Peter Kay, Jack Reacher and why my local’s on the TV this week

Last week, there were only two kinds of people: those who’d managed to purchase Peter Kay tickets, and those who had not. I am sadly in the latter category – not for want of trying, but hey ho, I still have Dara O’Briain and Dave Gorman tickets for 2018 so I’ll be getting plenty of comedy in my life, and we all need more of that, don’t we?

If you follow me on Goodreads (and if not, why not? Come say hello!), then you’ll see I’ve been having a bit of a Jack Reacher fest. One of the things I like about the Reacher novels is that you can pretty much pick them up and read them in whichever order you like and they’ll still make sense. However, I’ve just read three in succession (61 Hours, The Affair, A Wanted Man) and they do sort of tie together in that Jack is desperately trying to get to Virginia to meet Susan, but the situations he finds himself in keep delaying him.

So now I want him to get to Virginia, and I want to find out what happens when he gets there. But then I find out that the book that will reveal all is Never Go Back. And then I realise that I already know how this goes, insofar as I’ve seen the bloody film! (Don’t get me started on Tom Cruise playing 6 foot 5, 250-pound Jack Reacher). Thankfully, it’s so long since I’ve seen it that I can’t really remember it, and I doubt it would’ve spoiled the book anyway since the books are always better than the films, and not always the same in terms of plot or outcome (my only exception to this rule being Stephen King’s The Green Mile which is excellent in either form).

But I’m going to have to wait anyway as I don’t yet own a copy of Never Go Back, and I have plenty more in my ‘to read’ pile before then (I’ve just started Echo Burning – yes, another Jack Reacher!)

In other news, who remembers Helen the Cat from The Case of Walutahanga? For those who don’t know, Helen is a real cat who lives (runs, owns, rules over) my local watering hole, the Vic Bikers Pub, and this week, my good friend and landlord John Commons and his sister Joy are starring on Channel 4’s Four In A Bed. It’s on in the UK at 5pm all this week and the episode filmed at the Vic is on tomorrow, 28th November, so keep your eyes peeled for Helen, and possibly me in a background shot somewhere.

Finally, I’m off to that London on Saturday for the Bridge House celebration event. I’ve never been to an author-y gathering before so I’m a bit daunted, especially since I’ve been asked to bring a copy of one of my books to swap, and I don’t have anything to take since my stand-alone work is all e-book only (and the idea of author ‘speed-dating’, ie. networking and promotion and being generally sociable is making me want to find a large hole and jump in it). I’m also a bit stressed since I have to be back in the evening for my Nan’s 90th birthday party, and I’m sure I’ll be the worst granddaughter ever if for some reason I don’t make it, or arrive late. This anxiety-wracked introvert is going to have one tough day.

But what doesn’t kill me….

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Cainsville, holidays and lots of reading

I’ve had a few holidays since my last post.

One wasn’t really a ‘holiday’ but a two-week break from the day job so that I could concentrate on writing, (with a few days out in between). It went far too quickly and it’s already a distant memory, but I did get a little bit further through the endless WIP edit. The other ‘holiday’ was a three day break up to Whitby Goth Weekend which was thoroughly enjoyable and went far too quickly ūüė¶

The trouble with spending an intense period of time on the WIP is having to go back to reality; for the first few weeks I really struggled to get any further with it. Not for want of trying, and, to be fair, I edited and submitted that paranormal romance I mentioned previously in between times, so I wasn’t totally barren in the writing department (after 8 weeks of silence from the publisher, having promised a reply in 5 weeks, I’ve decided to submit elsewhere – life’s too short to wait, right?). As for the WIP, I set myself a goal of writing for 1 hour each day between 6pm – 7pm weekdays. This allowed two hours after work in which I could feed the cats, tidy up, feed the cats some more, do some exercise, clean up the mess that the cats left, and for my eyes to get some rest from a computer screen (I pay the bills by spending eight hours a day stuck in front of one).

