Friday Night Drinks with….Veronica Henry @veronica_henry @orionbooks #GuestPost #FridayNightDrinks #ChristmasAtTheBeachHut

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It’s Friday again and tonight I am beyond excited to welcome to my blog for Friday Night Drinks, one of my favourite authors and someone I hope I can now call a friend, the lovely Veronica Henry. Veronica’s new book, Christmas at the Beach Hut was published yesterday and she has agreed to join me for a celebratory tipple.

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Veronica, thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. Now, I know you mix a mean gin and tonic but what are you drinking this evening?

An Americano, which is Campari and Vermouth topped up with soda with lashings of ice and a twist of orange. Basically a slightly less ferocious Negroni!

If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

Oooh. How about the Canary Gin Bar in Bath? You can’t not have fun in there. I have a tale or two!

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I’ve got a feeling that The Irishman and I might have spent an evening in there once, although it’s a bit of a hazy memory! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

Lovely lovely lovely Anthony Bourdain. I could listen to him forever, and I would have loved to have met him. Maybe we could have Nigella along, as they were friends. I’m a big admirer of their writing, so it would be fun to chat and get up to no good.

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I am writing my 20th novel, which is a bit scary!! I’ve written two books this year so I had to plunge straight in. No time for wafting about cogitating! But pressure focusses the mind rather, I find. Everything has clarified more quickly than usual.

Twenty novels! That’s an amazing achievement. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

Recently, I was very proud to write an introduction to the re-issue of This Year it Will Be Different, by Maeve Binchy. She is a hero of mine, and to be asked was a huge honour. My biggest challenge was to keep writing after my father died, and still be uplifting. I just wanted to curl up in a ball but I couldn’t.

I love Maeve Binchy, her writing is such an inspiration to me. What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all! 

I’d love to dramatise one of my books for TV, but I suspect there aren’t enough murderers or stalkers in my novels. 

Oooh, that would be great! Which would you pick? The Honeycote books would make a great serial for a Sunday evening, wouldn’t they? What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’m really enjoying writing my current novel – there’s something about the dynamics between the characters that keeps driving it forward so it’s got real momentum, but it’s also set somewhere beautiful. I love description. It’s one of the reasons I found scriptwriting frustrating and turned to novels. Just one word can convey so much.  

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

The best fun I’ve ever had is a weekend at Soho House Berlin. I seemed to cram in so much – literally and metaphorically! Food, history, culture and cocktails – it’s such a great city.

Bucket list wise, I’ve got my eye on Turin. Just a gut feeling. Or a cycling trip around the Piedmont. I am not by nature energetic but I feel the cycling might offset the gourmandising.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

Hmmm. I’m going to have to go and have an intimate piercing just so I can answer this!

Ha, ha, neatly dodged! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, going back to question 3! It’s shocking and exciting and inspiring and coruscating. It’s one of my all time favourite books.

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Interesting choice! I’ve not read that so I’ll have to add it to the increasing TBR. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Oh my, I could write a book.  Don’t drink on an empty stomach, don’t mix grape and grain, alternate with water, if the room starts spinning it’s too late . . . Basically, if you don’t want a hangover, don’t start drinking. Once you’ve tasted blood it’s all out the window. Cure wise: water before bed; Berocca and painkillers on rising, then egg sandwich, crisps and fat Coke. But time is the only real cure.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

I do love an art gallery, especially if it has a cool shop to browse in afterwards. I find art really inspiring. I recently went to the Colombe d’Or in St Paul de Vence and just looking at all those paintings made me tingle. Artists take more risks than writers, I think, and sometimes that energy is really apparent. I can remember the first time I saw a Jackson Pollock and thought ‘Oh, I get it now.’ Sometimes I find reading books inhibiting or dispiriting, but never looking at paintings.

Veronica, thank you so much for coming and chatting to me this evening, it has been really lovely and I look forward to catching up with you in person soon.

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Veronica’s new book, Christmas at the Beach Hut is out now and you can buy a copy here or pick up a copy in any supermarket. It can be read as a standalone but you should really check out the other Beach Hut novels too. Watch out for a review of the book on the blog soon.

If you would like to connect further with Veronica, here are her social media links:

Website: www.veronicahenry.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/veronicahenryauthor/

Twitter: @veronica_henry

Instagram: @veronicahenryauthor

Next week I will be having drinks with my great friend, fellow blogger, aspiring writer and partner-in-crime, Kate Baker.

Friday Night Drinks with….Emma Cooper @ItsEmmacooper @headlinepg @BleuViola @RNATweets #GuestPost #FridayNightDrinks #FictionCafeWriters

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I’m really excited tonight because I am having virtual drinks with a fabulous author and all-round lovely lady, who I am lucky enough to have met IRL and who has become a personal friend…Emma Cooper. Her debut novel, The Songs of Us, was published earlier this year.

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Welcome to my blog, Emma and thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

I’ll start with a pink gin and tonic I think … I’ll move onto red wine in a bit.

Gin and tonic is my tipple of choice so I will join you in that. If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

I’d take you to the Woodbridge Inn in Coalport, it’s a gorgeous pub on the bank of the River Severn by Ironbridge. You can often find me working there in the day with a pot of coffee and my laptop … plus it serves the best steak sandwich in the whole of Shropshire.

