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Yesterday was a fab Valentines. It’s not something my husband and I usually celebrate because over the years working with four children, three dogs and three cats we were always too exhausted. But the children are grown and my son’s girlfriend bought us afternoon tea for Christmas and immediately I booked it for Valentines.
It did not disappoint: cappuccino, mini banoffee tart, chocolate mousse, pear cake, quiche and tiny hot toasties. Umm delicious…And among them Random Attachment.
My book has given my husband and I lots to chat about; like all writers the dream of a bestseller lingers in the air. It’s probably a bit weird bringing my book with me when I go out; which is rare due to my condition. I sound like an old car; one with a blown engine. I like including it in my little excursions, finding photo opportunities. Letting readers know a bril YA awaits https://www.amazon.co.uk/RANDOM-ATTACHMENT-Gertrude-T-Kitty/dp/1790375347/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1550235599&sr=8-2&keywords=random+attachment
When I was twelve (forty years ago) I was already searching for that Disney magic; that charging hero with shoulders wider than a cinema screen. I was very much a child, not sassy or wise like pre teens are now. So much has changed in my lifetime, not just technology but identity and love.
I would have adored Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt when I was twelve; I loved reading it yesterday. This would be soft porn when I was twelve; easily a bestseller and like Grease the talk of the playground. I remember being madder than hell (internally – no way would my mum tolerate any expressions of anger) when she said I was too young to see Grease. Everyone was talking about the cinema scene and it was the first time I considered lying and seeing it secretly.
Now I’m the mum. This is not a criticism because the intimacy between Jenna and Ryan was mutual, tender, romantic. I’ve no doubt they were in love; it’s the sort of first love you hope for your daughters. Not the – flash in the pan I’ve had my way with you love. Or the – you’re not going out with friends because I own you love. Still…I can’t help wishing she were a year older. One might say what’s in a year but a lot at that age. If I was Ryan’s mum I’d be terrified he’d engage in a sexual relationship with Jenna because legally she’s under 16. If it ended badly there could be legal ramifications. I know it’s only fiction and the fact that I’m worried is because Lisa creatively formed real characters.
I think if Ryan was a nerd and not girl savy the age gap wouldn’t bother me but Ryan at sixteen is a young adult, he’s sexually active; Sadie wasn’t his first.
“That was the thing about the girls who chased me. They lived in their own little worlds in their heads. They made their own realities and I was just there to make them feel good. It didn’t bother me. I never got attached. It was just sex.”
He’s shaving, working, responsible for his mum. He’s functioning as an adult although his language and emotional struggles reflect he’s still young and needs supports.
But maybe his maturity is what led to his friendship with Jenna which blossomed into love…and if any girl needed to see herself reflected as desirable in a boy’s eyes…it’s Jenna that it’s now. We can’t always empower ourselves; sometimes we need to be told you’re beautiful.
I don’t want to get into the age thing deeply.
A quick music interval to put my one concern aside. Fav song at the moment is My Ye Is Different by OSH a Brit rapper from Croydon. I love the accent; it’s gritty and feels like home.
Back to Skin Deep. Firstly I love the novel’s Britishness; I’ve read so many American romances that sporadically I need a taste of England. I think Skin Deep is on par with my favourite YA American writer; Courtney Summers.
Laura Jarratt’s timing gently moves the romance along and I was engrossed in Jenna and Ryan’s lives and relationships. All the characters were relevant and I was glad the attack was a sub plot and not some – did he do it? dilemma because the warmth and trust between Jenna and Ryan would be compromised.
This novel is easily a one sit read; other than a dash to the kitchen for a cuppa and a walnut whip. I know what you’re thinking – she ate all that and still needed a walnut whip? D’on’t judge. I was not going to bed till I’d had my Valentine Disney moment when true love wins out and that required chocolate.
The line in the book that resonated with me the most was:
“I felt guilty for feeling suffocated again, but I hugged her back because I loved her. And I didn’t understand how those two feelings could sit in a person side my side.”
Because it mirrors a line in Random Attachment:
“Joslyn sat on her throne at the kitchen table, carmen rollers in, plucking her eyebrows. Noting the empty bottle Mia tensed, her mum had stolen Jesus’ miracle and turned rent money into wine again. Mia’s anger tasted all the more bitter because she had to swallow it. How do you tell your mum you love her but you hate her more.“
In one way I want to dislike this book (professional jealousy; a mild form). Electric Monkey (Egmont) passed on my novel The Rebirth of Henry Whittle, three years ago. The feedback was great:
“Henry Whittle, I think, is one of the most distinct novels I have read in some time and really enjoyed the noir Mean Girls element to if. For me it felt a little too adult focused…”
My novels are hard to place; I see that. Why? Because they’re books aimed at older YA readers 14+ and have crossover to women’s fiction but the voice is very much YA/NA. My books are contemporary romance; the characters do make love. There is a criminal sub plot so there’s violent content. And no matter how much publishers say they like the premise, the characters, the writing, they are uneasy with some of the content. So I self publish; that way it’s the story I want to tell, written the way I write.
