Thursday, 17 April 2014

FUNKY FRIDAY - With Book Blogger & Reviewer Jody Hoekstra


Today I'm chatting to Jody from  A Spoonful of Happy Endings.



How many books do you read a week, Jody?  Is reading like breathing to you?

Ever since I started blogging, the amount of books I read in a week has definitely increased. I think at the moment I manage to finish 3 or 4 novels per week, but this definitely depends on how much free time I have. I have a regular full-time job next to my blog, so sometimes there are weeks in which I get to read less/more. I’m secretly quite happy with my travel time from and to work, because this gives me extra reading time.

I wouldn’t say reading is like breathing to me, but it is definitely a very important part of my life. I love getting lost in books, tracing the steps of imaginary characters, wandering around in a completely different world. I’ve always been an avid reader and it has definitely influenced my personality, made me the person I am today. It’s without a doubt a crucial aspect of my life.

If you really don't like a book, how do you review it?  Are you kind and tactful or do you say it as it is?

I think not liking a book you have to review is something no blogger enjoys, but it is also something you can’t avoid. No one can like every single book he/she reads. However, it doesn’t happen to me that often because I mainly review the genre of books I love the most: chick lit. If the basic recipe of a romantic story is there, there are almost always certain elements of the novel I enjoy and want to focus on in my review. At the end of the day, I think it is really important that bloggers are honest. You’re not helping authors by lying about your reading experience. Yet, being kind and tactful has never hurt anyone, so if you didn’t like a novel, write a fitting review, keeping in mind that no one’s the same and there might be readers out there who will definitely enjoy that particular novel, in contrast to your own experience.

What grabs you the most in a book?  The type of book you can't put down.

I’m a sucker for true romance and happy endings. I love books that have an amazing love story at their centre, for example Nicholas Sparks’ novels. I also really enjoy reading books in which I can easily relate to the main character, someone who is perhaps a bit like me, or finds him- or herself in situations I could imagine myself in.

As an avid reader and reviewer will you put pen to paper yourself?  If so, what genre would you choose?

I’ve been writing since I was 15 years old, and I thoroughly enjoy it. I love creating a different world with characters that have a story to tell, and using my own experiences, emotions and dreams as a basis for it. The genre has to be chick lit, I can’t imagine myself ever writing anything else!

Dream time.  Your ideal holiday and the books you'd have with you.

My ideal holiday, now that’s a difficult one because there are so many places in the world I want to visit someday. However, if I really have to pick the perfect holiday, I’d end up in a gorgeous cottage somewhere in a beautiful place in the UK, close to the beach, and with an amazing view, slightly secluded from the rest of the world. I’d have a large pile of books, including some classics like Jane Austen’s novels but also some feel-good reads like anything by Paige Toon or Cecelia Ahern, to spend the time... Sounds like heaven!

Have you always been a reader?  What's the first book you remember reading?

Yes, definitely. I remember going to the library when I was a little girl and I was only allowed to take 10 books with me every time; I never took less than those allowed 10. I remember reading books like ‘Matilda’ by Roald Dahl, and I also remember getting lost in the first Harry Potter book. As a child, stories are even more magical and I sometimes wish I could be 11 years old again, discovering these different worlds and not caring about anything else around me. I can only hope my own children will love reading as much as I do, so they can experience the same things!

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You can read Jody's reviews on her blog, A Spoonful of Happy Endings or follow her on Twitter.


* * * NEWSFLASH * * *

My latest novel has been handed to Mr Misfit and is being scrutinised ready for our joint edit.  In the meantime, I'm blitzing the house and ridding it of stuff that should have been gone years ago!  How many baby toys does one teen need?!

BUT ... cleaning and de-cluttering is great for the brain and a new book just might start taking root as I attack the next cobweb.

AND ... after 'Stilettos & Stubble' finished its free promo, sales have rocketed and, at the time of writing this blog, it is at #73 in humour on Amazon UK.  Very happy with that!

Have a lovely Easter and I'll see you on the other side.

Friday, 11 April 2014

FUNKY FRIDAY - With Reviewer Bella Lane


Today we welcome book blogger, Bella Lane.  We settled with our coffee and popcorn and talked all things bookish.

Bella, what made you start up a book blog?

I love to read, and I get so enthused when I have read a good book that I just want to shout it from the rooftops and get my friends to experience it too.  Rather than get the sack from too much time spent "at the water cooler" sharing my reading recommendations with my friends at work, I decided to write a blog.  There I could share my reading jewels with like minded people and hopefully to get comments back which would expand my reading "stable".

