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Saturday, 28 September 2013

What kind of driver are you?

Louise Wise

I'm a placid type of person. Not easily riled. But inside a car I'm a MONSTER! If someone cuts me up, sits on my tail, hesitates too long, I turn in to Mrs Hulk! I wind down the window, stick my head out and yell like a fishwife.

If they are on my behind I flash my fog lights (they think I'm braking and pull back), or I become Driving Miss Daisy and refuse to go above 10 mph.

My husband, in the passenger seat, makes strange hand movements, usually with clenched fists and white knuckles. My particular favourite gesture is when he cowers down in the seat and covers his entire head. So sweet.

But, hey, it isn't my driving that's the problem. It's the others. I've compiled a list of road users:

Middle Lane Hoggers: You know the kind, they sit in the middle lane so if you want to overtake you have to move two lanes just to get in front of them. Grrrr

Sunday Drivers: They drive slooooowy, looking at scenery, pointing out things of interest to their passengers and suddenly stopping when they spot a landmark.

Boy Racers: These undertake, cut you up, drive with their music blaring from an open window. Don't give them eye contact. It'll make them think you admire them. 

White Van Drivers: These are closely related to Lorry/Truck Drivers. Very arrogant with their large vehicles and their ability to look down on other road users--literally. Overtake them, accidentally or not, and they'll NEVER forgive you. I watched Duel and, trust me, these things could happen!

Mummy Drivers: These are usually turned the other way with one hand on the stirring wheel the other holding a tissue and wiping snot or vomit from a child on the back seat.

Chick Lit Readers: Perfect.

Get it for 77p or 99c while you can...
A Proper Charlie

A British contemporary romance novel...
jolly good fun!

What happens when prostitutes go missing, and Charlie's shy boss, Ben Middleton, is a suspect? 

What happens when Charlie pretends to be a hooker for the newspaper story she's working on, and is "picked up" by Ben? 

What happens when she is abducted and only the handsome Ben knows where she is? 

Poor Charlie, she only wanted recognition. She should've stayed home. 

Available in many formats:

Paperback: http://amzn.to/14JZWEj (full price)
Apple iStore: http://bit.ly/1d4XaC1

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Five Reasons Why Reading Chick-lit Can Make You Look Younger and Thinner

Janet Eve Josselyn 

One thing that diet pill manufacturers don’t want you to know is that reading chick-lit can make you look younger and thinner for a lot less money.  With your nose buried in a good chick-lit book, you won’t be making any new wrinkles worrying about your narcissistic boss, your child’s pathetic math grade or the husband’s penchant for not flushing the toilet.  And there is no need to be scared reading a litany of horrific descriptions of bodily functions that could cease if you indulge in the product.  

Just read, and enjoy.  

No need to call 9-1-1 because you are unable to breathe or speak.  Like that would do any good anyway, if you are unable to breathe or speak.  That is about as funny as the lawyers for the diet pill companies ever get.

Secondly, you can feel real, guilt-free joy when the fictional narcissistic boyfriend contracts something yucky after engaging in a frolic with a woman who is not his girlfriend.  Not only is that wanton woman a real piece of (fictional) work, but we can afflict her with any nasty personal habit we want to at the drop of a hat if we are the author.  And we can also remind the boyfriend about the consequences of behaving like a fictional bad boy.  So much fun!  Fictional stuff can’t run afoul of any state or federal laws, so the guilt-free joy really is anxiety-free and thus wrinkle-free.

Thirdly, reading chick-lit can make you look younger and thinner because if you are parked on the sofa or curled-up on the bed reading chick-lit, you are not exposing your skin to the harmful rays of the sun.  No need to debate the merits of SPF 30 versus SPF 100.  That’s a no-brainer.

Reading chick-lit is also satisfying and calorie-free (unless you dragged the giant bag of M&M’s that you bought from Costco (allegedly for the husband) to the sofa to enjoy as you read the chick-lit).

Lastly, if you are reading chick-lit, most likely you are not driving the husband’s car and ignoring the flashing oil light moments before seizing the engine which is very loud and smoky and stressful and expensive and pisses the husband off, causing stress and angst and wrinkles and other stuff that definitely ages a wife.  Trust me on that one . . . . . !


Thin Rich Bitches

“An uproarious romp through the minefield of female one-upmanship!”

Leaving her cheating husband in Boston with the paralegal he impregnated, Pippin Snowe and her son move to a ramshackle farmhouse that she inherited in the exclusive community of Dover, Massachusetts.  

Pippin finds employment with a local architect, designing kitchen renovations for wealthy Dover women who treat her as they treat the rest of the hired help.  Concluding that social climbing is just another sport that she is no good at, Pippin opens a country club for dogs that offers services that the Dover women didn’t know they wanted until they found out that admission was required and spaces were limited.