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That looks like a fab place to write! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

I love David Bowie’s music; Life on Mars is one of my favourite songs so if I asked him nicely, maybe he would play it for me and then I could quiz him about his early years in show business … I bet he would have some tales to tell!!

I’m going to break the rules here a bit. There are lots of famous women I would love to talk to but, as you have a little bit of magic up your sleeve, I would love to see my teenage friend Eve again.  She was beautiful, clever and died far too young: Me, Eve and David Bowie, now that would be a night to remember!

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I have got a lot going on! I’m just waiting for my first round of structural edits for book number two and I’m just heading towards the halfway mark with book number three. I’m also desperately trying to get my Christmas shopping done; every year I long to become this organised woman who has everything bought and wrapped up by the end of November but always seem to be still rushing out grabbing last minute things and wrapping presents on Christmas Eve!

I’d take it as a good sign that you don’t have time to be that organised! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

There have been some amazing moments in my life since becoming published … I think my Bookseller announcement was one of my proudest moments (https://www.thebookseller.com/tags-bookseller/emma-cooper); seeing my success there for all to see was quite an emotional experience! But also, one of my proudest moments was signing my UK publishing contract.  It was my first trip to London to meet my agent and we were sitting inside a restaurant which has a huge tree in the centre of it. Any of you have read The Songs of Us will know that an oak tree plays an integral part of the story.  I could see that other diners were looking over at me signing the contact … I’ve lived most if my life on the sidelines watching the success of others so that moment was very, very special to me.

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My biggest challenge has been embarking on book three.  It started off as a short story which I was writing for a magazine article.  At the time, I was 10k into another book (which I will be writing next!) but my agent and I loved the voice in the short story so much that I had to make the tough decision to stop writing and working on my current project, and instead invest my time expanding the short story.  I’m so glad I did but making the decision to postpone writing a novel that I had planned and started is quite a tough thing to do.

I remember well talking to you about this just after your agent has suggested you expand the short story, so I’m really interested to hear that you went with it and excited to see what it turned in to. What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all!

Ok, but I’ve finished my drink … I’ll just pop to the bar, what are you having? I’m getting a bottle of Merlot.

Right where were we? The one big thing I’d like to happen … I would love to see The Songs of Us on the big screen.  Melody’s story deserves to be shared with as many people as possible and I think it would make an incredible film.  Gosh that makes me sound a bit cocky; I’m blaming the wine.

I think you can be as cocky as you like amongst friends. What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I can’t wait to start the serious editing of book two! I love it when the book really begins to take shape. I’m so excited about this one, I’m hoping to be able to share more about it very soon, but for now I’m under strict orders to keep it secret.  Although, my glass of red is already half-way down so… 

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

I’m not very well travelled myself, I’m a bit of a home bird and tend to flit between home and my caravan in Ynyslas in Wales … it’s an old cranky caravan but it is my favourite place.  The beach is only a five-minute walk away and it’s breath-takingly beautiful. I would love to go to Venice though.

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Your glass is empty, do you want a refill?

The top of my bucket list used to be to be a published writer, I can’t tell you how many birthday-candle wishes that one took! I would love to walk in Melody’s shoes and fly in a hot-air balloon or walk the red carpet at the Oscars, or arrive at the Oscars in a hot-air balloon!!!

I love Wales too, I think there is something very peaceful and relaxing about the north Wales coast, where we also have a holiday lodge. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

I have Omphalophobia which is – wait for it – the fear of belly buttons.  Honestly, I can’t stand them … my family will try to catch me off guard and stick their finger inside theirs and wiggle it about. Ugh.  It honestly makes me want to heave and makes my whole-body tense up; it’s a great source of amusement to them.

That’s made me slightly queasy, to be honest! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

Considering how much of an avid reader I am, I have only got a few books that I can remember being completely blown away by, I’m quite a tough critic so it takes a lot to really knock my socks off!  One of those is The Time Traveller’s Wife but I guess you’ve heard a lot about that one so I’m going to go with a slightly lesser known one: Wideacre by Phillipa Gregory.  I read it years ago and some of the scenes are still so vivid in my mind that it’s like I’ve watched a film of it several times.  Beatrice Lacey is one of my favourite characters of all time.

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So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

The best preventative I’ve found for a hangover is a glass of Barocca and two ibuprofen before bed. Apparently, the vitamins help your kidneys process the alcohol more effectively.  But obviously I’m not a doctor so the best way to avoid a hangover is to not drink.

Stop laughing at me, Julie! I do, on occasion, drive to Friday night drinks and abstain.  OK, you’re right, I’ve only done that once. *refills both glasses and opens packet of dry roasted peanuts*

Tomorrow, if I forget the vitamins I will have hot and spicy Huevos Rancheros …  that normally sorts me out. 

That’s a new one on me, I’ll have to try it. After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

If I’m not too rough *empties rest of the bottle into glasses* I would love to stay in bed with a good book and a cup of tea, followed by a walk on the beach with my family, a pub lunch, a board game with said family (if we haven’t had an argument during the beach walk and pub lunch) and then an afternoon snooze before X Factor and Strictly.

Thank you for a great Friday night Julie …  do you fancy a shot?

Go on then, I’ll have tequila please. Emma, thank you so much for coming along tonight and chatting with me, I’ve had a great time and really enjoyed finding out more about you and your current projects. One day soon I’ll get you to an RNA event and you, Kate Baker and I will have these drinks for real!

