Skin Deep Valentines

cakeYesterday 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.

skindeepI 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 ♥♥♥♥♥

booksI 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

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Jafaris myelopathy & me

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

 

Disappointment

Enjoying a book is subjective. I know this from the many rejection letters I received from agents when I first started out.  Then when I had an agent, rejections from editors saying ‘I liked it but I didn’t love it’.

I am prepared that for every five-star review my novel receives, there might be twenty one-star reviews.  I can’t be more accurate because so far Random Attachment has only 3 reviews. In a way this feels worse, it’s like you’ve gone to the school disco and no one wants to dance with you. I feel rather rejected. It’s early days I tell myself.  Life is so busy that readers most likely won’t review my book which is disappointing when you are literally a struggling writer.

In between tweeting about my amazing, spectacular, potentially YA version of #FiftyShades meets #Psycho (I have to be this confident because doubt won’t sell copies) I’m reading.

Lisa Jewell – Then She Was Gone: Slow start but boy does it get a grip of you and twist you around.

C.L. Taylor – The Treatment. The well plotted adult thriller writer diversified into Young Adult. I’m such a big fan that perhaps my expectations were too high.  It simply did not take off.  The YA voice was lacking, the characters flat, the story predictable.  I think the biggest challenge of writing YA is that I’m a middle-aged woman who needs an authentic teenage voice. This is one of the reasons I’m going it alone.  With my first (unpublished) novel The Rebirth of Henry Whittle my agent felt the YA voice was too street and too sophisticated.  I don’t think she gave credit to the savvy young adults out there ruling the world. I also feel she found the slang and swear words unpalatable, as do I, but the protagonist’s voice is central to the success of the novel. I don’t say f**k but Mia does. And she wants to make love with Flynn, on a bed, against a wall, once, maybe more; she views intimacy as a natural response to finding someone attractive. Promiscuity is possibly an outdated verb. It’s these key issues that I compromised on first time around with my agent. My daughters advised against diluting the vocab and the darkness and they were right.  I’m not saying CL Taylor’s characters should be swearing and jumping each others bones but they should be 3D. I hate blandness; I want to love, hate, fear characters. I remember when I picked up 13 Reasons Why long before the hype and I couldn’t put it down; I felt sick to the pit of my stomach, not just for Hannah and Clay but her family, Jessica, Justin – that is a book that doesn’t come around often.

I’m new to writing, I’ve been working at it for about five years on and off; barely any time at all.  If I could write one totally, mind-blowing novel like 13 Reasons Why that would mean the world. Perhaps I’m incapable…I don’t know.

I am confident in my writing though; I don’t shake at the knees that my friends are reading stuff and nonsense.  I’m widely read in the YA/NA market and if I can make sales I think Random Attachment can hold its own out there.

I recently read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and other than a cool name and a great book cover I didn’t rate it. Random Attachment is all about the characters. Could the premise be better constructed? Yes, with the help of a professional editor or maybe by me in ten years when I know what I’m doing.  I’m winging it at the moment.  I guess I expect more of traditionally published novels because of the expertise and resources they have to bring a book together. I didn’t connect with Mara. The story seemed all over the place.

I daren’t think about the criticism coming my way.  Or perhaps readers are so pee’d off they won’t review it. I hope that’s not the case.

Right now I’m focusing on social media, getting my name out there, trying to sell my book.  The paperback is as low in price as I’m allowed, I’m only making 25p on each sale and 20% of that is going to charity @myelopathy.org and @YMCAWestLondon.  So reviews are key and for anyone that has purchased the paperback, passing it on would be great. If you liked it then please Instagram it, Twitter, Facebook, whatever you can do is greatly appreciated.  I’m relying on reviews and word of mouth. To date I’ve sold 43 copies, not exactly mind blowing so all support appreciated. I’m not too proud to accept help, go for it!

 

 

We were liars

IMG_0364Titles and straplines are funny things.  “Which are lies? Which is truth? You decide.”  This is a novel of repressed memories, of withheld facts but lies? I’m not even sure why the close-knit group were named ‘the liars’ by their family. I get that whenever tragedy strikes there is gossip and twisting of facts.  That those involved have their own perspective of events.  But if you’d asked me what the title hinted at, it would be children weaving a web of lies.  A novel challenging the reader to differentiate between lies and truth.

