I have a shameful confession: I haven't read a classic book since my GCSEs. *And whispers* I've never read a Jane Austen novel. So to ease me into my Bucket List gently, I'm going to read a classic this week. But what should I choose?
Emily Brontë - Wuthering Heights
Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice
When was the last time you ticked anything off your Bucket List? I'm scratching my head, trying to think when I last did, and I'm stumped. My Bucket List used to contain things like doing the Inca trail in Peru, trekking to Everest Base Camp and writing a novel, all things I've ticked off. But lately thanks to my little children I'm guilty of just surviving the day and not really putting myself out of my comfort zone. Which is a shame as I feel like my life is poorer for it.
So in advance of the publication of my new novel, The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart, I'm going to be doing a mini bucket list. As much is I'd love it to be full of globetrotting, adrenaline fuelled escalades, with a four month old baby and a toddler in tow, I've had to scale back the ambitions. Think more reading a classic book, hiking up hills and snow shoe walking.
And I need your help! I want people to get involved and help me firm up my bucket list. Each Friday I'll do a twitter poll, with two bucket list suggestions for the week ahead. I'm hoping that getting people to help me choose what to do will spur me onto do it. I'll then blog here about it!
So do look out for my Friday poll, and help me on my bucket list journey!
You can read more about The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart it's out on 10th March,here.
Beginning of the End
I got a bit nostalgic this week as I visited my mum and went to Farnborough, home of my fictional character Penny from the 'Don't Tell' series. I only finished writing her story in July, but I already miss her. I keep having to block her voice out my head as I keep having new ideas for new Penny books, but I think for now she's done. The final instalment comes out in February and is called 'Don't Tell the Brides to Be'. I got to see a sneaky view of the cover and it looks beautiful, I think it's my favourite one of the series.
In this new adventure we find Penny knee deep in her new wedding planning visit and struggling to please her ever-demanding brides-to-be whilst keeping a little secret…. If you're a follower of the series all I'm going to say is Stage Six!
Although I'm sad about coming to the end of the series, I'm hugely excited about my new books that I'm going to write. They're all a bit top secret at the moment, I'm busy getting to know my new characters and doing background research. I'm hoping I'll be less secret squirrel and able to share more news soon!
Welcome Jon Rance!
Hello Anna Bell fans and a huge thank you to Anna for hosting me on day six of my blog tour for my new novel ‘This Family Life’. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Jon Rance, author of ‘This Thirtysomething Life’, ‘Happy Endings’, and now ‘This Family Life’. If you missed the last blog you can find it on Katy Reagan's blog.
In this blog I’m going to talk about my favourite secondary character in the book. The main character is Harry Spencer and the book is written as his diary. The novel’s about Harry and his wife Emily trying to survive their first year of parenthood. I love Harry as a character, but after him my favourite character to write is definitely his friend Steve.
Steve is married to Fiona and they have four kids (all with names beginning with J – referred to as the Js) and they live next door to Harry and his family. Steve and Fiona are uber parents. They take everything to the extreme and their whole world is about their kids, and Steve in many ways epitomises them. He is larger than life, plays multiple musical instruments (annoyingly so for Harry), often puts on plays for the kids, or puppet shows, writes songs, and eventually starts being a children’s performer. Steve often makes Harry feel like a bad dad because Steve is ‘on’ all the time and Harry doesn’t feel like he can keep up, although as his wife Emily reminds him, who can?
Steve was such fun to write because unlike Harry, who often sees the world through slightly jaded eyes, Steve is a complete optimist and sees the best in everything and everyone. He loves to entertain and eventually realises a life-long dream and I think he’s a character that a lot of people will be drawn to. Writing Steve, I was always on the edge of going too far with him. Like all the characters in the book, I wanted him to be real and like someone you might know, but to the very point of being ridiculous - I hope I kept him on the right side of crazy. Of all the books I’ve written, ‘This Family Life’ is the one that I think has the best and funniest characters and Steve is definitely at the top of the tree. Below is an extract and to set the scene, Harry and his wife Emily are having some problems in the bedroom and they try to have sex for the first time in a long time, but instead they end up listening to Steve have sex with his wife Fiona.
Sunday 28 April 9.15 a.m.
Home. Eating a ‘healthy’ fry-up. William breastfeeding. Emily nibbling on a banana. Cloudy.
Last night Emily and I tried to have sex. We had a bath, lit some candles, and I even gave her a sensual massage before we started to get into some pretty heavy petting. But then it happened. Steve and Fiona were going at it and it sounded like they were doing some sort of role play. I heard Fiona ask Steve if he had the large package she needed. There was some rustling around and then Steve said in a dodgy French accent, ‘You wanted the extra-large baguette, mademoiselle?’ Fiona moaned and said she was starving and hadn’t had a ‘solid stick’ for ages. The last thing we heard before we turned the television on was Fiona saying, ‘C’est magnifique!’
‘You have to talk to him,’ said Emily.
‘Why do I have to talk to him? Why can’t you talk to her?’
‘Do you want to ever have sex again?’
