Happy Birthday Izzy!

Izzy's Cold FeetToday is one year since Izzy’s Cold Feet was published. To celebrate, I’m offering the chance to win a signed paperback copy. To enter just fill out the form below. The winner will be notified via email on 19 July 2014.

Good luck!

(FYI, the following questions are for my own interest only, and will not be shared with anyone else or used in any way to determine the winner)

Guest post from author Miriam Drori: Arranged Marriage

Today fellow Crooked Cat author Miriam Drori is a guest on my blog. Her new novel Neither Here Nor There is out now.

Arranged Marriage

Miriam DroriIn modern western society, we tend to have a very romantic view of love and marriage. You meet a partner, you fall in love, you decide that this person is the only one in the world for you, you get married and you live happily ever after.

How often does that happen in real life? Not very often, it seems, if we look at the divorce statistics. I found some other interesting statistics:

55% of marriages worldwide are arranged.
90% of marriages in India are arranged.

So what’s so bad about arranged marriage? Why do we turn up our western noses at the very idea of such a practice? Do young people really know who will be suitable for them better than their parents or the matchmaker?

Before I go on, I should mention two disclaimers. Firstly, I’m not talking about forced marriage. Forced marriage, in my view, is wrong and should be condemned. Secondly, my husband and I met by chance and have been happily married for 36 years.

Amongst the haredi community (they’re the Jews whose menfolk wear black hats and black suits with tassels hanging down while the women always have their arms and legs covered) marriages are arranged, usually by a matchmaker. Couples are introduced, meet two or three times and then have to make a decision. How can they decide so quickly? I don’t know. But it seems this procedure generally works well.

In the musical Fiddler on the Roof, based on Sholem Aleichem’s story Tevye the Milkman, Tevya and Golda meet for the first time on their wedding day and gradually fall in love. In the song Do you love me? Tevye asks Golda if she loves him. At first she thinks he’s crazy, but then she realises that over the years she has come to love him. Far-fetched? I don’t think so.

Neither Here Nor ThereIn my novel Neither Here Nor There, heroine Esty has been brought up in just such a community and is expected to marry one of the men introduced to her by a matchmaker. Esty has other plans.


Miriam Drori was born and brought up in London, and now lives in Jerusalem where she single-handedly demonstrates female superiority against three males, now that her daughter has left home.

Following careers as a computer programmer and a technical writer, Miriam has been writing creatively for the past ten years and has had short stories published online and in anthologies. Neither Here Nor There is her first published novel.

Miriam began writing in order to raise awareness of social anxiety. Since then the scope of her writing has widened, but she hasn’t lost sight of her original goal.

Find out more

Visit Miriam’s website >

Neither Here Nor There is available from:

Crooked Cat Books >

Amazon UK >

Amazon.com >

3 Tips to get Inspired

Writer’s block. Cold wet Monday mornings. Those days when you can’t get inspired to do what you need to do…

What do you do, to perk yourself up, to turn those uninspired moments into energetic, life-grabbing ones?

Here are some of the things that help me:

  1. Relive a happy memory: think of a time when you felt energised and inspired in the past. Re-live it, picture it, hear the sounds, smell the smells… remember that feeling of happiness, joy, excitement, inspiration…
  2. Watch a movie or read a book that inspires you. For me, that’d probably be a feel-good chick flick
  3. Listen to music. I don’t mean put on your favourite CD in the background. I mean LISTEN… and sing along, as loud as you can! I have a playlist on my iPhone called “Inspirational” and it’s full of songs that have uplifting lyrics that are simply good for the soul, and I put this on whenever I feel a bit glum; in the kitchen, in my car… or wherever I am. I add songs to it all the time… here are a few that I particularly enjoy:
  • Wonder by Naughty Boy feat. Emeli Sandé
  • Roar by Katy Perry
  • Happy by Pharrell Williams
  • Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield
  • One Day Like This by Elbow
  • I am the one and only by Chesney Hawkes – what a 90′s classic! :)
  • Shine, Greatest Day, and Never Forget by Take That
  • Who We Are by Boyzone
  • … and many, many more…

I hope these simple ideas inspire you (let me know!). Have an amazing day, readers.

PS: More news on book 3 coming soon ;)

Extract from Igboland by Jeff Gardiner

Igboland coverIGBOLAND is a novel of passion and conflict set in Nigeria during the late 1960s Biafran War. Lydia is a young English woman, married to Clem. Their first real home together is in the West African bushland, where Clem will be doing missionary work in the Igbo village of Ngkaluku. Their marriage is under pressure as Lydia begins to wonder why she has travelled so far away from home. Here is an extract from the opening chapter of IGBOLAND:

An intense migraine slowly took control of my entire being and I couldn’t be bothered to find the aspirins. I drifted in and out of consciousness only vaguely aware of the voices on the radio until Clem abruptly prodded my shoulder.

‘Lydia, you need to hear this.’ He turned up the radio.