With irreverent wit, Thin Rich Bitches is a humorous chronicle of one woman’s quest to find her place within a community of people who are more blessed physically and financially, while learning valuable lessons about life, love, competition, and canine couture. 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Great Expectations

Lizzie Lamb

When I was writing Tall, Dark and Kilted I wanted to make brooding hero Ruairi Urquhart, revise his opinion of heroine Fliss Bagshawe. I hit upon having Fliss deliver a baby during a storm which had prevented the local doctor from getting through. However, never having given birth, I wondered where I could gain the necessary expertise to write a convincing scene? Cue fellow New Romantic 4 and mother of five, June Kearns.

Me: June, do you think one needs to have a baby in order to write convincingly about giving birth?
June: I’d say, yes. But, seeing as your deadline is approaching and gestation takes nine months, you’re cutting it a bit fine . . .
Me (muttering) At least she didn’t mention my age.
June: Added to which, neither biology nor anno domini are on your side. So you’re going to have to rely in t’internet, or consult an experienced mother. (coughs to draw attention back to herself)
Me: Like you.
June: Ex -actly. Fire away.
Me: Does it hurt?
June: On a scale of one to five?
Me: Yes.
June: Imagine trying to push a turkey through your nostril, double the pain and you get the idea.  
Me: (paling) What equipment should my heroine gather together - towels, hot water?
June (briskly) : Rubber sheet, blanket, disposable gloves, scissors (sterilised in a saucepan of water) string - ditto - hand washing equipment, disposable gloves, apron, electric kettles for boiling more water, cotton wool, sanitary towels, black bin liners, a pillow covered with an old towel. Oh, and - a bottle of whisky and several glasses. 
Me: (incredulously) Is it safe to give the mother whisky so soon after giving birth?
June: The whisky’s for your heroine. She’s going to need it, take it from me, there’s the afterbirth to deal with and . . . Hey, where are you going. I haven’t finished giving you all the gory details. 
Me: To think about a new plot line! Maybe a missing dog will work . . .

In the end, the scene was written using my imagination and information I culled from the internet. I really loved writing that scene because it shows my hero’s caring side and my heroine’s steadfastness.  

But the story doesn’t end there.

I received a lovely email from a retired midwife who’d read Tall Dark and Kilted and wanted to know where I’d undertaken my midwifery training. Apparently, she was impressed that my heroine knew not to cut the umbilical cord until it had stopped pulsing (roughly about 10 mins after birth) Sadly, I had to dissolution her but we have since become Facebook friends. 


Sunday, 22 September 2013

Sit back and relax? Are you frigging kidding!

Amy Baker

I’m not quite sure when it happened or why for that matter. I know I never requested one. Who in their right mind would consciously request one? But I am thinking that at some juncture a buzzer was surgically implanted in my ass.

Why do I surmise such a procedure has taken place without my consent or knowledge?  Because every time I sit down someone or something needs my immediate attention! They don’t require my assistance while I am standing. No. It is always as soon as my butt hits a cushion.

At one point, I thought perhaps there were cameras strategically placed in the room where I had dared chosen to take a break from working, cooking, cleaning or laundry. But since the dogs have gotten in on the fun and they don’t know how to work cameras I’m thinking the buzzer makes the most sense. It must emit a high-pitched sound that stirs the animals in the house and gets them in on the action.

For example . . . just the other night I’d had a long day filled to the brim with work, dinner, laundry and kids. I’d tidied up and did a walk about the house to ensure myself of an uninterrupted moment of sheer mindless television viewing.  I made it to the family room hoping to indulge in one of the few small pleasures that I allow myself once a week.

Already well accustomed to the buzzer sounding as soon as my cotton-covered cheeks met chenille covered couch cushion, I remembered to grab BOTH cell and house phones.

I shimmied between the coffee table and loveseat began to lower myself just as Gordon Ramsay tore into one of his restaurant contestants. The promise of my bottom hitting the couch loomed and I sighed knowing that there was little that could foil my plans. I had been thorough; leaving nothing to chance.

I fell toward the cushion anticipating the feel of the smooth soothing fabric engulfing me. And then I landed.

Touch down.

That was when my Rottweiler peeled herself from her club chair and hurled all over the carpet.

Since I had barely hit the cushion I was able to rebound off the springs and back to standing. I walked over to my girl and patted her on the head, “Are you okay, Baby?” Of course she didn’t answer (I’m not so deluded that I actually thought that she would answer, just crazy enough to conceive the buzzer theory).

I went to get paper towels but found the roll empty. I reached for a new pack and tore into the hermetically sealed plastic that encased them. God forbid something should infiltrate a roll of paper towels!

Figuring some bizarre occurrence would happen on my way back to the vomit, I took two rolls back just in case. I grabbed some spray from the utility closet and went to clean the mess. As soon as I was done cleaning and scrubbing the carpet, I washed my hands at the sink and made my way back to the family room. Then I collapsed into the cushion for the second time, essentially setting off my ass buzzer: the phone started ringing.