‘I’ll do it tomorrow.’
I popped over and had a chat with Steve.
‘What’s up, old boy?’ said Steve shining his trumpet - this isn’t a euphemism, he was actually shining his trumpet.
‘Oh yes, she’s a beauty.’
‘You know, I’m sure I heard you playing it last night - in your bedroom.’
‘No, no, I don’t think so,’ said Steve.
‘Yes, I definitely heard it through the bedroom wall. Those walls are so thin. I definitely heard you playing your trumpet last night,’ I said looking at Steve and hoping for a flicker of recognition. ‘In the bedroom.’
‘No, like I said, I wasn’t playing it last night. This old lady hasn’t been played for quite a while, have you, have you?’ said Steve, oblivious to what I was saying and talking to the trumpet like it was a dog.
‘Steve, we heard you and Fiona having sex last night,’ I said bluntly and Steve stopped shining his trumpet. ‘I’m sorry, but we did and it isn’t the first time.’
‘Did you hear everything?’
‘Even the bit where I pretended to be the lost baguette salesman and Fiona was the charming village girl who needed a fresh stick?’
‘Oh,’ said Steve.
‘And it’s nothing to be embarrassed about, but it’s sort of hurting our sex life. Every time we try and do it, all we can hear is you and Fiona banging against the wall.’
‘Harry, say no more,’ said Steve. ‘We’ll move bedrooms.’
‘You don’t have to do that. Just move the bed or -’
‘I insist. You shouldn’t have to hear that and to be honest, I’m a little embarrassed.’
‘The role playing, the characters, it’s all Fiona, she loves it. I do this one thing where I’m Michael Caine - she makes me do the voice and everything.’
‘Do you mind doing the voice?’
‘No, not at all, it’s a bit of fun and it gets Fiona quite, you know, horny,’ said Steve.
‘Right, well, thanks,’ I said.
‘We’ll move today,’ said Steve. ‘It’s Sunday and Fiona likes to do -’
‘I’ll be off then, see you later,’ I said, not really interested in what happens on Sundays. I did, however, get an idea what might perk up our sex life.
And if you enjoyed the extract...
Things that might happen during your first year of parenthood:
1. You’ll get covered in a ‘nuclear’ poo.
2. You’ll be convinced your son is talking with a Japanese accent.
3. You’ll worry that when your son waves, it looks like a Nazi salute.
Of course, this might just be Harry Spencer.
Taking up where This Thirtysomething Life left off, Harry Spencer and is wife Emily are back and trying to survive their first year of parenthood. It has its ups and downs (and a few bits in the middle), but along the way they begin to understand the true meaning of family and what it takes to be a parent.
Featuring a hilarious cast of extras including Harry’s father-in-law Derek, who has a unique problem with Scotch, Steve and Fiona, the parents from children’s entertainment hell, and a yoga instructor with a prominent camel-toe, This Family Life is the ultimate comedy for anyone who is a parent, has a parent, or is thinking about becoming one.
Thanks ever so much Jon for coming on my blog! If you haven’t read one of Jon’s books, then do, you’re in for a treat. I read This Thirtysomething Life in one day on holiday in Maderia last year, getting funny looks as I chuckled out loud at the pool. 'This Family Life' is available now on Amazon and it's only 99p at the moment! To find out more about Jon, head to his website!
I go for years with not a lot happening, then all of a sudden everything has happened in 2013.
First off, I got a literary agent! I'm delighted that I'm now represented by the lovely Hannah Ferguson of the Marsh Agency. I feel totally in safe hands with her managing my career as she's agent to fellow women's fiction authors: Miranda Dickinson, Ali McNamara, Kirsty Greenwood, Laura Zieppe and Giovanna Fletcher.
Hannah managed to get me a UK publishing deal! I've got a three book deal with Quercus and the first book Don't Tell the Groom will hit the bookshelves in December. If you can't wait that long it's available in ebook formats right now :) The Marsh Agency also sold the audiobook rights and the Dutch rights.
And as if that wasn't exciting enough, I'm also expecting my first baby later this year and we've moved into a new house that we're having renovated.
Life truly is crazily busy at the moment, and I'm loving it!
As a self-published, unrepresented author, there’s always a niggle of self-doubt in my mind that I’m playing at putting books on Amazon, but really they don’t actually cut it alongside published books.
At the start of the year, I set out one of my writing goals to get into the Kindle Top 100, the ‘holy grail’ of Amazon publishing. This weekend, much to my delight, my latest novel ‘Don’t Tell the Groom’ managed to sneak into the top 100 (at #98) for about two hours before it drifted back into the high hundreds. It wasn’t until two days later that I got into the top 100 again, and this time I got even further. By coincidence, Amazon featured me in their ‘daily deal’ e-newsletter, and somehow I made it to the giddy heights of #52. 52 out of half a million books available on Kindle.