And it worked. Invariably, I went straight through the hour and was still tapping away hours later. I’m now in the final third, which requires the least editing (I hope!) so fingers crossed I’ll reach my target of having the damned thing finished by the end of the year (I’m pretty sure when you’re this sick and tired of a piece of work, it’s a sign that it’s about as ready as it will ever get).

In other news, I’ve finished Kelley Armstrong’s Cainsville series. Anyone who’s read my blog knows that Kelley is my favourite author and I’m loathe to even suggest anything negative about her work… but I’m soooooooooooo disappointed how this series ended…

(SPOILERS BELOW)

The whole premise of the series was that Liv / Eden was going to have to choose a side between the Tylwyth Teg and Cwn Annwn, Gabriel or Ricky. I figured Liv would always end up with Gabriel as that was clearly where the books were heading. Ricky, unfortunately, became a bit of a one-dimensional afterthought near the end which was a shame, but as a ‘Team Gabriel’ lady, I wasn’t going to complain!

But then came the end… and Liv didn’t choose! Her final choice was NO CHOICE! She REFUSED to choose! She’d FIND A WAY AROUND IT somehow!

Well I’m sorry but that’s just cheating! Hopefully Kelley has left the series open-ended so she can continue with it someday, and aside from the ending/not-ending, the writing, as usual, was spot on. Now I’m faced with a very long wait for the final Rockton book, boo!

Since finishing the Cainsville series, I’ve read Lee Child’s Tripwire, Patricia Briggs’ Iron Kissed¬†(see my in-depth review on Goodreads) and a mammoth book of short stories called 65 Tales of the Supernatural, which is possibly the best charity shop find I ever made.

 

Speaking of shops, we made a trip over to Trusthorpe on the Lincolnshire coast a few months ago. We ate chips and ice cream, played the arcades, walked on the beach and paddled in the sea. We also paid a visit to Sue’s Curios which is the most amazing antiques shop I think I’ve ever been in. It’s so chock-full of stuff you could spend a week in there and not see everything! There’s even a car in there! Anyway, I found this little treasure in there for the princely sum of ¬£5 and I can’t wait to read it (I do love old books). And although Trusthorpe is right next door to Mablethorpe, which doesn’t have the most exciting reputation, it does have an amazing and often deserted beach.

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Riley Pope news: I’m 6K words into book #4 and only on Chapter 2… think it’s going to be a long one! And Helen the Cat, who starred in The Case of Walutahanga made the local news recently and you can read all about her right here.

Others news: Gliterary Tales, the upcoming anthology from Bridge House Publishing which will feature my story ‘A Very Unseelie Act’ is out in the next few weeks, eek! Check back soon for purchase / download details.

And finally, a big hello to my recent visitors from Canada!

Take care all and keep reading! X

Twitter, I take it all back! You have made me a very happy woman!

Has your favourite author changed from ten years ago? asked Goodreads yesterday on Twitter.

Nope, I replied, still @KelleyArmstrong.

And about my day I went.

Some time (and a trip to the pub) later, I returned home to find the little blue light on my phone was flashing: somebody had liked my Tweet, it seemed…

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Cue much screaming and dancing round the lounge. I’m still smiling now!

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Am I on a train or in the Tri Cities?

I’ve just had a pretty mad weekend of reading – it’s rare that I have (or find) the time to spend an entire day reading, but yesterday, apart from a bit of housework, I essentially sat on my arse and power read.

First, I finished the second half of the Mercy Thompson book, Blood Bound. Then I started The Girl on the Train… and by midnight I’d finished it.

Like I say, it’s rare for me to spend so long immersed in a book, so I wasn’t expecting to feel the way I did this morning, which was weirdly disconnected and just not ‘with it’.

I can’t put it down to anything obvious. I don’t feel ill and there’s nothing beyond the usual on my mind, I’m not drunk and I’ve never taken anything stronger than a paracetamol in my life, so I can only put this weird disconnected feeling down to the fact that I spent a good eight hours emersed in the worlds of Patricia Briggs’ Tri Cities werewolves and then Paula Hawkins’ screwed-up trio of Rachel, Megs and Anna.