I looked around the room before remembering I’d taken them with me to collect the paper towels. Without swearing (yeah, right!) I heaved myself up and retraced my steps towards them. Of course, the phone stopped ringing the moment I found it. I checked the caller ID.

I called my mother back and the phone rang and rang and rang. Where the heck was she? How far could she have gone? Just before the voicemail kicked in my mother answered the phone breathlessly. I asked if everything was okay because she sounded like she’d just climbed Mt Everest in record time. She told me not to be such a smartass that she was running around the house looking for her phone because she forgot where she had left it and she had just sat down to watch some TV.

Hmm. Maybe it was a two for one deal.

The Dream Weaver

Anda, like a lot of people, detests her job. She's been trying to get fired for as long as she could remember and goes out of her way to blow off every assignment that she is given. But when one of her "missions" ends badly, well more badly than usual, her boss who happens to be her mother "drops" her into the fray hoping she will learn her lesson. But the only lesson she is about to learn is how fast she can fall for a smokin' sexy aviation engineer.

Sam Miller is the oldest Miller brother. He is successful, handsome and wants for very little having reached many of his goals by the ripe old age of 25. But when he sets his gaze on Anda, his brother's new counselor he can't believe his eyes. For the first time in his life Sam is fearful that he might not get what he wants. He's also a Dream Weaver? Something he doesn't like to mention.

The Dream Weaver is an original, funny and meant for a mature reader. The language is a bit salty too. You'll laugh, whimper (not cry) and fan yourself all at the same time! Don't pass it up.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Under the influence of trashy TV

Deborah Nam-Krane

I’ve got a confession to make: I grew up watching Trashy Television. I’ve got another confession to make: I think it influenced what I write - but I don’t think that’s necessarily something to be ashamed of. I’m not the first person to say that even low art can be instructive, and frankly by the standards we have today, much of what we considered trash in the Seventies and Eighties would be critically acclaimed today.

Here’s what I learned:


Nothing is as much of a game-changer as a high stakes storyline. “Who Shot JR Ewing?” picked Dallas up from a middling show that many said was in danger of being canceled to one that everyone and their grandmother had to watch. Their strategy worked for two reasons: first, their lead was a compelling but a frequently bad character; second and almost as a corollary, almost everyone on the show, with the exception of his sainted mother, had a reason to want him dead or at least out of commission.

That story also worked because for the next several years it continued to reverberate. The would-be murderer was really his sister-in-law Kristen, but she escaped punishment because she was pregnant with his child. Those revelations further poisoned the marriage between JR and Sue Ellen, and years later it would come back to complicate the lives of his brother Bobby and his wife Pam- which is exactly what you’d expect from a toxic family secret.

J.R. and Sue Ellen Ewing- the perfect couple from Hell


There was so much here. The Carringtons were as wealthy as the Ewings, but they were more glamorous and ran with a slightly more international crowd. The family dynamic was made for drama- the wealthy divorced patriarch Blake marries his former secretary Krystal, who had just ended an affair with Matthew, one of his other employees after she discovered he was married, and his spoiled daughter Fallon can’t stand her but is devoted to her gay brother Stephen (a breakthrough character for the Eighties)- but it wasn’t until the second season that it took off. Why? Because Blake’s ex-wife Alexis walked into a courtroom to give damaging information about Blake and spent the rest of the show warring with Krystal for Blake’s affections while building her own empire. There’s a lot to be said about Joan Collins’ performance as Alexis Carrington Colby, and nuanced isn’t one of them, but at the time it was a breath of fresh air to see an older female character who didn’t want to be a matriarch but wanted to be just as powerful as the men in her life.

Alexis Carrington, showing it's possible to be beautiful, glamorous and powerful after the age of 30

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

A Year and a Day by Patsy Collins

Their differing reactions to a fortune telling bring happiness, love, flowers, danger, tears, fabulous food and cocktails, to best mates Stella and Daphne.

Despite Stella's misgivings her best friend Daphne persuades her to visit a fortune teller. Rosie-Lee promises both girls will live long and happy lives. For orphaned Stella, the fortune teller's claims include a tall, dark handsome man and the family she longs for. Stella doesn't believe a word, so Rosie-Lee produces a letter, to be read in a year's time, which will prove her predictions are true.

Stella remains sceptical but Daphne is totally convinced. She attempts to manipulate Stella's life, starting by introducing Stella to her new boss Luigi, who fits the romantic hero image perfectly. In complete contrast is Daphne's infuriating policeman brother John. Despite his childhood romance with Stella ending badly he still acts as though he has a right to be involved in her life.

Soon John is the least of her worries. Daphne's keeping a secret, Luigi can't be trusted, romantically or professionally and both girls' jobs are at risk. Worse still, John's concerns for their safety are proved to be justified.