It was a proud, yet surreal moment. There was my book, that I had written, in a book chart actually above traditionally published books and authors who are household names. This is probably nothing in comparison to that feeling you would get when you sign with an agent or a publisher; at that moment your writing is validated by someone and they’re essentially saying they believe in your work. But, I like to think that by making the top 100, that’s a validation from readers and book buyers. It’s given me a huge boost of confidence to start believing in my writing and my books.
I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone that has bought a copy, to those that reviewed the book, and to the huge thank you to those that have retweeted the links/interviews and reviews.
And here’s hoping that one day I’m writing a blog that’s titled: ‘What being in the Kindle top 20 means to me!’
Today I’m launching my third novel, Don’t Tell the Groom on Amazon. You may think that as it’s my third time through this process that I’d be an old hat by now, and that the nerves would have disappeared, but you’d be wrong. I’m more terrified than ever with this book as I think it’s my best work yet.
The biggest problem with being self-published is that you don’t have that publisher giving it that stamp of approval telling you that it is ready to be released to the world. My editor told me that the book had made her laugh out loud in many places, and my test readers loved it. But I know all my test readers and I pay my editor, so there is always that bit of self-doubt as to whether they’re just being nice.
I released the first chapter of Don’t Tell the Groom on my website in mid-December and I also sent out review copies. I was staggered how excited people were about the concept and by the number of bloggers that offered to review it for me. Which led to one thing: more nerves.
With people excited and expecting the book to be good I spent most of the Christmas break coming out in a mild sweat when I thought about people reading it, would it live up to people’s expectations?
And then there’s that terrifying moment when reviews start to get posted. The first was from the Chicklit Club, and I was staggered when it was 10/10. I should add I do review for them, but the reviewer who read the book didn’t know that! I spent the whole of that evening in a daze. Had I actually written a really good book?
I’ve gone on to get some lovely reviews on Amazon, and from bloggers on their review sites. And yet I’m still nervous. Will I ever release a book not be? And now I wait for the readers to download it from Amazon, and now I’ll be nervous about their reviews...
Once again the generosity of bloggers and friends on Twitter and Facebook never ceased to amaze me - Thank you to you all.
If you wanted to buy Don’t Tell the Groom - then you can do so here!
Below are links to the reviews currently posted on external sites for Don’t Tell the Groom:
Mama J Hearts
Lou Graham’s Blog
What have I been up to lately?
It's been a busy time lately. I've been working on my very funny rom-com 'Don't Tell the Groom' which launches in January. You can read the first chapter on my website if you want a sneak peak!
I've also been planning ahead and researching book three in the Millie series: Millie and the American proposal. The first few chapters are set in Zurich, where Millie is visiting her boyfriend James who is working out there. But that is as much as I'm going to tell you! It's was really great to visit snowy Zurich which well and truly put me in the festive mood.
Mid-November I travelled up to London to attend the Romantic Novelists' Association's Winter Party. It was a great opportunity to network in person with so many authors that I've interacted with on Facebook and Twitter.
It's a hard life this writing! It may sound like writing full time is all research trips and parties but outside of that I've been working almost 12 hour days trying to get out Don't Tell the Groom. But all the hard work will be worth it as I'm treating myself to ten days off over Christmas. And believe me the break is much needed!
Stand up to Cancer
Tonight Channel 4 are hosting a night that their week of campaigning has built up to. For those of you that haven’t seen it, Channel 4 has teamed up with Cancer Research UK to fundraise and help to bring us closer to curing cancer.
I’ve decided to donate all my royalties from today’s e-book sales to Stand up to Cancer. That means for every book I sell on Amazon I will donate just over £1 to the charity. So why not download my book today, not only do you get a light-hearted read but you’re also doing a good deed. You can buy Universally Challenged or Millie and the American Wedding.
Why am I doing it?
Just the advert on TV got to me; it listed the odds of becoming an astronaut, getting stuck in a lift, and tripping whilst texting. The last statistic with the most unbelievable odds is then displayed: one person in three would get cancer. Which means that most people would have been touched by someone that has had cancer.
I lost my granddad to cancer eleven years ago. Watching someone you love being attacked by cancer is one of the worst things you can go through. It is something that never goes away. If there is a chance that we can do something to bring an end to that pain then it has to be worth a shot.
Find out more about Stand up to Cancer or follow them on Twitter @StanduptoC
Life as a full time writer
I recently gave up my day job and became a full time writer. It's amazingly exciting getting, but at the same time I'm terrified!
I'm gradually getting into a routine of writing. Making sure that I don't watch too many episodes of Mad Men or get sucked into reading too many books. I think that's the hardest bit, actually remembering I'm not a lady of leisure and making myself go and sit at my desk. In the same vein, I have to remember that I don't have to work long evenings or weekends on the book now either. I can actually take breaks without feeling guilty.
I love how my day is punctuated with taking the dog for a walk which gives me time to think about the next stage of my book. I also love how I don't have to stop thinking about my book during the day whilst I do something different. It makes the writing process so much quicker as I'm not having to force myself to remember what I had last written.
But the big question is - will I become a successful author - or will giving up my day job be the worse mistake I ever made?
Read about my general mutterings on my books and life in general.