Does anyone else suffer this or is it just me? What can we call it? A book hangover?

Anyway, I did something unusual and reviewed both books on Goodreads (check out my feed to see what I thought, and don’t forget to follow me!). I don’t normally leave reviews because I tend to forget half the good stuff but always remember the bad, so for my next book I’ve decided to make notes as I go along and see what I end up with, because I’m sad like that.

Writing-wise, I’ve just written a 7500 word paranormal romance (it wasn’t meant to be a PR but the story just took me in that direction) so I’ll get it polished then see if I can place it somewhere. The WIP is still being pulled into shape and I’m picking up the 4th Riley Pope tomorrow. I have 9 days to go in the day job before I have a fortnight off and two blissful weeks of solid writing, which can’t come soon enough. I’ve also swallowed my nerves and booked the tickets for the Bridge House author event. I’ve no idea what to expect but I guess I’ll worry (excessively) about that in December!

(And don’t forget, my urban fantasy series The Riley Pope Case Files is free to download from Smashwords and ebook stockists everywhere!)

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Walking to Whitby, submission success and an urban fantasy series that I really should’ve read a long time ago

I did it!

I completed my Walk to Whitby! Well actually, I did it a month ago but thought I should mention it here since the last update I provided stopped at Day 12 and you may or may not have been wondering if I’d been figuratively mown down somewhere on the M1 motorway. Final total raised was ¬£205 which is far more than I ever expected to raise for this very worthwhile cause. It’s time we kicked cancer’s arse for good, don’t you think?

In other news, I received a lovely email the other day. ‘Your submission has been successful’ said the title. Woo hoo! My short story A Very Unseelie Act will be included in Gliterary Tales and published by Bridge House Publishing this November. It’s been a few years since my last published story (Night Shift – you can read it online here) so it was very nice to be able to jump up from my chair and do the happy dance again (writers, you know the one I’m talking about). The story is in epistolary format and is written as an email exchange between a disgruntled fairy and a totally inept customer service department, of which we’ve all had experience at some time or other. ¬†I wrote the story about four years ago and initially submitted it to a Writing Magazine competition, for which it was shortlisted. It then sat around on my hard drive until I saw the call for submissions from Bridge House Publishing for stories with glitter or sparkle. I’ve since had an email inviting me and a plus one to Bridge House’s annual celebration event in December, which I’m umming and ahing over but probably shouldn’t be because I know authors should never turn down an opportunity to network.

Buuuuuut…

Firstly, I’ve never been to one of these events before so I’m not really sure what to expect. I’m a total introvert and not very sociable, so the mention of ‘author speed dating’ had me coming out in a cold sweat. That alone is not a reason to avoid it though, and nor would the hubster (or my inner writer) let me. Secondly and more importantly, the event is in London (why does EVERYTHING have to be in London?) and it also falls on the day of my Nan’s 90th birthday party. The train isn’t an option as I don’t live anywhere near a station, so a simple train journey for most would actually be a taxi-train-tube-tube-train-taxi journey. So how much is this going to cost me three weeks before Christmas, when money will already be tight??? It means we’re going to have to drive from Leicester to London and back, on a Saturday a few weeks before Christmas. The event is 2pm-5pm, and the birthday party starts at 7pm. Even if I leave early, I’m still not guaranteed to get back on time. In light of my first point I feel like I’m making excuses, but I only have one Nan and she’s only going to be 90 once so there’s no competition. I’m still not sure what to do, so I might reserve the tickets and then just figure it out nearer the time.

Gah. There are worse problems to have, right?