John, and Rosie-Lee's letter, are all Stella has to help put things right.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Living the Chick-lit life

Haley Hill 

My other life is perfect. The one I lead in my head.

I know it’s there because I’m always accounting for it. The rows of dresses I own, ideal for weddings I don’t go to, sprayed-on jeans and leopard print stilettos for bars and clubs I no longer frequent. A bejewelled evening gown- because you never know- and a gold sequined bikini, in case I find myself ten years younger and sunbathing on a yacht in Puerto Banus.

On a recent shopping trip, I worked myself into frenzy scooping up inappropriate clothing and then barging into changing rooms. At one point, whilst brandishing an armful of white linen trousers, I imagined a scene at a Chateau in the south of France. Standing on tiptoes in front of the mirror, I pondered whether wedges or kitten heels would be more fitting for a holiday I had no plans to book. Of course, in my parallel life I was sipping Rosè on an 18th century terrace overlooking ancient vines. Sunglasses propped up on my head. Skin slightly flushed from the rays, lips glossed. My hair swept up into a chignon. However, in truth, I’m not entirely sure what a chignon is.

It’s not as though a holiday in France is an impossible endeavour. It’s just that my mind has somehow edited out twin toddlers and a disobedient dog. Throw them into the mix and instead of me personifying effortless chic, I’m wearing a deeply harangued expression, brow furrowed, temples pulsing. Instead of organic white cotton, my trousers are industry spec Kaki green. What they lack in elegance they make up for in their ability to camouflage the inevitable ominous brown smudges. My top might be less military standard, but there’s every chance I’ll have a label sticking out or my bra strap showing while attempting to block determined toddlers from nose-diving into the pool. And my hair won’t be swept into anything, more like plastered down with the cohesive aid of Weetabix.

It was only upon recent reflection that I realised it wasn’t simply that my life was less glamorous since I had acquired dependents. Instead, it dawned on me that my virtual reality had never come to fruition, since it had reared its perfectly groomed head twenty years ago when I was preparing for my first ever date. Following the counsel of Just Seventeen, style bible for any aspiring teenager at the time, I had thoroughly prepared for the occasion, and envisaged strolling hand-in-hand up Bromley high street, the birds tweeting, the sun shining. I would wear my Miss Selfridge paisley dress and platform boots. We never got that far though, because in reality, he didn’t turn up. I later discovered it was because he’d substituted me for a girl called Felicity who was in the year above. She had bigger boobs.

Since then, measured against the chick-lit fantasy that plays through my mind, real life has rarely measured up.

The one thing that remains constant though, in both scenarios as they play out simultaneously, is my hand tightly gripping the stem of a wine glass.

Therefore, I invite a toast: ‘To idealism and reality. Never the twain shall meet.’

And if they do, at least I’ve got the wardrobe covered.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Chicken Broth for the Soul

Nicky Wells

Chicken Broth. What’s not to love? It’s tasty and nourishing, easy to make and delicious. It fills you up and warms you through, yet it’s not too heavy and it’s definitely not fattening. It’s versatile, too. Add some sweetcorn (whole or mushed) or Chinese cabbage, chillies or mushrooms for a different heat level and a different taste sensation. Carb it up with noodles or croutons, or enjoy it clear. The taste universe is yours to play with, but you’ll always walk away from a good bowl of chicken broth feeling cheered and satisfied and all-round happy. (And smug, too, because you’re extremely unlikely to overindulge on the calorie front).

Chick lit is just the same. Chick lit is chicken broth for the soul. It’s fun, and it warms you through, but it doesn’t require any seriously heavy lifting. The skill of the chick lit author lies in bringing you emotion in a light-hearted way, in making you laugh through the tears and cheer through the despair. Contemporary chick lit tackles all manner of hefty issues in addition to romance. I’ve read about bereavement and illness, loss, despair and heartbreak, but it’s done in a positive way that makes you feel better about life. And, of course, there’s always the happy ending that allows you to put down the book smiley and smug.

But there’s more, isn’t there? Everyone has a bit of a chick lit heroine in her. Well, okay, that’s a sweeping overstatement, I agree. At the end of the day, I can’t speak for everyone. Really, I can only speak for myself. But I know that I certainly have a bit of a chick lit heroine in me. I’m ditzy, seductive, funny, sexy, clumsy, supportive, warm, caring—and occasionally, I’m all of those things at the same time. Chick lit heroines help me discover myself and encourage me to try new things. You know, you read a scene and you think, wow, I wish I could have done that… I wish I could have said that, or reacted like that. And a short while later, you find occasion to do just that. Weekend mini-break with unscheduled dip in the pond, anyone?