 ‘…the Nigerian Federal Government has declared that the country is officially in a state of civil war. Major hostilities continue in the border regions, as the federal troops continue to advance southwards. Clashes have occurred in towns such as Kano, Kaduna, Oturkpo and Enugu between Northern Muslims and the Igbos in the Southeast. Southern rebels are seeking to gain independence from the Nigerian federal government with the aim of creating their own republic of Biafra. Yakubu Gowon, the head of state declared that Nigeria would stay united, whilst the Igbo military leader, Colonel Ojukwu, has promised to ‘Fight fire with fire’…’

That night I kept restlessly waking at every sudden noise of train on track. Each sound conjured vivid and irrationally frightening images in my mind as I lay there paralysed and half strangled by the twisted, damp sheets pinning me down. Once my eyes got used to the dark I could see various creatures scuttling across the ceiling. One large hissing lizard stayed close to where the mosquito net connected to the ceiling and I prayed that it wouldn’t find a hole to creep through and end up on my face or my pillow. The thought stopped me sleeping for many hours.

Eventually I drifted off but then was rudely woken up by a hand pinching my bosom and Clem snuggling up behind me, naked and clearly aroused. I turned with a heavy sigh, met by his stale breath. I was going to give an excuse but instead I just lay there inertly, waiting for him to speak, but as usual he said nothing; just groped me imploringly. I didn’t respond which I knew would annoy him. Then I gave another sigh to imply my fatigue. He released me, jerked back impatiently and turned his back to me in a huff. I slipped out of the bunk and self-consciously dressed as quickly as I could.

Idoma villageThen I sat in the chair next to the bed from sheer exhaustion of moving in the morning heat. In the corner of my eye I caught a quick movement and turned my head to see a lizard scamper up the wall – perhaps the same one that kept me awake last night. In the light of day it seemed smaller and quite friendly with its strikingly blue body and its bright red head and tail. It suddenly twisted its head round with a flick, hissed loudly and I heard a crunching sound as its head moved up and down. Clearly visible, sticking out of its mouth was a pair of wings and the dangling legs of some kind of flying insect.

‘Ah, he’s an agama lizard,’ Clem announced, suddenly sitting up in my bed.

‘How do you know it’s a he?’ I asked with a slight irritation.

‘Because the females are plain and less colourful,’ he said. ‘Often the way in nature, my dear.’

‘God moving in mysterious ways, I suppose?’ I ventured, looking away.

‘Sorry?’ Clem asked, as he stretched unselfconsciously. I didn’t reply as his mind was clearly elsewhere.

For more information and to purchase IGBOLAND:Igboland

Jeff’s Website >

Jeff’s Blog >

Amazon UK >

Amazon US >



Television writers – why?!

Okay, so I know that TV shows and movies (and real life!) cannot always have happy, romantic endings. But when I watch something, I want some fun escapism. Not to be reminded how depressing life can be. Writers of the following – why? Why did you let me down?!

The following 4 TV shows have disappointed me:

  1. Lost. It started so well, but just got too weird. I didn’t even watch them all, in the end.
  2. Grey’s Anatomy. Gave up on this, too… the chemistry between Meredith and McDreamy was great, but too many characters died. I mean, really, can’t anyone just move away when the actor wants to leave? Too depressing, GA writers, too darn depressing.
  3. Downton Abbey. Killing off Sybil and Matthew (the only two truly likeable characters, except Granny of course) led me to the decision to boycott DA. Actors want to leave, I appreciate that, but you could consider just using a different actor. Sybil could’ve gone to Ireland and never come back. And Matthew died on Christmas day! Soooo depressing. No thank you, DA. I’d rather spend my free time laughing than crying.
  4. Dexter. Oh how I loved this show, but the last episode let me down – it was uncharacteristic of Dexter and very unsatisfying.

Entertainment should make you laugh and feel good, and I shall be more selective in future.

On the other hand, here are 4 shows that I love:

  1. Friends – funny, romantic, light with a satisfying finale.
  2. New Girl – upbeat, fun yet real, and colourful
  3. Scrubs – crazy but serious at times, what laughter this show gave us
  4. Miranda – my favourite right now, funny, inspiring and with a great will they/won’t they

So the morale of this blog post? Watch more comedy, I guess.

My evening with Miranda

Hello, readers. Now, as the title of this blog post suggests, I spent last night with Miranda Hart. No – alas – it wasn’t just me and her (I’d love to meet her and become her friend, wouldn’t you?) but me, Miranda, and a whole arena full of people.

And do you know what? I came away feeling not only jolly from all the laughter, but – inspired.

Now, I’ve seen a fair few comedians live, and some of them have been absolutely hilarious… but this was more than just a stand-up show. Miranda threw a party; complete with buffet, a sing-a-long, and much to my delight; the Whigfield Saturday Night dance … and amongst all the fun and frolics, she told some very funny anecdotes interlaced with references to her sitcom (my favourite TV show). In summary; it was the best comedy show I’ve been to.

Most wonderful of all though, she inspired me. She talked about making life more fun – for example, we should all gallop more often. And, on the way to the car, my step-daughter and I did gallop – and it was such fun – plus we got there quicker, so multiple benefits there. I aim to gallop far more from now on. I also plan to act more like I’m living in a musical, to dance and do the popstar routine regularly, to care less about what others think and just be me, and to eat more desserts (Miranda suggests four desserts, one fork – what brilliance).

Really, I cannot convey in words how splendid the whole show was; but if you love Miranda then go see her live. You won’t regret it.

I will leave you with the wonderful words of Heather Small, which of course, blasted out as we were leaving the arena:

What have you done today to make yourself feel proud?