And finally, on the book front, I’ve just read Lee Child’s Persuader (his seventh – I think – Jack Reacher) and also Patricia Briggs’ Moon Called, her first book in the Mercy Thompson series. Lee Child aside (Persuader, I felt, was probably the best Jack Reacher I’ve read in terms of plot and overall writing), I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get round to reading Patricia Briggs considering my love of urban fantasy and all things vampire, witch and werewolf. Saying that, I can’t help but compare it to Bitten, Kelley Armstrong’s first book in the Otherworld series, and in terms of the plot I found it a bit thin and a whole lot confusing when it all came to a head. Otherwise, I really enjoyed her style and I like the character of Mercy – she’s not some cliched femme fatale kick-ass in leather (which is what put me off Kim Harrison’s books) but an average girl who lives in a trailer, works as a mechanic and just happens to possess the ability to shift into a coyote. I like the coyote twist and how Briggs has woven it into the general werewolf pack concept, and I’m looking forward to reading more Mercy Thompson (which I intend to do when I get home with book two in the series.) Oh, and Cainsville #4 has just come out in paperback in the UK this week, so that will no doubt be winging its way to me from Amazon some time in the not-too-distant future.

As for the WIP, I’m still plugging away at it and pleased with how it’s going. It’s still following the general plotline but with lots of new or revised scenes. I’m also working on the fourth Riley Pope and another long-short story about a vampire hunter on a mission to flush out a strigoi-trafficking dhampir. Also in the pipeline is a short story in the form of a memoir that I intend to submit to Writing Magazine for an upcoming comp. I imagine that’s going to take me about 5 minutes to write, and 5 days to get over, but then there’s always chocolate!

Have a blessed Lammas all

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The positives of an unhappy childhood: exploring my passion for writing this #NationalWritingDay

It was National Writing Day yesterday.

I have to confess, I was not aware of this until I logged onto Twitter yesterday morning (*smacks own hand*), but it got me to thinking: what inspired me to pick up a pen and a notebook and start writing stories?

(And I’m not being romantic; it really was a pen (or a pencil) and a notebook. I’m not so archaic that computers weren’t around then but we didn’t have one at home until the mid-nineties, and even that was second hand.)

Like many, I suspect, I owe my love of books to my family. I have very vivid memories of my Dad mimicking a train to the Thomas the Tank Engine theme music after reading me a bedtime story from the series (I was a massive Thomas fan РI still have Thomas the Tank Engine coathangers in my wardrobe, and the Ladybird books in storage at home).

I was always encouraged to read, and often¬†received book tokens for birthdays and Christmases. We had a small bookshop in town (now sadly long gone) that stocked my favourite Point Horror books (I’m pretty sure this is also where I was first introduced to Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and became one of Stephen King’s Constant Readers). As for how I got into horror and fantasy, I have no idea whatsoever. My parents were neither bibliophiles nor alternatively-inclined – I suppose I’ve just always had a fascination with the creepy and macabre!

I’m not sure what I would have done without books growing up. I was an introverted only child, plagued by mild but constant bullying through most of my school years, mainly for looking slightly odd with my pageboy haircut, auburn hair, freckles, snaggle teeth and sticky-outy ear (singular – the other is more or less perfectly formed). Some long-forgotten comedian from my youth once named me ‘Goofy Rat’. He’s probably forgotten that. I never will.

I spent a lot of time in the local library (currently surviving but who knows for how long), especially in my mid-to-late teenage years when I used it as a place to escape from what could be a toxic environment at home.

Escapism. That’s what books became for me, and in turn, the writing of stories. No matter what was happening at home, or what had been said to me, or overheard through walls too thin to muffle the shouting, I always had a book to pick up, a world to escape to. When I was younger I’d go on adventures with the Secret Seven or the Famous Five, or climb up the Faraway Tree. When I was older I’d scare myself stupid with Pennywise, the Tommyknockers, Carrie, or spent whole nights immersed in the sights and sounds of New Orleans¬† and Paris with Louis and Lestat (I did in fact stay up all night just to finish The Vampire Lestat – despite having an exam the next morning.)