Of course, we’re not all turning into imitation Bridget Joneses or Becky Bloomwoods. But don’t you think that reading a cracking chick lit novel has the power, even just occasionally, to change how you feel about things in your life? Doesn’t it give you hope? And happiness? Isn’t that simply amazing? And isn’t it even more amazing that all of that happens in a really fun, bubbly, cheerful way? The world is plenty gloomy, so we can all do with some chicken broth for the soul. Chick lit rules, I say! And now I have to go and make some chicken broth. I think today I fancy the hot and spicy version with chillies and noodles. How about you?

Nicky’s Favourite Chicken Broth Recipe

Monday, 9 September 2013

Whose A$$ is That? Marylu Zuk explains...

If I were a man would I still obsess, 'bout the size of my can every time I undressed? - from Whose ASS Is That?

I reviewed Marylu Zuk's book Whose ASS Is That? over on Ugly Reviews and it fetched a 4/5 star-review. It's a book that will make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. I put a few questions to Ms Zuk, feel free to ask your own in the comment section below.

Barnes and Noble

Is Whose ASS Is That? your first published book?
Yes! I have a mental dartboard with a variety of topics I’m narrowing for my next book.

Will your next book be in the same vein as the first? 
Yes. My plan is to do a series of life's moments from a humorous perspective. Successful comedians (I'm not one) have found that people laugh at real life scenarios because they can identify with them. I believe I communicate things best using lyrical type poetry and humor. I've had more than one male suggest I do the same topic from a man's perspective. Others have suggested they would love a book on menopause or empty-nesters to give as gifts.

How did you find your publisher?
Finding a publisher posed a bit of a challenge as my book didn’t cleanly align with standard genres. Researching publishers I often found ‘no poetry’ noted at the very end of submission guidelines. My book rhymes, but I don’t consider it poetry per se. It is an illustrated storybook for grown-ups. How many of those are there? Go The F#*k to Sleep was gaining popularity at the same time I was starting to query so I had a lone, slightly similar in genre, compadre for purposes of comparison.

Ultimately, I found my publisher through a casual introduction by a mutual friend. I had previously heard of her company, but threw up my own roadblock by thinking she only published children’s and middle-grade books. I did further research, saw that she had recently published an adult novel, made a mental note that she was open-minded and queried. To my good fortune, my book made her laugh and she believed we had a winner.

Sherry Kaier, (my publisher) of The Artists’ Orchard, and I have had a wonderful working relationship. She listens to grasp my vision, then injects her expertise to either affirm my direction or explain why it would be better to do something differently. I would most definitely recommend her as I found that our styles complemented one another.

When I complete my next book, I hope she’ll be willing to continue our working relationship!

How do your juggle a writing schedule? 
I wait until everyone’s bellies are full and they are otherwise occupied, and I begin.

What's the best/worst part of being a writer? For me, the best part of writing is that it’s therapeutic. I can write about things I wouldn’t typically discuss or make public. The worst part? I have not answer for that one. I’m a natural Pollyanna. I find a silver lining in anything.

Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?
My works starts with pen and paper. And post-its. And more paper. Because I write in rhyming verse, I’m constantly rearranging the order of things and creating long lists of potential rhymes.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Step Away from the Cat!

Monique McDonell

I’m blogging today about a phenomenon that I may be guilty of in my own fiction.  You’ll recognise it when I explain. It’s when a main character uses a pet as a confidant and ally. Let’s loosely call it ‘the animal as a literary device’.

Take a lonely single girl who sits around talking to her cat (or dog or hamster) lamenting her situation because nobody else understands her. Sure she might be a ditz and she might be a bit flaky, but dammit if she isn’t home every night to feed Fido or Whiskers and to lament her miserable life!

There’s a reason you see this in books and that’s because when it’s done well, it works. Here are some very successful examples that may spring to mind:

Janet Evanovich uses it in a lot of her traditional romances, and in the Stephanie Plum series it seems Rex the Hamster is almost the only thing Stephanie can keep track of (how one hamster has survived so many explosions in one apartment with just a cage to protect him is quite the mystery, but Stephanie needs Rex and so he has bravely powered on through nineteen books so far! Don’t let my cynicism throw you off, I’ve read all nineteen of those books!).

A great example of this done well in the chick lit genre is Must Love dogs by Claire Cook. I loved this book back in the day because at that time it was a fresh angle….eight years later, hmm I’m not sure.

Meg Cabot did it in The Princess Diaries (cat) and in The Boy Next Door (dog). If you can add pet-sitting into the story line you get double points. Well, not that there are points but you get the dog as the confidant and the fish out of water scenario as well. (In my first novel Mr Right and Other Mongrels the main character has the opposite issue – a crippling dog phobia – not much sitting around talking to the dogs in that one).

So what is my point you ask? People do have pets and they do talk to them. People really will race home to feed their cat rather than have a night of crazy sex with a new love interest – either because the cat really does need to eat or because it’s a nice way out when you’re scared you like him too much or you don’t like him enough –  but either way it does happen. People do walk their dogs and meet new friends at the dog park, absolutely. It’s real life and that makes it realistic, sure.