So I’ve had an agent, I had my book edited, I’ve been passed over and that makes me even pickier. A novel needs to be better than mine for me to appreciate it so credit to Laura Jarratt…Skin Deep is a top teen read and so even though my blood pumps green envy it’s a
5 out of 5 ♥♥♥♥♥
I must make one last point. I’ve read two cracking adult thrillers recently Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear and Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell. Two great reads, both books I’d recommend though I didn’t award full stars. I read across all genres even Andy McNab; I don’t have a rating guide, I simply tell you how I feel at the time I read the book.
Sending hugs to anyone who needs them xxxx
I think I’m hard to please. It’s not unexpected from someone who’s devoured books since Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. I think reading was my way of coping when all around me was going to shit, as my daughter likes to say. Everything I needed I found in books; I simply preferred characters’ lives than my own, even when they were about to be hung from a meat hook. My point is…my book reviews are written from the heart. Like a relationship I weigh up the good against the bad. What I won’t do is tell you about the story because that’s for the reader, not the reviewer. When you query an agent about your book, many ask you to describe your premise is a few sentences. Sweet Little Lies is a murder. The young detective constable investigating (Cat) is terrified her father is involved. Memories of a missing girl, years ago, haunt her. A girl her father gave a lift to. A girl her father denied knowing. Now the body of a woman is found near her Dad’s pub.
In a novel I like to find a phrase or sentence I adore, one I wish I’d written; there wasn’t one but this quote reflects the flavour of the novel.
“I don’t know with absolute certainty that Dad knows anything about what happened to Maryanne Doyle. Problem is, while the lie is sweet as it falls from your lips, the feeling in your gut is always putridly sour.”
Sweet Little Lies is the first book in months I read in two days. Day one: I wasn’t totally gripped. If I applied agents’ three chapter assessment I would comment ‘I liked it but didn’t love it.’ It should have begun with the murder. Also Cat comes across a little smart Alec and immature early on. The writing didn’t flow as fluidly as I like but it improves and for the heart of the novel the prose was consistenly good and I was hooked.
I’m getting the bits I didn’t like out of the way.
This book had the potential to be the next Girl on a Train but editing held it back. The first four chapters are the weakest. Nothing drew me in. The flashbacks are messy. Is it Nancy Drew or is it a taut thriller? Cat should be older for a start, ten or eleven. Fleeting memories should hit you with just the clues that point to her father’s guilt and not the bloody Spice Girls. Also being Irish decent I found the ‘throw every colloquialism in’ irritating. Caz eases off on this in later conversation with Irish characters. This point helps me with my WIP because it’s set in Ireland. Lastly there are at least three typos; I’m not the most alert, there may be more. Page 136 – Caz waking up is unclear. Page 150 ‘he did he have’ . Page 369 ‘wouldn’t wish that anyone’. These remind you it’s a book; it’s not real. I’m sure Random Attachment has plenty of typos, I’m highly medicated, and I’ll be happy if a reader points them out as I can amend.
The good stuff. Chapter 5 where we meet Tom Lapaine, the victim’s husband, has me curling up on the sofa. The writing herein is dynamic, the flow takes me on a choppy water ride, gathering momentum with each chapter. The characters are well constructed and relevant to the story. Events, truths, emotions unravel perfectly and I’m completely immersed in the sub plots. Particularly Cat’s relationship with her father which is like an elastic band stretched to its limits. With each page I warm to Cat, I want a happy outcome for her.
I would be interested in another Cat Kinsella crime. I image Caz Frear growing from the book; I think she has the potential to write brilliantly from the get go. Also I loved the book cover, the colours are striking and that’s what led me to picking up Sweet Little Lies in the bookshop.
Out of 5 hearts I’m giving ♥♥♥♥
Reading can either be a learnt behaviour or an emotional journey. Don’t read one word after another. Instead infuse yourself between the cover with a girl that’ll have you hungrily breathing in the pages
The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants was my daughters’ favorite book. Now I’m introducing The Sisterhood of The Travelling Book because between the three of us we are giving my book exposure.