What type of book will keep you up all night turning the pages?

I would have to say thrillers and suspenseful novels are most likely to keep me turning the pages deep into the night.  If the book is particularly scary, then I may not want to turn the light off at all!  I find the fast paced action and the "in and out if trouble" storytelling in the Sookie Stackhouse series (by Charlaine Harris) is likely to keep me reading way past my bed-time too!

What type of book makes you want to chuck it at the wall?

The last book I threw at the wall was Fifty Shades Darker!  I had been curious to read Fifty Shades of Grey to see what all the fuss was about, and was pretty disappointed, partly with its lack of complexity and finesse, but mostly because it was not worthy of the hype - (having read much more explicit and raunchy material). The sequel however did  a u-turn on the premise on which the first novel had been built, in a way that I found totally unbelievable, so at that point I boiled over and the book got tossed!

What's your ideal nibble and tipple when you're reading?

Coffee is, I  guess, a bit obvious but I do love it sweet and black, along with oodles of chocolate or butter-toffee popcorn. One particular series of books I enjoy - the Stephanie Plum bounty-hunter series (by Janet Evanovitch), makes me long for all the fast food and fantastic Italian home cooking with which she punctuates her adventures, but I think I might get stuck in the armchair if I ate every time Stephanie did!

As an avid reader, would you ever be tempted to pen your own book?

I'm tempted all the time.  Then I read a really well crafted novel, with a twisty-turny plot, and I think "I'm not worthy" and I wonder how I would ever write something I feel proud of.  But like a cork, my urge to write creatively soon bobs to the surface again.  I have a few chapters written of a couple of different ideas, one a teen chiller and the other on a chick-lit theme.

Have you ever read a book that you've thought was begging to be made into a film?

Yes - anything I have ever read by John Grisham always rolled like a film in my head, similarly the Lee Child novels, and happily the Cassandra Clare 'Mortal Instruments' series (with a film just out of the first book I think I'm behind the curve).  Last summer I read Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Laini Taylor) - and with the current fascination for supernatural and other-worldy themes I think the audience would lap it up if the film-makers made an authentic version.

* * * *

You can find out more about Bella at her blog - she also contributes to the entertainment section of 'The Best of Hertford and Ware'.

* * * NEWSFLASH * * *

I'm running another promotion of 'Stilettos & Stubble' so if you fancy a freebie with giggles, love, drag queens and good tempered bitching download NOW! Offer ends on Monday .  UK and .com

My current novel is about to be handed to Mr Misfit for his evil pen to begin its work.  We will EVENTUALLY go head-to-head and thrash it out (literally) to make it a better book and it will then head off to my test readers.  Watch this space for title and first chapter reveal ...

Friday, 4 April 2014

FUNKY FRIDAY - with author Jaimie Admans

Happy FUNKY FRIDAY to allPlease welcome fellow Indie writer and Twitter buddy, Jaimie Admans.

So, Jaimie, can you describe yourself as a writer in five words.

Procrastinator, self-doubting, sarcastic, funny (hopefully!) and romantic (hopefully!)

You've been invited on Big Brother - Writers Special!  Do you accept?

Yes, without a doubt! I love Big Brother, it’s a secret ambition to go on there although I’d be homesick within two hours and begging them to let me leave!

Oooh!  I love it too but I'd never go on it!  OK, it's your dream week as a writer - tell us what happens.

Let’s see... On Monday, an agent takes me on, on Tuesday a publisher loves my book and offers me a ten-book deal, on Wednesday the film rights are sold, on Thursday Hugh Jackman phones to say he’s playing the lead role, and on Friday he takes me out for a slap-up meal to celebrate such a good week and buys me the winning lottery ticket on the way home! Now that would be a good week!

Sounds heavenly!  Ultimate dinner party? You can have anyone dead or alive - who would you have and why?

Judy Blume, her books meant so much to me when I was a teenager, and hopefully she could pass on some advice on writing for teenagers! And Enid Blyton, her books were so magical and imaginative, she would be an amazing person to talk to! Other than that, I’d invite all of my Twitter friends just because they’re awesome!

Yay for Twitter!  How do you deal with the dreaded bad review - are you a sulker or a shrugger?