I guess my point is that done well it is just fine to have animals as confidants in books but done badly it’s just another cliché. It’s another “here we go” moment for a reader and neither the author nor the reader wants that.

That’s why I say “Step Away from the Cat” unless he brings some unique energy or purpose that will have the readers caring about that animal, not just as a literary device, but as a real life character that they too would give up a wonderful romantic evening for.


Mr Right and Other Mongrels

Blissfully happy in her own universe Allegra (Ally) Johnson is the sweet best friend everyone wants to have. Quietly and independently wealthy she runs a charming second-hand bookshop in beachside Manly. Heck, sometimes she even goes downstairs from her flat to run the shop in her Chinese silk pyjamas. It sounds like bliss. But is it enough? 

When dog-phobic Allegra is rescued from an exuberant canine by the chivalrous Teddy Green, Australia’s hottest TV celebrity and garden make-over guru, her life begins to change. Dramatically!
Unaware of Teddy’s fame Allegra finds herself falling for him, despite her best attempts to resist his charm. Supported by her eccentric family and her fabulous gay friend Justin, Allegra embarks on an on-again off-again romance with Teddy, complicated by his jealous ex-girlfriend, fashionista Louisa and her own narcissistic hippy mother Moonbeam.

Will Ally be able to overcome her insecurities and find happiness with this possible Mr Right or will Teddy’s celebrity lifestyle prove to be too much?

Mr Right and Other Mongrels is a light-hearted story about how one chance encounter can change your life.

About author Monique McDonell is an Australian author who writes contemporary women's fiction including chick lit and romance. She lives on Sydney's Northern Beaches with husband and daughter, and despite her dog phobia, a dog called Skip.

At University she studied Creative Writing as part of of her Communication degree. Afterwards, she was busy working in public relations and didn't write for pleasure for quite a few years although she wrote many media releases, brochures and newsletters - and still does in her day-job.

When she began to write again she noticed that writing dark unhappy stories made her unhappy, so she made a decision to write a novel with a happy ending, and has been writing happy stories ever since. 

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Holidays from Hell


Zanna Mackenzie

So, it’s September and the end of the peak holiday season, the schools are back and summer seems but a distant memory. We all look forward to those weekend escapes and week-long holidays but do they live up to the great expectations? Sometimes yes – but, it seems, most of the time, no they don’t.  Am I the only one who finds there is an inexplicable and confusing difference between how a hotel/holiday cottage looks in the photos on the internet or in the brochures compared with the view you get when you’re actually standing in the property?

Booked via a reputable cottage agency a property we stayed in during a break in Norfolk looked fantastic on the internet, the reality was unfortunately quite different. The lounge sported an ultra-creepy ancient lace and white silk christening robe pinned to the wall which gave the whole place a very unsettling ghostly atmosphere – we avoided the lounge and sat at the dining table in the kitchen all the time instead!

In Keswick in the Lake District our property had an added extra which wasn’t welcome – a mouse which liked to come out for a night time stroll. The whole place had laminate floors so you could hear it scuttling around everywhere – we didn’t get much sleep and left after a few days. Then there was the barn conversion near Ambleside which sported a dilapidated caravan right outside the kitchen window – needless to say that didn’t feature in the internet photos!

A log cabin in Scotland’s Argyll had a strange and rather unpleasant smell which refused to dissipate even with all the windows open and a bracing Scottish gale whistling through the rooms. It also had a bathroom which you felt grubbier, not cleaner after visiting – I still shudder at the memory of that one.

In North Wales there was a property with the added convenience of the railway line ten foot from the lounge window, all the crockery in the kitchen rattled alarmingly from the vibrations of the high speed trains en route to Holyhead.

Holiday disasters don’t seem to be restricted to the UK either. In Greece there was the studio apartment with a bathroom not much more than a hole in the floor, ripped sheets on the bed and a grapevine so overgrown you had to fight your way through to the front door like a fairy tale prince trying to machete his way through the forest to rescue his princess. In Romania – when it was still under the old Communist rule – our flight was diverted from Bucharest due to fog and our plane instead landed in Timisoara and was immediately surrounded by armed guards. We were herded onto a bus like criminals and put up in a dingy tower block of a hotel with mould all over the walls, damp bedding – with 10 people to a room!

On reflection there have been some vacation successes scattered in amongst the never-again- hols, so in the interests of presenting a balanced view of vacations here are some of my holiday highlights:

*Ten days touring British Columbia in western Canada, breath taking scenery, excellent standards of service, friendly people and the most gorgeous and romantic B&B on Vancouver Island which only had one room – a whole suite with its own sundeck right on the water’s edge.

*An ultra-tasteful little cottage in Snowdonia that looked even better than the internet pics (!!)  had stunning views of the mountains and a little study/writing room with views of said mountains.