Anyone who reads the blog regularly will know that Emma’s debut novel, The Songs of Us, is one of my favourite books of the year and I have been pretty much insisting that everyone I meet read it. If you would like to see why, you can read my review of the book  here. If you would like to get your own copy of The Songs of Us, you can buy a copy here.

If you would like to connect further with Emma, please follow her social media links:

Website: https://emmacooperauthor.wordpress.com

Facebook: Emma Cooper

Twitter:  @ItsEmmacooper

Instagram: @itsemmacooper

Next week I am beyond thrilled to have the one and only Veronica Henry joining me for drinks, so you won’t want to miss that.

Friday Night Drinks with….Linda Hill @Lindahill50Hill #FridayNightDrinks #GuestPost #LindasBookBag #BookBlogger #BloggerLove

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This week I am having my virtual evening out with the lovely Linda Hill, personal inspiration and award-winning book blogger at Linda’s Book Bag.

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Thank you so much for joining me for drinks this evening, Linda. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thank you so much for having me here on your lovely blog Julie. I can’t drink ordinary wine as it makes me ill these days so if it’s OK with you I’ll have a glass of champagne please. Or a Bailey’s. Or a cocktail. Or all three?

Why not? If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

My ideal evening out with you would be at a Bryan Ferry concert on the front row. I may have been a little bit obsessed by him for around 45 years and have been to 21 of his concerts but I’m sure you wouldn’t mind coming to just one more! We would, of course, have a lovely meal beforehand with some chocolate based pudding.

Sounds great, I have never been to a Bryan Ferry concert, although I have eaten a lot of chocolate based puddings! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

I’d love Bryan Ferry of course, but actually I think I’d like to ask Sir David Attenborough to join us as he’s such an inspiration. I went to see him give a talk once and I’d love to have time to speak with him in person. My female guest would have to be Charlotte Bronte. I did my dissertation on her novels at university (a very long time ago) and I’d love to chat with her about my findings!

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

At the moment life is a little bit on hold with family commitments as my elderly Mum is unwell, but the blog is still a priority for me. I’ve blogged over 500 times this year, so I have decided to cut right back and focus back on reading and reviewing from now on. I have tried to showcase as many authors as I can on the blog, but I also have so many books I’m desperate to read and haven’t got to because setting up blog posts takes up so much time, hence the change. I’m also mulling over finishing my own novel (but I keep saying that!)…

I feel your pain! I never realised just how much work went into book blogging until I started doing it, and I am nowhere near as prolific as you are. What has been your proudest moment since you started blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge has been time management and saying ‘No’ as I always want to help out with independent authors or blog tours. I’ve found myself spending anything up to 4 or 5 hours a day prepping posts, replying to emails and so on and that has got to change so that I can fit in other things too. 

My proudest moments have been multiple since I began blogging. I’ve been really thrilled to receive awards for my blog. In the three years I’ve been blogging, I’ve received one for the best book review blog from Bloggers Bash in 2016, the RNA Media Star Award in 2017 and the Best Overall Blog from Bloggers Bash this year. I couldn’t be more thrilled. I adore being quoted on books and have found quotations from my reviews all over the place which is so exciting. I even became a character in one of Tara Lyons’ novels which was so exciting. However, one of the elements of blogging that makes me proudest is if someone buys a book as a result of one of my reviews and then comes back and tells me how much they enjoyed it too. What could be better?

What is the one big thing you’d still like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

Ha! What I’d like to do, which I know I’m never going to achieve is to read and review EVERY book on my TBR. If I read a book a day for almost 7 years I might manage it – as long as I don’t buy any more!

I am in the same boat! What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’m working on saying ‘No’! If I can stop wanting to be all things to all people and actually concentrate on reading I might make a dent in that TBR after all!

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

Oh, I couldn’t agree more. I LOVE travel. I’ve been all over the world from Australia to Zanzibar. My favourite places have been the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica, I think. Also, I loved seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland. 

This year we went to Uganda to see gorillas in the wild, India to look for tigers and Bali and Indonesia to see Komodo Dragons. We should have spent a while in Hong Kong but the typhoon scuppered us and we had to come home early. Our next trip is to Sri Lanka for 12 days, then across to Singapore for a couple of nights, though we have been there before, and then we cruise around Malaysia. I’m looking forward to that. As for my bucket list for places to go, I think Peru will have to be next as I’d love to see Machu Picchu and also I haven’t been to the Taj Mahal so yes, I think Peru and a return to India might be on the cards for next year too.

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Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

When I was teaching I was always embarrassing myself. For example, I was reading a short story to a big class of 35 year 9 students about a boy who had made up a girlfriend. The class also included the Head Teacher’s daughter. As I was reading the line should have been, ‘And she kissed me on the end of my conk…’ as in nose. I’ll leave it to your imagination what I actually read… 

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

It is almost impossible to answer that question. I’ve been privileged to read so many glorious books. One that has stayed with me from the beginning of my blogging is Lindsay Hawdon’s Jakob’s Colours. It was one of my first reviews before my blog really took shape, but it is a must read for any WW2 or history lover.

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After reading your review, I’ll definitely be adding this to my TBR – as if it wasn’t already long enough!

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

A very large glass of water before bed helps, and actually I don’t drink often. However, if I do feel a bit hungover my go-to cure is to get my husband to do everything the next day as he never seems to get one!