I began the day with a vlog. I’d previously researched how to connect with an audience. Apparently you need to bring the energy. Unfortunately me and energy haven’t been in the same room for some time. Instead I natter about my latest read Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear which begun promisingly. I’m about a third in and I’m not riveted but I love the London feel and the insight to the characters. It has a flavour of Ian McEwan’s Atonement, in that, a child’s perception is often flawed.
I put this thriller aside for my husband’s and my Valentine Lunch. It’s quieter a few days before the actual date; I’m not great in restaurants with tight spacing and lots of diners because my spatial awareness dives.
I was pretty excited…they’d rhubarb crumble for dessert….and it’s not often we go on dates; money is tight and I get tired easily.
I’ve been married twenty-eight years; my husband was my first boyfriend. I’ve been with him more years than I’ve been without him. We still find plenty to chat and laugh about which is nice at our age. Particularly my diversion into writing and self publishing.
Arriving at the restaurant I’m a bit disappointed they haven’t put much thought into Valentine; there’s not an inflated, shimmering heart in sight nor a sprinkling of glitter hearts on the table. Anyway my novel comes out and I make a pretty arrangement and snap. The waiter comes over and I ask for two glasses of champagne; it comes with the Valentine set menu. It arrives for the next photo opportunity!
Next we’re offered the standard menu yet my booking clearly states Valentine Menu. The waiter looks uncomfortable then says it’s only available on 14th. My heart drops to my socks. I’m sure it was for a whole week, starting today? But I get so confused. Fibromyalgia brain fog and medication has me second guessing myself constantly. It’s been the basis of my depression. It’s why it’s easier to stay in. Don’t worry my husband says, we’ll pick from the main menu…but that’s going to cost. I check the pretty valentine menu for dates; in tiny writing it says valid from 9 Feb to 16 Feb. I feel more than annoyed when I point this out. I could accept Madam, very sorry, we’re not offering the Valentine menu but here’s a complimentary glass of champagne – instead a lie – which had my confidence plummeting. I knocked my cutlery off the table. Reaching for it, I dropped my novel on the floor. I sip my champagne and think f**k; this champagne’s now outside the safety of the Valentine price.
We play the disabled card. There are NO advantages to being disabled. Thoughtless people say:
- you don’t work anymore
- you can park easily
- you get a free ticket at the cinema
I want to run across the beach. I want to dance to Wiley at my son’s eighteenth. I want to enroll on SAS Who Dares Wins!
I digress. My husband told them about my condition, how much I’d looked forward to today, how exhausting this mix up is for me – it was all true – but not exactly low key or romantic.
The restaurant sees the error of their ways and throw champagne and pudding in for free. We relax. My husband picks my book and camera up, walks off and returns with this image. Ok it’s not as clean and pretty as my shots but The Sisterhood of the Travelling Book has it’s first male member.
On Valentine’s Day my book accompanies me to a patisserie where I’m known as Mrs Banoffee. For Christmas my son’s generous girlfriend bought my husband and I Afternoon Tea and I booked it for 14th Feb. During our marriage we’ve only ever celebrated our children’s birthdays so this dating business is like our early days, when we thought about what we’d wear, what we’d take off. I’m not the person either of us imagined I’d be at 51. I seriously thought with mind over matter I could cheat Myelopathy…not so. I’m pretty broken in some ways…I accept that but don’t ever think I gave up. Life for the disabled is like special forces training…it’s a mental game as well as physical. It’s about the team not the individual. When I was so weak I couldn’t turn the pages of a book my husband tore the pages from the spine and attached a few at a time to a clipboard; we called it the swindle (kindle for the poor). When days were painful and I had no distraction my daughters said write a novel, a few pages a day. Those pages became The Rebirth of Henry Whittle, the next Random Attachment, the next September.
Now I blog, vlog and Twitter. I might be pushy, maybe I’ll oversell my book, annoy people, but for me Random Attachment is:
- my FY to Myelopathy
- my message to every teen who feels less than they are
- my affirmation to my family that I will get through dark times because I’m a mother, a wife, a reader, a writer.
Thank you for reading and to the lovely ASH @FTLOBooks for inviting me to guest blog.
I guess we write for different reasons.
Me? I was desperate. I needed to escape from my bed, from my pain and immobility. My daughters said write a book, about an assassin and an orphan. A man who could dip in and out of right and wrong. A girl plagued by bullies with hair extensions and lip fillers.
There was no plan, no character analysis, no plot, only a focus to get up every day, shower, sit at the laptop and type. The word organic is so overused but that’s what it was. This natural ramble, through lives of people I would like to know, and others I hoped never to cross. There was nothing high brow or complex about my words. They were distractions from pain and a loneliness I never wanted to share with my family.