*A cottage next to a private beach in south west Scotland – step out of the door and there was the sea – spectacular and blissfully peaceful too.

To prove to us that you don’t need to endure traffic jams on the M6 or flight delays at the noisy airport one of our best holidays was barely four miles from our own home! We house (and pet) sat for some friends who own a barn conversion set in 2 acres of grounds – the sun shone, we sat out in the gorgeous gardens all day loving having all that space around us, read, ate, chatted, walked the dogs and totally and utterly relaxed. There was no urge for frantic sightseeing, no unfamiliar surroundings in which you struggle to settle or sleep, no long journeys or having to pack everything but the kitchen sink ‘just in case’.  Holidays can come in all styles, lengths and budgets, and sometimes they even manage to be relaxing…

The Love Programme

Thanks to an embarrassing incident involving a wedding and her ex-boyfriend Marcus, Lucy has to leave her home town in a hurry and needs a place to escape to for a while.

Best friend Fiona is convinced now would be a good time for Lucy to get herself a new life with some potential for romance thrown in. Fate seems to agree when Lucy is given the once-in-a-lifetime chance to star in a TV show and be a contestant on The Love Programme - two weeks of luxury living on a grand Highland estate coupled with, she hopes, fun and romance in wildest Scotland.

When Lucy meets Paul - the young, handsome owner of the Highland estate - she thinks she may have found the love of her life but who is the mysterious Hannah and what part does she play in his life? When she discovers that Marcus is planning to follow her to Scotland to win her back Lucy has some serious soul searching to do. Does she have a future with Paul, with Marcus or is she yet to find the man of her dreams?

About the author Zanna Mackenzie: Mackenzie lives in the UK with her husband, 4 dogs, a vegetable patch that’s home to far too many weeds and an ever expanding library of books waiting to be read.

Being a freelance writer and editor of business publications is her ‘day job’ but, at every opportunity, she can be found scribbling down notes on scenes for whatever novel she’s working on. She loves it when the characters in her novels take on minds of their own and start deviating from the original plot!
Formerly a travel agent and therapist (she has qualifications in clinical aromatherapy, crystal healing, naturopathic nutrition and herbalism) she loves walking the dogs and gardening – that’s when she’s not writing or reading!

Zanna has written two novels, The Love Programme (Astraea Press) and How Do You Spell Love? (Crooked Cat Publishing) and both were published in early 2013.

Read an extract of The Love Programme below:

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Is chick lit intellectual enough for you?

Laura Barnard 

Often, when I tell people I’ve written a book their face lights up.  

‘What kind of book is it?’ they ask, surprised that I could write more than a post-it note.


Then their faces drop.

It grates on me that the minute they hear 'chick-lit' they dismiss it as if I’ve written nothing more than a diary entry. I’m proud to be a writer of chick-lit and also proud that I'm an avid reader of it.

It’s considered to not be intellectual enough for some people.  Unless you’re reading something that is ridiculously confusing and makes your head hurt you’re not smart enough to be considered a book-worm.
Author Laura Barnard

I couldn’t disagree more.  Any book, regardless of genre, is good as long as people enjoy it.  

Why do I read chick lit?  Like most people I have a busy life, and at the end of the day I enjoy a cup of tea and to indulged in someone else’s life. I don’t want to read a horror and be scared someone is out there waiting to kill me, neither do I want to read a thriller (after a long day I can barely remember my name let alone keep track of a government agent double crossing another agent!).  

What I want is to read about a group of friends having fun. I want to hear about other women getting into tricky, hilarious situations. Most of all I want to fall in love with a gorgeous man who I can dream about without the guilt of them being a real person. I’ve been known to utter a fictional character's name in my sleep much to the horror of my husband. I can reassure him he’s not a real person.

What I’ve decided instead is that these people who judge are pretentious idiots with nothing better to do with their lives. But each to their own. I personally judge a book on how it makes me feel by the end. If I loved it and can’t get it out of my head it’s a winner.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Three Wishes Blog Blitz - There's always one person to put a damper on things!

Today, I’m participating in the Three Wishes Blog Blitz, hosted by author Juliet Madison and from  2nd to 6th September you’ll have the chance to win awesome prizes at all the blogs participating in the blitz, including this one! It also opens my September theme of chick lit. Yes, all through September writers of chick lit/contemporary romance have been invited to write in with their funnies--can't wait!

All you have to do to win my prize is share this article to your social media (*Twitter, Facebook etc) and post the link of your share in the comment section below, then tell me your wishes. TWO people drawn after September will have a choice of prizes (scroll to the bottom, or better still, read to the bottom for the prize list).

*To link direct to a tweet you need to click on the actual tweet (anywhere on the tweet to enlarge it slightly), then click on 'details' and there you have your direct link. Copy and paste it into the comment section below and bingo.