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

It’s been such a lovely night with you Julie and I’ve really enjoyed it. Thank you so much for having me. To round off the weekend I think a long walk in the countryside or on the beach and then the afternoon settled by an open fire with a pot of builder’s tea, a large bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and my book would be lovely.

Thank you so much for joining me on the blog tonight, Linda, it has been lovely talking to you. Your blog has been such a huge inspiration to me as I set mine up, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you better, we seem to have a lot in common.

Make sure you check out Linda’s wonderful blog and catch up with her on social media.

Website: https://lindasbookbag.com

Facebook: Linda’s Book Bag

Twitter: @Lindahill50Hill

Next week I will be out on the virtual tiles with the lovely author, Emma Cooper, so make sure you check back for that one.

Friday Night Drinks with….Jennifer Gilmour @JenLGilmour #GuestPost #FridayNightDrinks #FictionCafeWriters

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I am so, so excited tonight to have my inaugural guest on my brand new feature, Friday Night Drinks, where I will be asking a variety of fascinating people the burning questions of the day such as, ‘What are you drinking?,

I am absolutely delighted to welcome, blogger, author, activist and all round wonderful human being, Jennifer Gilmour, as my first guest.

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Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening, Jen. First things first, what are you drinking?

Well its almost that time of the year, you know the dreaded C word (sorry to mention it). So I will have a tipple of Baileys, cheers! I love to pour this on vanilla ice-cream, pop it in hot chocolate or on ice as I am tonight. 

If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

I would take you for a few drinks down Humber Street which is an up and coming area of Hull City Centre. Its already changed so much but with craft bear and quirky bars its certainly got to be where you enjoy a drink in Hull, it has style. 

Since I only live 30 minutes away from you, we’ll have to do that for real some time. If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

One certainly has to be JK Rowling, her determination and drive to get published in her circumstances. She didn’t give up. I would love to be encouraged and motivated by her as well as ask her some Harry Potter related questions of course. 

The other has to be Theresa May, a chance to share what I have learnt and the concerns I have in the family court system for victims of domestic abuse- giving me a chance to be heard. It seems to be a bit of a tedious way to get my current points of concerns across, this is a bit of a long story but I am working with my local MP to raise these. 

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

At the moment things have been quite hectic as it always seems to be the same around a book release. 22nd October saw the release of the second edition of my first publication Isolation Junction. Something I have been working on for quite some time and I felt needed, I now have a fantastic support in Pict Publishing and an editor I am very comfortable with. 

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Why did I start? 

In brief, after my relationship had ended I found that I simply couldn’t believe that some of the things that other women were saying were exactly what I had gone through but just in a slightly different format. Domestic abuse tends to go in a cycle and whichever way it begins, the behaviour spirals again and again. At first it could be months between incidents but for me, as time went on, there were many instances within one day. It is quite normal to try to prevent the cycle from starting again by changing your behaviour as much as possible. The help I received by attending a course meant that I began to understand that we were all subjected to the same behaviour and that no one knew before that this could even happen to someone ie that a relationship can be so unhealthy and soul destroying. I realised that others simply needed to know more about this unacceptable behaviour; they needed to see the warning signs before the relationship goes further or the behaviour gets even more controlling. On the other hand, I needed others to see the behaviour for what it is. If people are in a relationship and the behaviour within it is not acceptable, it is not their fault and it can’t simply be changed by changing yourself.

I knew that I had a story to tell and with my previous unfinished written work I realised my first novel had to be more than a book – it had to be a message – a way for others to be able to pass on the story to help other victims and to get the penny to drop and bring about realisation of what is happening sooner than it might otherwise have done. This means that when the relationship ends victims and survivors realise they are not the only ones out there and it is ok to talk about the abuse.

 If you haven’t heard about my debut novel Isolation Junction…

My book follows the story of Rose who is stuck in an abusive and coercive relationship referred to as Isolation Junction.  After years of emotional abuse, the self doubt about her future and the erosion of her confidence, Rose takes a stand.  Finding herself alone, penniless and frightened Rose wonders how she will ever escape from the situation to provide a better life for herself and her children.  With 100 reasons to leave and 1000 reasons why she can’t – will she have the courage to do it? And will she find the support to regain control and confidence?

Where do I want to go? 

I will pop these into a few points and these are just to get me started for next year… 

*To be able to make a change to policies and procedures in the family court system of CAFCAS 

*To be able to speak at national events about my experiences and motivate others to speak out with me- Together we are louder.

*To fund the development of an app that connects to the new forum- Currently researching the route of a non-profit organisation. 

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing/blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

In terms of blogging, it has to be when I found out I won the Most Informative Blogger 2018, it was completely unexpected and I was delighted to discover that my blog makes an impact. 

Ultimately the help I have given others has been my most rewarding achievement. I couldn’t have imagined my life and where it is now years ago and I am thankful I have taken the steps I have taken with the support of my husband, family and friends. 

The biggest challenge I face has to be getting my message to be heard, finding people willing to publish my story, blog, write an article, have me on interviews etc. It lead me to create the slogan ‘Together we are louder’, because it needs more than just one person to speak about it; imagine if we managed to turn the right head by 100’s of us screaming the same thing? 

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all.

I would like to be the face that is recognised to being a successful survivor, that talks openly about domestic abuse, helps others and am a true social influencer. As well as making my own stamp in history making through changing the policies that need changing. 