How did I come up with my protagonists names? When I turned my laptop on Phoenix would flash in the bottom, left corner and Whittle was the first pop-up in my brain.
Phoenix Whittle; it felt perfect. Henry, a name ones associated with a solid citizen not a special forces hitman.
Writing felt comfortable; pain easing. I’d spend three/four hours a day with Phoenix and Henry. They became as real to me as my family. I love them.
I had bad days. When my fingers wouldn’t work. When brain fog blocked all creativity. I remember as my third spine operation loomed I felt panicked that if something went wrong my novel would be lost. I finished it about two am before leaving at 5am for the hospital.
It was a month later that my daughters said send it off. Like it was the easiest thing to do. I’m not a researcher, I never will be. I leap, I don’t look. I’m inpatient. I spent about half an hour googling how to get published before getting overwhelmed. If I was to do this I had to make it easy on myself. I wrote a naff query letter. I’m not great at selling myself or pretending to be something I’m not. I have very limited energy. I have spinal cord damage and making a cup of tea is a challenge. Getting an agent seemed an insurmountable challenge. No one was more surprised than me when agents began requesting the full manuscript. I still got a lot of no’s…until one asked could she ring me to discuss representation. We chatted; hearing someone as excited as me about Henry and Phoenix had me ecstatic.
We met at a patisserie in Notting Hill Gate. I’ll never forget it. I had no clothes…really. I lived in pjs and lounge wear. I had to get a whole outfit, coat, shoes, the lot from NEXT. I hadn’t traveled unassisted in 5 years. My daughter came on the train with me and helped me up the station stairs. I told the literary agent I’d be in a pink coat and she said she’d have red lipstick. I was nearly combusting with excitement. I won’t lie; I saw Waterstones and nearly keeled over imagining my novel on display. I was so naive.
We ordered drinks; I desperately wanted a pastry, a sugar rush, but was too nervous to eat in public. She was lovely, not intimidating, but confident and cultured. Her enthusiasm matched my own and when she offered representation, I knew this was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’ll always remember the fun I had saying ‘my agent’; it was mad.
What comes next I hold myself totally responsible for. We spent about seven months editing. There were times when my gut told me no, this isn’t what Henry and Phoenix are about. My silence led to a dilution of my characters. They lost that rawness. The completed novel was in many ways improved but sadly tame.
Editors at Penguin, Bloomsbury, all the biggies, were queried and read the manuscript with interest. The no’s came quick. The feedback was positive, but they felt Phoenix’s voice wasn’t strong enough or it wasn’t dark enough. I wasn’t too put out. I don’t think I ever expected the route to publication to be that easy. I thought we’d go forward and rebuild but a distance emerged. It might have been my imagination but I felt I’d been passed over for the next bright spark. We’d had a meeting and my agent spent more time talking about her latest discovery than Henry & Phoenix.
I decided to take a break. Which lasted about a week. I had the bug so I continued with a second project I’d begun in between editing Henry Whittle.
Random Attachment had me seriously questionning representation. It was quickly obvious my second novel was going down the dark route…borderline Young Adult/New Adult – not suitable for under 14’s. A route I new my agent wasn’t comfortable with. So I emailed her and called it off. What upset me was, not saying adios to getting published, but cutting myself off from the first person who believed in me as a writer. It was like I was ungrateful, but if all I have is my writing, then I can’t compromise. It has to be my words, my way.
I miss our emails, our patisserie meetings but I feel like I’m running through a field of barley, the sun on my back. My legs don’t drag when I write. My head doesn’t hurt from nerve damage when I’m with Mia, Flynn, Phoenix and Henry…my Henry.
Then there’s you: WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, the Writing Community. Just tonight I found another writer in my genre just starting her journey and I feel excited for her. I want her to write a brilliant query letter, to find a champion for her work. Yes get edited if it’s within your budget but don’t rely totally on others to make your dream reality. If you gut speaks…listen…talk up. Don’t make my mistake and put the responsibility of success on your agent’s shoulders.
And if you can’t afford editing before submitting your work don’t let that stop you. If your premise is original and your characters solid you have as good a chance as anyone else. Be daring. Share your writing with as many as you can. Feedback is like gold dust. Self publishing is rewarding and confidence building.
My main advice is this: enjoy writing; don’t chase the money or prestige. x
It’s midweek and I’ve been yo-yoing between conquering social media and hiding under the quilt. Editing one book and trying to sell another. Wobbling about the coffee shop to whaling on the sofa. Oh and going to the loo like every fifteen minutes. Kids, Music, Marriage, Writing, Two Barking Dogs and Books are my life. Here’s my latest vlog, that I’ve edited badly but life is one long lesson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXuDkpZeg84&t=91s