I don’t know exactly what prompted me to write my first story – which wasn’t exactly a story, but something of a never-ending script about a couple of girls (which was me and my friend at the time) who met their favourite boy band (Take That… *flinches*). Romantic relationships ensued, of course. There were buckets of hormones poured into that story, which ended up filling around¬†fifteen A4 notebooks.

In between that and my first attempt at writing a novel were my teenage years. Apparently they’re supposed to be the best years of your life, but I didn’t get that memo. If I ever feel the need to tell the story then I’ll type up a memoir (unlikely), but around the age of nineteen or twenty I found myself trapped in a toxic relationship, very lonely, very sad, and desperate for an escape. Some turn to alcohol. Some turn to drugs. Some turn to gambling or sex.

I turned to something that had been there all my life and decided I was going to write a novel.

Just like that.

I had no education in the business of creative writing, nor did I sit down to write it with the aim of publication. I wrote it for me and I bloody enjoyed it, all one-hundred-and-sixty-thousand words of it.

By the time I’d finished I had rid myself of He Who Shall Be Run Over Repeatedly Should He Ever Cross My Path Again and met a¬†wonderful man who has since become my husband.¬† He’s extremely supportive of my writing and encouraged me to submit aforementioned epic to agents and publishers.

Off went the manuscript. Back came the rejections. Or rather, rejection. Singular. Photocopied, dog-eared, generic.

I was gutted.

Looking back now I’m not the least bit surprised it was rejected, and frankly I cringe at the fact that I ever let the damned thing see the light of the day (I may, for shits and giggles, share an extract on my blog to be pointed and laughed at).

Think of all the guidelines and advice you’re given when submitting an MS, then imagine I did none of that and that’s what I sent out.

It didn’t stop me writing though. I had the bug and that was the end of it. I started another novel, invested in ‘How To’ books, signed up for a writing course, wrote another novel, submitted short stories and made a few shortlists, then I got accepted for my first publication. Pretty soon after I won a competition, got another story published. Kept on learning, kept on writing. Life had improved beyond measure from the days when I wrote to escape, but it didn’t stop me racking up the word count. I was hooked. Still am.

So good things do come from negative experiences. And great things definitely do come from books!

Update on Riley Pope 4 – The Case of Blue Ben: outline all but complete now, planned in for writing this weekend. Update on the never-ending WIP – still editing (but man I love Scrivener!)

Hope you all had a blessed summer solstice. I had a hot one, tramping around as I was in the heat to get my 10K steps in for #WalkAllOverCancer (you can sponsor me here don’t forget).

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Days 2 to 12: crystal balls, Anubis, my pants keep falling down!

I’m 12 days in to #WalkAllOverCancer. I’ve visited some lovely local beauty spots and done a lot of shopping. I’ve also spent a lot more time than planned on the bloody treadmill (thank you British weather).

On day 2 I drove into Leicester after work because I’d seen a crystal ball I wanted to buy (as you do) from a very lovely shop called The Source on Church Gate (if you’re ever in Leicester I recommend you pay them a visit).

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How beautiful is this?!

Pennies spent, I then went for a stroll around Abbey Park, a beautiful and free-to-enjoy green space in the heart of the city. The weather was a little overcast and I saw more ducks than people. It was bliss!

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Day 3 was a mixture of shopping, cleaning and treadmill. Day 4 I took the hubby with me and we got absolutely drenched in the only storm of the entire day.

Days 5 to 8 were spent mainly on the treadmill, which is currently lodged into a nook at the end of the hall because the room it is meant to be in is being decorated. This is my view:

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On day 9 my FitBit died without telling me and I didn’t log all my steps (also done on the treadmill) so on day 10 I had to do an extra 5000 steps to make up for it, which I squeezed in by way of a shopping trip to Wigston, a town on the outskirts of Leicester that has an abundance of charity shops with all sorts of goodies to be had, including this little fella for the princely sum of ¬£1.50 (there’s a figure of a mummy inside too!):

 

A pit stop at the chippy and a naughty slice of wild blueberry cheesecake from the Cheesecake Shop followed, because I’d walked 50 miles by day 10 and I needed the fuel!

