cassie that it was fine.
Back to the very first mystery. I was on tender hooks trying to formulate an explanation for Jamie and Peter. Being Irish descent and having grown up with mystical Irish folk law I’m not taking the hint on that one…that would be a cop-out.
Lastly I’ll explain why I won’t buy book 2. I think introducing a unique, unfathomable mystery of missing children and not giving closure was poor. Anyone came come up with some elusive missing person, Jonathan Creek type scenario, it’s solving it that’s complex. In reality how many readers of book 1 have died before book 2 without knowing what happened to the kids? I’d haunt the author. It would have been sufficient to leave readers wondering about a reconciliation between Cassie and Rob; professionally and personally; to have me purchase book two.
So that’s a wrap for this week. One thing that made me happy was someone on Kindle Unlimited is reading my book. I keep telling myself, be patient, reviews will come. Imagine if I reviewed my own book. Crap! I think I might be in trouble! Shit! I’m not patient either!
Hi, here’s the link. Thanks for following and your support. 🌸 Tell me what you think 🤔 Happy Reading x