So, why is it called the Three Wishes Blog Blitz? Juliet’s new romantic comedy release, I Dream of Johnny, is about three wishes, a high-tech genie in a lamp, and one very unfortunate typo that proves magic isn’t all it cracked up to be… sounds fun, right? Well, I'll be reading. 

There’s always one person to put a damper on things.
three wishes blog post 
Louise Wise

There we were, sitting at our desks and waiting for five o'clock to strike so we could leave off work, and to pass the time we were asking one another what we’d wish for if we were granted with three wishes.

James from accounts is the smart arse and asked for unlimited wishes. Janice undid another button on her blouse, her fingers lingering in her cleavage as she gazed at him, told him he was a naughty boy.

Baby Karen (so-called because she was the oldest person in the office only no one was supposed to know) said she’d have: 1. A house by the sea. 2. A win on the lottery. 3. Good health.

‘That all?’ scoffed James. His eyes on Janice’s cleavage. He dragged his gaze away to continue, ‘A house by the sea could mean you’ll lose it to a cliff fall. A win on the lottery could just be a tenner, and good health will mean you’ll miss out on flu this winter. You have to be more precise.’

‘Like my wishes are really going to come true,’ said Baby Karen, looking hurt that her wishes weren’t good enough. 

James' eyes reverted back Janice’s cleavage, and I caught Baby Karen looking at her own chest, pulling back her shoulders and pulling down the zip a little on her cardigan.

‘You have to be careful with wishes,’ Big Barry said, and we all nodded in agreement. ‘I know someone who wished to be thin and they died. Starved to death.’

We all ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’. 

‘What are your wishes, Louise?’ asked someone asked me.

‘Goes without saying, I’d like to be rich. Then a long and healthy life for me and everyone I know and my third, hmmm, I dunno. Once you have money and good health what else is there?’

‘World peace?’ said Janice. She sucked on a finger whilst looking suggestively at James and the words came out “Dorld’s Deace”.

‘That’s similar to my wish,’ said Baby Karen glaring at me, ‘but no one complained about her wish.’

‘I was more specific than you,’ I said. Karen could argue with a door.

‘Well, ‘rich’ could mean a ‘rich chocolate cake’ or a ‘rich sauce’. You know, something that’s strong in flavour.’

‘OK,’ I said remembering I was dealing with a middle-aged woman with a mind-set of a toddler—and she wore a cardigan. Believe me, never argue with people who wear cardigans (they don’t get out much and could therefore argue for Britain—and every other country). ‘I wish that I had enough money to buy whatever I wanted, when I wanted and for whoever I wanted and would never have to worry that it would run out. Better?’

She sniffed. ‘Better.’

Despite our squabbles I loved my work colleagues. We had such a giggle! Janice and James flirted like crazy, no one wanted sit beside Karen, and Big Barry moaned a lot but otherwise we were a happy bunch.

‘I’d wish for a cure for cancer,’ Mandy the Mouse whispered from the corner. We all turned to look at her. ‘I lost my parents to that awful disease and wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I went through. A cure for cancer,’ she confirmed, ‘and I’d gladly give up the rest of my wishes.’

As I said, there is always one to put a damper on things and make you feel badddd.


For my part in this three wishes blog blitz I am offering a choice of prizes for one person drawn from the comments after 6th September:
Once you’ve entered my competition why not visit Juliet’s blog and enter her giveaway, then visit any or all of the other participating blogs to win more prizes! 

You could potentially win loads! Remember, it begins 2nd September and lasts only to the 6th. Click to visit the official Blog Blitz post.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

It's not all about shoes, handbags and glitz, you know!

Crazy fun from us to you
For the whole of September WWBB has been taken over by authors of chick lit. They've been invited to blog about anything, and I assure you it isn't going to be all about girlie stuff... well, that's to be seen, but nevertheless it's going to be fun.

It's going to be a crazy, crazy month and I hope you'll join them, and me, for what's sure to be a fun event.

Order of appearance (so far): 
Introduction to the madness
Juliet Madison's blog hop
Lara Barnard
Zanna Machenzie
Monique Mcdonell
Marylu Zuk
Nicky Wells
Amy Baker
Patsy Collins
Janet Eve Josselyn
Deb Nam-Krane
Lizzie Lamb
More authors to come end of the month

And to give it a kick start A Proper Charlie is on sale (only on eReaders) all through September. It's pink, flirty and fun.

A Proper Charlie
only 77p or 99c for the rest of September.

A British contemporary romance novel...
jolly good fun!

What happens when prostitutes go missing, and Charlie's shy boss, Ben Middleton, is a suspect? 

What happens when Charlie pretends to be a hooker for the newspaper story she's working on, and is "picked up" by Ben? 

What happens when she is abducted and only the handsome Ben knows where she is? 

Poor Charlie, she only wanted recognition. She really should've stayed home. 
Buy A Proper Charlie in ANY eFormat for 77p/99p

(paperback isn't included in the discount)