A shrugger. I think there are always going to be bad reviews, not everyone is going to like your book, and you can’t expect them to. It’s so easy to take the bad reviews to heart, to convince yourself that every good review is ‘just being nice’ and the bad ones are the only ones being honest, but you have to read them, take on board any constructive criticism, and ignore the rest.

If you were offered a squillion pounds to never write again, would you take it?

Honestly, for a squillion pounds, probably! Hell, for that kind of money I could pay someone to write for me! That wouldn’t count as writing, would it? If I sat with my feet up and narrated while some hot, young, shirtless man typed it up for me?

Cheeky!  And a great answer!

QUICK FIRE ROUND

Planner or Winger?
A little bit of both. I can’t start writing without at least a vague idea of where I’m going. I need to know how it ends or I’ll end up meandering around for pages and going nowhere, and I like a little bullet-point list of scenes I’ve thought of in a rough order that they might appear in the book, but I don’t do anything too rigidly. Plots develop so much once I start writing them that outlines become pretty much useless anyway!

Night or Morning?
Night. I don’t really do mornings, if it’s too early I just tend to sit and stare at Twitter in a daze, rather than actually doing anything! I hit my stride late morning after a few cups of tea and can carry on until the early hours then. I get much more done when everyone else has gone to bed anyway!

Doer or procrastinator?
Procrastinator. Oh God, such a procrastinator! No matter how much I want to write something or how excited I am to write a particular scene, I just cannot seem to make myself sit down and actually write it! So many things become vitally important instead, like cleaning! The house is never as clean as it is when I’m supposed to be writing!

Writing/first draft or editing?
First draft, definitely! I love the first draft stage! It’s the best bit of writing for me, when you can just sit back and let the characters take over, throw anything you want in there no matter how outrageous, and just not worry about the editing or the spelling or the sentence structure! I don’t do any editing while I’m writing – I’m a big believer in getting the rubbish first draft done, then making it readable after the story is told!

Tea or coffee?
TEA! There is no comparison! I actually can’t stand coffee, I don’t know why anyone likes it! I can’t start the day without a cup of tea though, and can’t survive a day without multiple cups!

You can find Jaimie's books on her Author Page at Amazon. Her latest book, 'North Pole Reform School', was released in October.

If you'd like to find out more about Jaimie, here are her other links:


* * * NEWSFLASH * * *

 Big week in the Misfit House!  The first draft of my WIP is done!  Woo-hoo, yee-ha and all that.  Now, the chopping, hacking, tears and tempers start.  I'm on track for a mid June release.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Happy Mother's Day


What does your mum mean to you?

Mine is now 87 and she means the world to me.  Yes, she sometimes drives me up the wall - and I return the compliment!  It’s a generational thing and we wouldn’t be normal if we saw eye to eye all of the time.  I don’t always agree with my teen either - that’s life.

But for the main part, my mum is my rock and I am hers.  I’m there for her in the same way that I know she’s always there for me - that’s what a mother/daughter relationship is all about, isn’t it?

Very rarely is there a day that I don’t see her - since recovering from her broken pelvis she has become less independent and, I won’t deny, this can be tiring and limiting.  Even when I had flu a couple of weeks ago, I dragged myself (in my PJ’s!) to spend a couple of hours with her in the afternoon.  She craves company - I believe it keeps her young and without it she would have aged more quickly.

I owe it to her.  She looked after me, now it’s my turn.

She won’t be here forever and that saddens me.  I couldn’t have asked for a better mum and I don’t need Mother's Day to make me aware of that.

Celebrate your mum every day - you wouldn’t be here without her!


Friday, 28 March 2014

FUNKY FRIDAY - with writer Gilli Allan



Here we go again with a fab FUNKY FRIDAY.  Drum roll please for fellow author and Twitter buddy, Gilli Allan.

So, Gilli, describe yourself as a writer in five words.

Unconventional, unpredictable, truthful, compassionate, romantic.

You've been invited on Big Brother - Writers Special!  Do you accept?

No! I am painfully aware of the need to promote myself, to raise my head above the gazillions of other Indie writers out there and grab every opportunity that comes my way to communicate with the reading public, but Big Brother (even a special writers’ edition) is a step too far.

It's your dream week as a writer - anything is possible!  Tell us what happens.