What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I am trying to get a free eBook published which links to Clipped Wings (my second publication), its the positive side to the survivor stories to show whats happened since the publication of the book. I love it because it shimmers hope and encouragement to others. 

I also have another short story I am working on in regards to linking to Isolation Junction, this will enable me to write the second in the series which follows on the story of Rose. I have got a lot of notes and references to be made but I cannot wait to get started. 

This is alongside the other work I do in link with domestic abuse in my own projects. 

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

Around 12 years ago I went Gorge Walking with Marrick Priory in North Yorkshire and it was probably the most beautiful experiences of nature in my life, I will not forget what it was like to look up from the bottom of a crack in the Earth and to see the trees growing from the sides of the walls and reaching for light.

One of the things on my list since I was in High School was to climb the Eiffel Tower in Paris, now I am not sure you can do it the same way or go as far up but I am still determined to at least see it and do what I am allowed to do. 

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

This is a difficult one I think. I have two but I am not sure either will surprise but its worth a go isn’t it? I am a qualified actress, I studied it at college before a gap year. I didn’t have the confidence in myself to get the grades I needed for acting school so I signed up for a gap year in youth work and when I found out I had achieved a DDM (Distinction Distinction Merit) I was gutted. I am always lacking confidence towards achieving something I would like to do. 

The other is that I have a tattoo on my ankle which I got shortly after the separation of my abusive ex, I think at the time I did it because I was letting myself know that I could do anything I wanted to do and I am in control. It is a bow on my ankle (holding myself together) I now want to add something on the other side as its plain on the opposite side, perhaps a feather to represent a bird flying free. 

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

It has to be the Time-Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger’s, even if you have watched the film. This was the first romance book I fell in love with as a teenager. An impossible situation but one that wraps you up in the story and yearn for everything to be fixed so that their can be some normality to time traveling and a relationship. 

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So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

I usually drink a glass of water in-between drinks (if not every then certainly a couple), it stops the horrid headache that gives you that feeling to be sick. I sleep it off if I have to but this is only if I have the hubby off work because I do have three kids, I don’t usually get into this state anymore. 

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Lots of walking around the sights, fresh air, light lunch and some clothes shopping (and of course a browse in a book shop). The perfect way to complete a weekend, especially if you are feeling a little worse for wear. 

Jennifer, thank you so much for joining me on my blog this evening, it has been an absolute pleasure to talk to you.

About my Guest

Born in Yorkshire in the UK, I am a young, married mum with three children.  I am an entrepreneur, running a family business from my home-base and I have a large readership of other young mums in business for my blog posts.

From an early age I have had a passion for writing and have been gathering ideas and plot lines from my teenage years.  A passionate advocate for women in abusive relationships, I have amalgamated and fictionalised other survivors experiences alongside my own to write my first novel detailing the journey of a young woman from the despair of an emotionally abusive and unhappy marriage to develop the confidence to challenge and change her life and to love again.  I hope that in reading my first publication- Isolation Junction, I will raise awareness of this often hidden and unseen behaviour and empower women in abusive relationships to seek help for themselves and find the confidence to change their lives.

Jennifer’s book Isolation Junction has just been re-issued with a beautiful new cover, and you can buy a copy here.

Connect with Jennifer via social media:

Website: https://jennifergilmour.com

Facebook: Author Jennifer Gilmour

Twitter: @JenLGilmour

Instagram: @authorjennifergilmour

Next week I will be enjoying Friday Night Drinks with award-winning book blogger, Linda Hill, so make sure you don’t miss that.

 

Oh! What A Pavlova by Isabella May #BlogBlitz #GuestPost (@IsabellaMayBks) @crookedcatbooks @RaRaResources #Giveaway

The observant among you will notice the date above was yesterday. Yes, I’m that friend that is a day late to the party! Massive apologies to Isabella for missing her big book birthday, yesterday. Isabella, I hope you had a fabulous book birthday and that you enjoy this post, even if it is a day late. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part ( a decision she is now regretting. Menopause brain is my excuse and I’m sticking to it!) and to Isabella for answering the questions for me.

“Kate Clothier is leading a double life: a successful jet-setting businesswoman to the outside world, but behind closed doors, life with Daniel and his volcanic temper is anything but rosy.

Some days – heck, make that EVERY day – cake is her only salvation.

Slowly but surely, the cities she visits – and the men she meets – help her to realise there IS a better future.

And the ley lines of Glastonbury are certainly doing their best to impart their mystical wisdom…

But will she escape before it’s too late?”

I read this book when it came out last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, although I would advise against reading it on an empty stomach! I’m always thrilled to learn more about the author’s behind the fabulous books I’ve read so, without more ado, let’s here about Isabella:

1: You evidently have a love of puddings. But have you ever actually made a Pavlova?
I am guilty as charged there! I think living in Spain has also renewed my appreciation for the vast array of Great British desserts that I have to either hunt down here in a decent expat pub (sadly those are few and far between), or recreate myself.
But yes, last year I made my very first Pavlova (I’ve made a chocolate one since as well!). This was for the Twitter Bakealong hashtag and although I didn’t win the competition, my peaks rose and my Peach and Blueberry Pavlova was eaten by most of my family.