Saying that my strapline A Boy, A Girl, A killer is embarrassingly basic.  Regarding titles, I named RANDOM ATTACHMENT in a minute.  I don’t deliberate, if my first idea fits the brief then onward I go – writing is what I love…or my imagination is limited! The strapline was harder than writing the book; I failed the challenge miserably but I think it’s pretty clear what the story is about.

IMG_0357 I enjoyed WE WERE LIARS. I read it over a few days. The story is beautifully and brilliantly told. I didn’t see the twist coming which is a credit to the author’s skill.  I was intrigued by what was being kept from Cady but I didn’t feel desperate to find out.  But that can be a good thing because you were with the characters whist they idled their holidays away.

I need to connect to characters. I liked Cady but I wasn’t gutted for her.  Yes she had headaches that immobilised her, yes pain was severely affecting her life but I knew by the end of the book her issues would be resolved.

Her love for Gat felt more like a crush – it didn’t burn within her.  It was more a response to a close friendship and an awareness of physical changes as they blossomed. I didn’t feel he was the love of her life. Had I, the conclusion would have hit me harder.

The fairytale concept I liked but they were too long and one too many.

I wasn’t totally convinced by Cady as a character.  THE REBIRTH OF HENRY WHITTLE (TRHW) has multiple pov’s.  RANDOM ATTACHMENT is a third person narrator; sometimes the young adult voice is lost within an adult narrator and I felt this true of WE WERE LIARS.  The writing is quality but there was no differentiation between the eleven year old cady and the fifteen year old.  I think that is common of YA books and it’s not always down to the writer.  My former agent loved the premise of TRHW and Phoenix’s voice. Yet throughout the editing process, bit by bit, she toned it down to the point it was lost.

Here’s what HotKeyBooks had to say about TRHW This has a pretty dark premise at its core, I actually really liked the story. It was weird and twisty…but Phoenix’s voice ended up feeling a bit self-conscious.”

And so began the withdrawal of my agent who’d steered the book in the direction of ‘making Phoenix’s voice more palatable’ because it was in part angry and frustrated. It was at this point I decided to self publish.  I couldn’t go through another year of editing to find out it’s not what publishers want.  My years are too precious and I love my writing too much to lose control again.

WE WERE LIARS was hugely successful and I see why.  I’m glad I read it. I enjoyed it. I didn’t love it but I would highly recommend it. I’m not going to hold the publisher HotKeyBooks against e.lockhart.  Instead I’m giving WE WERE LIARS an 8.5 out of 10.  My 10/10 would be a book I miss once it’s finished, a book I wish I hadn’t read so I could read it again, a book like Laura McHugh’s THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD or Sarah Pinborough’s THE DEATH HOUSE and undoubtedly 13 REASONS WHY which I read in a night I was so engrossed and in despair for Hannah. These are books that have huge crossover appeal, anyone over 14 could love them.

Opinions are subjective; I would never severely criticise a writer because what I dislike another reader could love, so I simply don’t review.  I have read many more books both YA and ADULT that didn’t meet my blogging standards. So to all those authors on my pages I salute you for the fantastic books you’ve written. WE WERE LIARS would make a great Christmas pressie for the 11-15 age group. Thank you e.lockhart for a wonderful read.

 

 

 

 

The Wolf

CHAPTER 2   THE WOLF

He rubbed the ointment generously into his knee before strapping it up and pulling a knee support over it.  His forehead was badly bruised.  His shoulder was fucked.
Reclining on the sofa he swallowed a cocktail of painkillers and muscle relaxants along with a glass of wine.
He considered the situation.  She could not identify him.  She had no idea where she’d been held.  He could walk right up to her, look her straight in the eye and she’d not know he was The Wolf.
He smiled.  She was a surprise; feistier than expected, a real risk taker. He’d underestimated her.
He looked at the photos beside him on the couch.  Her face turned away from the camera.  Her bare body, stiff with cold and fear. His smile widened.  He wanted her back.

Interested? Free on @kindleunlimited and available to purchase @amazon

When I write I listen to music that helps me connect with a specific emotion.  Like editing this I listened to LIVE OR DIE by Noah Cyrus, JyellowL Me N Me 2 and an old favourite Prodigy Breathe and a whole bunch of hiphop and creepy songs like Lo Fang’s Boris

Love it if you’d follow me. If you have any thoughts on YA/NA literature or on anything love to hear you https://twitter.com/gertrudetkitty