Day 11 was Sunday and the weather was fair, so the hubby and I went for a walk around the Sence Valley Park in Ibstock, saw lots of ducks and swans, and even got to listen to the Download Festival (which is only a few miles down the road from us) when the wind blew in the right direction:

 

Day 12 was a Monday so back to work. I went for a lunch time walk, (which provided me with a great story idea) and only needed half an hour on the treadmill to reach my 10,000 steps.

So how do I feel now I’m 60 miles in? Permanently tired. My writing is suffering as a result. I didn’t think it possible but I fell asleep at my laptop the other day. On the upside, I’ve raised ¬£170 for Cancer Research UK so far, and my trousers keep falling down which I assume means I’ve lost some weight. Hurrah!

It’s past midday on Day 13 and I’ve not even racked up 2000 steps yet, so I’m off for a little lunch time trundle. Don’t forget you can sponsor me here, and if you’re ever Leicester way, don’t forget to check out some of our beautiful open spaces (we do a neat line in football teams and long-dead royalty too!)

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Day 1 – Three transit vans, two cars and a really bad idea to go walking at rush hour

I did it!

Day 1 of #WalkAllOverCancer is complete.

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I ended up doing a four mile walk after work to get all my steps in.

At rush hour.

This is a thing I will not do again.

I would like to point out it was about 23 degrees at 5pm yesterday. Not scorchio for most but I’m a fair-skinned, freckle-faced natural redhead who reacts to the sun like Christopher Lee in a Hammer Horror classic. But I thought that the heat and intensity of the sun early evening would be manageable if I dressed appropriately for a workout of moderate intensity, ie. not a hoody and jeans.

So I pulled on my 3/4 gym leggings, sports bra and vest top and off I went a-walking. I was perfectly presentable, I assure you.

I made it three minutes down the road before the first van of dickheads went past, whistling and shouting the kinds of things that dickheads in vans like to shout so as to demonstrate their intelligence.

Another half a mile, another van. Then a car. Then a van. Then a car again.

Really? It’s 2017 and a woman can’t walk along the street for fifteen minutes without getting catcalled from passing C U next Tuesday’s. Next time I’m taking my phone and getting their number plates. In some counties, this misogynistic bullshit is a hate crime.

But anyway. Apart from the aforementioned pond slime, it was a nice walk through some of the local¬†villages. In terms of how far I made it to Whitby, I’m 6.4 miles of the way there: middle of the¬†M1, somewhere north of Markfield and south of Nottingham:

Don’t forget, you can sponsor me here.

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Walking All Over Cancer this June!

Hi folks.

This month my blog posts will be slightly off topic as I’ve signed up to Cancer Research UK’s #WalkAllOverCancer campaign and will be posting about my progress right here.

The aim is to walk at least 10,000 steps each day, every day, for the whole of June. For the average person, that works out at about 5 miles a day, or 150 miles over the month, which just happens to be the approximate distance between my house in Leicestershire and my spiritual home of Whitby, North Yorkshire.

To add a bit of fun to proceedings I’m going to be charting my ‘progress’ on a map, plus posting regular updates, photos and occasional calls for sponsorship on my blog.

As of 2pm this afternoon, my FitBit tells me I have walked 2,580 steps.

Woeful, isn’t it? The perils of having a nine-to-five desk-based job, and a six-to-the-small-hours desk-based passion¬†(I hate calling writing a ‘hobby’). But the challenge of walking a little bit further each day is nothing compared to what cancer sufferers, their friends and loved ones, have to deal with.¬†I doubt there’s a single one amongst us who hasn’t been touched by this awful disease in some way, and I’m proud to be doing my bit to help fund vital research in the quest to put an end to cancer once and for all.

You can find out about the fundraiser here and sponsor me here.

In the meantime, Whitby calls…

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