2: What’s a typical day for you as an author?
I’ve long forgotten because it varies so much… so I will take the weekday mean, the average! First off, I try – and frequently fail because my seven-year-old has an innate ability to rise just as I do – to meditate. Just for fifteen minutes, that’s all. But inevitably, those golden moments of seeking that much sought after third eye chakra morph into me unloading the dishwasher.
But if there is one thing I never fail to accomplish, it’s drinking my morning Pink Himalayan sole (water and a little mineral salt), followed half an hour later by a bowl of coconut porridge. Don’t worry, I definitely make up for this orthorexic ritual-like behaviour later…
If it’s a school day (right now as I type we are almost midway through the 11 week Spanish summer holidays… yes, you did read that correctly: Eleven. Entire. Weeks.) then after drop off at 9am, I am usually straight back to my desk, fat cafe sombra in hand, to hit my target of 1000 words  – that’s if I am working on a new novel. I could also quite easily be editing, keeping up-to-date with my social media, eating cake or brainstorming new ideas.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I do have a tendency to go off at tangents, and I am a Cake Monster!

But normally, on a good day, I will hit that 1000 target before I have to pack up and go pick the children up for 2pm. One of the few downsides to living in Spain is the ridiculously short school days (and those super elongated holidays).
We’ll drive back from school, I’ll fix the kids lunch, sort through the bags for hidden homework (Spanish schools set a ridiculous amount from a young age, frequently making me want to flee to Denmark). Occasionally I will also come across a pilfered toy from a fellow classmate.
If I’m ‘lucky’ *read: if the children can entertain themselves and resist the temptation to argue*, I might get a nice thirty or forty minute stretch at the laptop to edit, add to a chapter, or answer my emails. Often though, I become Dance Mum – also known as Taxi Mum – a tri-weekly task that involves dropping off and picking up my daughter at the local studio… and all too frequently involves more coffee and cake! My younger son and I will take his reading books or colouring, and I will try my best not to look at my phone.
Dinner is served late here compared to the UK and once my husband is through the door just before 7pm, to take over, I will either have a session on my trampoline, jogging to high vibe music with a fabulous view of the Mediterranean sea, or I’ll carry out some Pranic Healing on my ‘guinea pigs’. I took the Levels 1, 2 and 3 last year on courses in neighbouring Gibraltar. That’s been quite life-changing!
We eat our own ‘grown up’ dinner slightly later than the children, mainly because we all have such diverse food tastes in our household and we’re all far too proud to compromise – plus us adults love our spice (in the food that is…). And then it’s a book and bed. One of the great things about Spain is we hardly ever watch English TV – and we really don’t miss it. We talk so much more in the evenings (well, book-worming aside), and I don’t think we could ever go back to the nightly lure of the box, even if we did move home.
Obviously, at the weekend we let our hair down, go out for tapas and cocktails, or treat ourselves to a fat gin and tonic on the balcony overlooking the sea!

3: Have you done much public talking about your books yet?
Shamefully, I’ve done none at all! I make up for this with Facebook Live videos for bookclubs though – as well as at my online launch parties. But yes, some events in the flesh are a must. I’m working up to it but expat writers really do need to get creative about planning these things in this part of the world as there aren’t so many opportunities as back in the UK with all of the amazing range of Lit Fests!

4: What message do you hope readers will take from Oh! What a Pavlova?
My mission with my debut novel was to ring a few alarm bells; to dispel the misconception that domestic violence always happens regularly, and to a specific demographic. It doesn’t! Sometimes a victim is walking on eggshells for weeks or months in fear of the next attack. There’s not always an ETA.
I’m not saying it’s a book that will save lives. Women and men in these situations will only ever leave when they feel ready to take that leap of faith, and no amount of family or friends (or books) trying to intervene can change that. Sadly…
But I am definitely saying it’s the book I wish I had read when I was in a toxic relationship. In that respect, it’s a book that could save lives. We need more books of Pavlova’s ilk to challenge the status quo; to help friends and family of victims to look out for the telltale signs which are all so often hidden.

5: Why do you write with a pen name?
I think many people assume it’s to protect my identity (due to the subject of my debut novel), but I promise it’s not. Isabella and May are the names of my two amazing grandmothers who passed away several years ago. I wanted to honour their feisty, independent characters. I hope I’m doing them justice!

Thanks for joining me on the blog today, Isabella, it was lovely to hear from you.

Oh! What A Pavlova is available to buy here. Now, check out the giveaway below to see how you can win a signed copy of Isabella’s second book, The Cocktail Bar.

Giveaway

To win a signed copy of The Cocktail Bar, click on the Rafflecopter link below:

Rafflecopter

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

About the Author

Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing. As a co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls – www.theglasshousegirls.com – she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One). She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative ‘drops’! Costa del Churros is her third novel with Crooked Cat Books, following on from the hit sensations, Oh! What a Pavlova and The Cocktail Bar.

Connect with Isabella:

Website: http://www.isabellamayauthor.com/

Facebook: Isabella May Author

Twitter: @IsabellaMayBks

Instagram: @Isabella_May_Author

The Madonna of Bolton by Matt Cain #BlogTour #GuestPost (@MattCainWriter) @unbounders @annecater #RandomThingsTours #MadonnaOfBolton

Madonna of Bolton Cover

“Charlie Matthews’ love story begins in a pebble-dashed house in suburban Bolton, at a time when most little boys want to grow up to be Michael Jackson, and girls want to be Princess Di. Remembering the Green Cross Code and getting out of football are the most important things in his life, until Auntie Jan gives him a gift that will last a lifetime: a seven-inch single called ‘Lucky Star’…

On his ninth birthday, Charlie discovers Madonna, and falls in love. His obsession sees him through some tough times in life: being persecuted at school, fitting in at a posh university, a glamorous career in London, finding boyfriends, getting rid of boyfriends, and family heartbreak. Madonna’s music and videos inspire him, and her fierce determination to succeed gives him the confidence to do the same – and, ultimately, to let go of his idol, and find his own voice.”