On Monday I’m phoned up by a top flight literary agent.  On Tuesday said agent has set up a bidding war between several multinational publishers.  On Wednesday my book is number one in all the bestseller lists and the film deal is confirmed.  On Thursday I win a prestigious literary prize (the Orange perhaps - this is a daydream, right?) and I’m interviewed on The Culture Show on BBC2, and by Mark Lawson on Front Row on BBC radio 4.  On Friday I’m invited to take part in the filming of my book, and to be an adviser on the script and casting.  On Saturday I’m taken out to a posh London Restaurant by my leading man.  On Sunday (after a spending spree) my husband and I fly off to some exotic holiday location.

Shallow?  Moi?

Sounds heavenly to me!  What's the best and worst thing about writing, for you?

I wish I was one of those writers who are bubbling geysers of ideas and plot.  Sadly I’m not. So starting a new book is the worst part of writing for me.  I don’t know what I'm going to say, how I'm going to say it, or where a story is going until I (metaphorically) put pen to paper.

Being a writer like me, sometimes described as ‘into the trees’, is tough.  It’s not just a wander in poetic solitude into a misty copse.  It’s a frustrating stumble through impenetrable fog-cloaked forest, barking shins, stubbing toes, becoming entwined in a tangle of bramble and then veering off-course into a quagmire.  The easiest way to cope with this problem is simply to avoid starting a new book.

But, after the lows, the high.  I know that if I persist there will come a point when the fog clears and I suddenly emerge into the light.  Then the ideas start popping up and the plot unravels in front of me, sometimes so fast I feel I need to run to catch up.  This is the best part of writing the first draft and ‘discovering the story’.  It’s like having an affair - all the breathless bliss of falling in love, but none of the guilt.

If you had to take one book to a desert island, which would it be and why?

This is a hard one.  To take the question seriously, perhaps I should take Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann Wyss, or Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe, for tips on how to build a shelter and find food. Or even better, a Bear Grylls book on survival.

On the other hand, perhaps you want me to name an all time favourite book, which I could read and reread to while away the time.  I always say that my favourite book is Dostoevsky’s Crime & Punishment, but I’m well aware that this sounds incredibly pretentious.  In all honesty, I read it five times between the ages of sixteen and twenty, but not since.  If it was the only book I had with me on the island, I would soon discover if it still retains at its number one status or whether I’d now find it grim, dark and heavy going!  My next favourite is the Gormenghast trilogy, first discovered in my early twenties.  At least it would offer escapism into the wonderfully eccentric and fantastical world that Mervyn Peake created.  Other than those two, which made an enormous impression on me when I first discovered them, I can’t pick a single favourite book from the thousands I’ve read since.

So, perhaps I’ll go for something long and improving, in the hope that it will keep my mind occupied for the duration of my stay, and I’ll be wiser, more literate and better educated when my rescuers arrive.  In keeping with my “pretentious” reputation, how about Proust’s - A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu?

I read Crime & Punishment at about the same age and loved it.  I dabbled in Proust in my teens when I wanted to look intelligent!  SO  ... if you were offered a squillion pounds to never write again, would you take it?

Yes, I’d take the money.  To begin with it would be a relief (see my fourth answer). I’d never have to put myself through that agony again.  I could just concentrate on art.  But I’m so contrary I guess that once I’d signed a contract NOT to write, that is when the ideas for a new story would inevitably start to bubble up irresistibly, crying out to be written.  So I’d probably cheat.

Nice answer, Gilli!

QUICK FIRE ROUND

Planner or Winger?
I think I’ve already answered this.  I am definitely a winger .  All I have, when I start a new book, is an out-of-focus scenario and a few character sketches.

Night or Morning?
I’m not a morning person.  I’m far better in the afternoon/evening.

Doer or procrastinator?
Procrastinator

Writing/first draft or editing?
I love the editing process.  I could go on editing forever.

Tea or coffee?
I like both but the one I choose depends on the time of day.

You can find Gilli's books on Amazon (take a 'Look Inside' while you're there!) or visit her Blog, Facebook or Twitter pages.




* * * NEWSFLASH * * *

In case you missed it, this week I posted a guide to The Essential Mummy Misfit.  If you're new to my books or blog, it highlights lots about me and some defining posts.

I had a little dig at the Paltrow/Martin lunacy and my blog hits went wild!  'Conscious uncoupling'?  My bottom! 

The current work in progress is SO close to the end of the first draft.  Blood, sweat and a few tears have been shed but I'm getting there.  Next week should see me jumping for joy and ready to start the next phase.