Delighted to be on the blog tour today for the totally fabulous The Madonna of Bolton by Matt Cain which was published yesterday. I want to thank Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and the publisher for my copy of the book which is Unbound’s fastest-ever-funded novel, with pledges from David Walliams, S.J. Watson, and Mark Gatiss, as well as from countries where to be gay is currently still illegal and is published to coincide with Madonna’s sixtieth birthday.

To celebrate publication of the book, I am absolutely thrilled to bring you a guest post by none other than….Madonna! No, not really but the next best thing in the author himself, Matt Cain, who has unveiled for you:

Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Me’

* I may have been brought up in Bolton but I was born in the neighbouring town of Bury, where I lived till I was two, and I went to secondary school and sixth-form college there, as both of my parents worked in the town.

* Yes, I loved Madonna when I was growing up but I was obsessed with pop music in general. Acts like Five Star, A-Ha, the Pet Shop Boys, Kylie Minogue, Janet Jackson, Take That and Erasure were all firm favourites at various stages of my teens.

* Before I went to university I spent my gap year working as an au pair in France. I’d asked the agency to place me with a family in central Paris but I was sent to a tiny village 50 minutes outside the capital, with a host family that was very unhappy as the parents’ marriage was falling apart. It was a pretty miserable year for me but I did get lots of time to read and travel into Paris on my days off to drink in everything the city had to offer.

* People always assume I studied English at university but I actually did French and Spanish and also spent a year working as a language assistant in Madrid. And before you ask, yes I did used to be fluent in both but the truth is my languages have gone to rack and ruin now. I did have a French boyfriend for a while and that helped but it’s been downhill all the way since we split up. Once I’ve established myself as a novelist I need to rectify the situation and bring my languages back to life!

* I didn’t move straight to London after university; I spent a very happy year in Manchester, working for a cable TV channel called Granada Men and Motors, which was the equivalent of Page 3 on the screen and starred various glamour models in series like 4Play, Lady Lust’s Lovelies and The Centrefolds. I’m not particularly proud of the work I did here but I got on well with all the girls and, as the saying goes, I was young and needed the money!

* Once I’d moved to London, I spent eight years working on The South Bank Show for ITV. One of the first profiles I made was of Craig David and we were filming in the studio one day when he needed someone to translate the chorus of a new song he was working on into Spanish. I obliged, was given a thank-you in the album notes, and when Spanish was released as a single, it reached number 8 in the UK Top 40. So I like to think I can cross having a top ten hit off my bucket list!

* In order to get the job as the first ever Culture Editor on Channel 4 News I had to do seven interviews and tests over the course of twelve weeks. Every night at home I’d practise speaking into a little camera on my own until I gradually grew more and more relaxed. When it came time to record my screentest we did it on location on the University College London campus and I had to record a mock report and live broadcast on some minor controversy surrounding the film Slumdog Millionaire. I’ve no idea where the footage is now and dread to think how bad I must have been but it did the trick at the time and I was offered the job a few weeks later.

* While working at Channel 4 News I had a pacemaker installed in my heart. I have a rare health condition that means my heart cuts out for up to twenty seconds at a time and then starts again. It was misdiagnosed for over thirty years (including as epilepsy for a while), until doctors finally worked out what it was in 2012. My condition has the rather snappy name of autonomically mediated syncope with asystole and it made me an anxious wreck for decades. Now my pacemaker kicks in whenever my heart cuts out so I don’t lose consciousness anymore. It’s my most treasured possession – there isn’t a day goes by that I’m not thankful for it. It genuinely changed my life and I’ve never looked back since.

* When I was working as Editor-in-Chief of Attitude, I received a lot of attention for stripping naked for our Body issue, writing about my experience of taking HIV prevention drug PrEP, and going on an undercover mission to Russia to report on the impact of Putin’s anti-gay legislation on the country’s LGBT population. But I was perhaps most proud of a less attention-grabbing article I wrote about the LGBT homelessness crisis here in the UK. Did you know that a massive 24% of young homeless people identify as LGBT and of these, 77% say their sexuality or gender identity is the principal cause of their homelessness? I’ve since been made an ambassador for the Albert Kennedy Trust, the UK’s LGBT youth homelessness charity, and it’s a role I fulfil with pride.

* My novel The Madonna of Bolton may have been rejected by over thirty mainstream publishers before I crowd-funded it in record time but I also have another novel and a non-fiction book that were roundly rejected and are now ready to go. If this book is a hit I can’t wait to unleash the others onto the world! Oh and I’ve promised my publisher I’ll write a sequel to The Madonna of Bolton too!

Thanks Matt for being a guest on the blog today and best of luck with the book, it deserves to do brilliantly. Watch out for my review of the book in a future blog post.

The Madonna of Bolton is out now and you can buy a copy here.