I met a lovely young man on Twitter in the week when he offered to share the Blue-Tac he uses to glue his bum to the seat for ensuring a lengthy stay at the laptop.  What a weird and wacky place the Twitsville is!  I'd like to introduce you to him and to his work as he starts on his journey and builds his name.  He writes poetry, which you can read here and you can also follow him on Twitter @Kela:LewisMoran.  I particularly liked this poem.   Go on!  He'd love you to read his work and give him some feedback.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Coming over a bit Paltrow

It is with hearts full of joy that Mr Misfit and I have decided to stay together - like there was ever any doubt!  We don’t see it as hard work to keep our marriage going because we’re happy - we know that times are difficult but we’ll come through them - together.

It’s not easy to maintain our privacy when I’m plastering it all over the World Wide Web - but, hey-ho!

We are consciously coupling - what a great idea, eh? 

Love, Mr & Mrs Misfit

Monday, 24 March 2014

THE ESSENTIAL 'MUMMY MISFIT'


I realised recently that new visitors to my blog would have to look through an awful lot of posts dating back to the summer of 2011 (I used to blog every day!) to get an essence of who I am - from the trials and tribulations of my personal life, or as a writer, through to my opinions on an array of subjects - so I thought I’d create a quick reference guide with links to some of the posts that help to define me.

You could start with ‘Inside Me (Parts 1, 2 & 3) or ‘The A-Z of Me’, but otherwise read on:

How my Chick Lit Writing Career began

My Bio in the right column explains how I began writing when my son developed School Refusal (aka ‘school phobia’) and, although not by choice, I suddenly found myself with the time to explore my creative juices while I needed to be on hand to support him.  I honestly don’t think I would ever have written a book otherwise, so I’m grateful that something good came out of adversity.

And, while my books aren't about that subject, blogging about my son’s anxiety raised awareness and helped others who subsequently saw or heard our interviews in The Daily Mail, Jo Good’s BBCLondon radio show and ITV’s ‘This Morning’.

My First Book

‘Diary of a Mummy Misfit’, perhaps unsurprisingly, was inspired by my observations from my vantage point in the school car park and also at various class productions, social events and parent/teacher evenings.  Written in diary form, it takes a humorous poke at the clicky set (I call them the ‘Meemies’ - it’s all about ‘Me, Me, Me') from the perspective of an ordinary mum who feels she doesn’t quite fit in.

Happily, most of the parents and also my personal friends realised that the characters were just an amalgam of personalities and not about anyone in particular, so I didn’t get lynched.  A second diary followed and I’ve since moved on to writing romcom novels, along with a couple of Christmas novellas.

This hasn’t stopped my loyal readers regularly screaming for another Mummy Misfit book - so watch this space!

The 'Sandwich Mum' (explained here)

I have an elderly Mum and a teenage son, so balancing my life between the two throws up some interesting challenges in my efforts to keep them both appeased.

My blogs can therefore range from shopping ('A Daughter's Plea to M&S' or 'Off my Trolley') and caring for my Mum (I think we’ve ordered and returned six hoovers in as many months) to reflecting on my own teen years or my early parenting days in 'Bumps, Boobs, Breast-Feeding and Beyond ...'

Venting My Spleen

While everyone’s entitled to their view, and I try to avoid petty Twitter and Facebook spats despite the constant temptation, I’m occasionally so incensed about a subject that I simply have put my two bob’s worth in.

Blogging gives me this outlet and, although in the past I’ve had a crack at a number of other opinionated women (e.g. these missives about Germaine Greer, Liz Jones and Katie Hopkins (say no more!), usually it’s just me getting Up on My Soapbox about something or sharing the Things that Bug Me.

I do Like a Good Party

I love entertaining, whether it’s a dinner party or a full-on event, so my posts can cover anything from party planning tips to book launches and family anniversaries like my recent 50th birthday.

And we don’t always need an occasion to make our own fun in our household - we play games like 'In my Pants' and 'Poke the Snot' or just generally amuse ourselves with Family Sayings.

Although it’s never been officially confirmed, and they’re quite common now, I may just also have invented the Twitter Party (e.g. pretending we're all in the kitchen together) and posted about what it might be like if we all hooked up for real.

* * * * *

There’s no easy way to sum up over 200 blog posts but, if you’ve enjoyed any of the above and still aren’t bored with me, here are a few more of my faves:

My ‘Top of the Pops
Smashing Part-ay’: a look at competitive kid’s parties and tips.
My Watermelon Moments’ for you 'Dirty Dancing' fans.
'Dear Me ...': advice to My Younger Self