If you would like to find out what my fellow bloggers thought of the book, you can follow the tour here:

Madonna Of Bolton Blog Tour Poster

About the Author

Matt Cain Author

 Matt Cain was born in Bury and brought up in Bolton. He spent ten years making arts and entertainment programmes for ITV before stepping in front of the camera in 2010 to become Channel 4 News’ first ever culture editor. His first novel, Shot Through the Heart, was published in 2014 and his second, Nothing But Trouble, followed in 2015. As a journalist he has contributed articles to all the major UK newspapers and is currently Editor-in-Chief of Attitude, the UK’s biggest-selling magazine for gay men, and its sister publication, Winq. In 2017 he was voted Diversity in Media’s Journalist of the Year. He lives in London. 

Connect with Matt:

Website: http://www.mattcainwriter.com

Twitter: @MattCainWriter

Instagram: @mattcainwriter

Goodreads: Matt Cain

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SPECIAL POST: Isolation Junction by Jennifer Gilmour (@JenLGilmour) FREE ON KINDLE 8-12 JANUARY 2018

IsolationJunction Cover

Today I am sharing a very special blog post for Jennifer Gilmour, whose debut novel Isolation Junction is currently available to download for free on Amazon Kindle for the next two days. Here is Jennifer, in her own words, to tell you why she is currently giving away her book.

Jennifer Gilmour

“My name is Jennifer Gilmour and I am a survivor of domestic abuse, I have published two books both with a focus on raising awareness about domestic abuse at their core. Whilst both aim to raise this awareness one is written as a work of fiction whilst the other is a compilation of survivor stories and therefore non-fiction. Both work in different ways to educate and raise awareness of this insidious and unacceptable behaviour.

Over Christmas, incidents of domestic abuse reported to the police rise. Assault and domestic murders increase 25% during the festive period with a third of them been on Christmas Day itself. Bombarded with images of the perfect nuclear family gathered around the gold baubles of a Christmas tree, it can be easy to forget that Christmas is a time of coercion, punishment and violence for many women* and men.

Now I know it isn’t Christmas anymore but January can be just as bad because all those credit card bills come in alongside your usual direct debits. There is even a day in January called Blue Monday and this year its on the 15th. The date is generally reported as falling on the third Monday in January, but also on the second or fourth Monday, or the Monday of the last full week of January. The formula uses many factors, including: weather conditions, debt level (the difference between debt accumulated and our ability to pay), time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and feeling of a need to take action. Can you imagine this formula and applying it to an abusive relationship?

For 5 days my debut novel Isolation Junction is going to be FREE on Amazon Kindle, this is the first time ever to happen. It’s the week before Blue Monday, I wonder if those reading will be inspired to take action?

I ask you all to share the link and break the silence surrounding domestic abuse.

UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01LX4HLT0
US link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LX4HLT0″

My reason for supporting Jennifer in her giveaway is to help raise awareness of domestic abuse that is still a hidden and relatively taboo issue in our society. Having never been affected myself, I found reading Jennifer’s book both eye-opening and horrifying and it made me realise that I had never considered whether anyone I know might be affected and resolved to be more alert to potential warning signs that might indicate someone needs help. I would be very grateful if you could share this post and news of Jennifer’s giveaway amongst your friends, relatives, acquaintances and followers. If this helps just one person break from the cycle of abuse, it will have been worth all of our efforts.

Book Synopsis:

Rose is the mother of two young children, and finds herself living a robotic life with an abusive and controlling husband. While she struggles to maintain a calm front for the sake of her children, inside Rose is dying and trapped in ‘Isolation Junction’.

She runs an online business from home, because Darren won’t let her work outside the house. Through this, she meets other mums and finds courage to attend networking events, while Darren is at work, to promote her business.

It’s at one of these events that Rose meets Tim, a sympathetic, dark-haired stranger who unwittingly becomes an important part of her survival.

After years of emotional abuse, of doubting her future and losing all self-confidence, Rose takes a stand. Finding herself distraught, alone and helpless, Rose wonders how she’ll ever escape with her sanity and her children. With 100 reasons to leave and 1,000 reasons she can’t, will she be able to do it?

Will Tim help her? Will Rose find peace and the happiness she deserves? Can Rose break free from this spiralling life she so desperately wants to change?

About the author:

Born in the north-east, Jennifer is a young, married mum with three children. In addition to being an author, she is an entrepreneur, running a family business from her home-base. Her blog posts have a large readership of other young mums in business.

From an early age, Jennifer has had a passion for writing and started gathering ideas and plot lines from her teenage years. A passionate advocate for women in abusive relationships, she has drawn on her personal experiences to write her first novel Isolation Junction. It details the journey of a young woman from the despair of an emotionally abusive and unhappy marriage to develop the confidence to challenge and change her life and to love again.

Since the publication of her debut novel, Jennifer has continued to be an advocate for those in abusive relationships through her blog posts, radio interviews and Twitter feed. Jennifer also gained a qualification in facilitating a recover programme for those who have been in abusive relationships.

Jennifer continues to publicly support those who are isolated and struggle to have a voice. Jennifer hopes that Clipped Wings give’s a voice to survivor’s experiences and raise’s awareness further of the types of unacceptable behaviour which fall into the category of domestic abuse.

Links:

If you, or anyone you know may be affected by the issues discussed here and in Jennifer’s book, please contact the UK 24-hour free-phone National Domestic Violence helpline, which is 0808 2000 247. There is also a support page on Jennifer’s website: http://jennifergilmour.com/support/