Here’s a little extract from Unrequited Alice, my new chicklit book:
Alice is in Niagara Falls on a hen/bachelorette weekend for her friend Hannah, who is getting married to Ed in a few weeks… The ladies have met up with some guys who are staying in the same hotel, one of whom is Toby…
“We’re a bit early, ladies, shall we grab a coffee? There’s a place just across the street?” Mike suggested. Everyone nodded.
“I’m gonna wait here,” I told them.
“You okay?” Hannah asked me.
“Fine, I could just do with some fresh air, and I’d like to take more photos.”
“Okay. See you in half an hour?”
“Sure, I’ll be around here.”
Hannah looked worried but turned and followed the others. Billy gave me a warm smile but also joined the group. I leant against the balustrade, and took another photo.
“So are you excited about the wedding?” Toby made me jump.
“You didn’t want coffee?”
“I had plenty with breakfast. And I prefer to enjoy the view.”
I held my camera up and took a photo of a tree, with the Falls in the background.
“Are you excited about Hannah’s wedding?”
I nodded. “Yeah, of course.”
“You just … I don’t know. I’ve got a vibe, that’s all.”
“You’re pretty intuitive.”
“I’m really happy for Hannah, I just … I don’t know…”
“Tell me about her fiancé.”
“Ed is … well, he’s a great guy. Really lovely, funny, and smart.”
“There must be something about him you don’t like, if you’re not quite behind the wedding.”
“No, he’s great. He’ll make an amazing husband.”
“So you’re in love with him?”
I turned from the water to look at him. His eye brows were raised, but he wasn’t smiling.
“No. I … he’s … I like him. A lot. Maybe I’ve got a tiny crush, but… Oh wow, why am I telling you this? I’ve never told anyone this.”
I gave a nervous laugh and turned away, I didn’t dare look at him, my eyes were filling with water. I kept looking at the falls, which kept running over and crashing down, just like they always had and always would.
“I’m a pretty good listener.”
“I’m sure you are, but I hardly know you.”
“Maybe it’d help?”
“What do you want me to say?” I asked, my voice sounding almost hysterical. I looked at him again, taking in his face. He had a kind expression and I relaxed a little.
“What good would it do, to talk about it?”
“Sorry, I just thought maybe it’d make you feel better.”
Would it make me feel better? I had no idea.
“Would talking about it ease the pain of knowing the man I love doesn’t love me back? That he is in love with my oldest friend instead? That I’ll never, ever get to be with him? I think talking about it would just make me cry. And I don’t like to cry.”
I was standing, facing him now, my voice louder than I’d intended, my camera in one hand. The look of sadness and sympathy on his face made me feel embarrassed and I felt my face heat up.
“I’m sorry, I just thought you might like to talk about him, get it off your chest.”
“Ed is amazing. Happy now? He’s amazing. But he’s in love with Hannah. And I don’t wish it were me instead of her, because she’s happy, and I want her to be happy!”
My eyes were full of tears now and as I blinked, a single drop fell and ran down my cheek. Toby put his thumb on it and rubbed it away gently. His touch made me catch my breath.
“But you’re unhappy…”
I shrugged. “Not unhappy. Just … sad.”
He nodded and just looked at me. I looked right back, trying to read his mind again.
“I’ve no idea why I told you all that,” I said. I rubbed my eyes carefully. “Have I smudged my mascara?”
“Unrequited love sucks,” he said.
“It sure does.”
“But you know what, you determine your own happiness.”
He squeezed my hand for just a second and I felt a little current pass between us. I looked at him for a moment longer, wondering how a practical stranger could have made me open up about this so easily. I forced my eyes away to the falls and we looked out in silence for a little while.
“The others are coming back,” he said, smiling warmly. “Take a deep breath, you’re going to be fine.”
I did as he said, breathing deeply. Somehow, I felt relieved.
“Alice!” Hannah called. “Come on!”
I followed Toby, and we re-joined the others at the top of the steps that led to the boats. We walked down, everyone chatting happily while I digested what had just happened. Part of me wanted to stay away from Toby, to not let myself open up like that ever again. The other part wanted to get him alone and pour my heart out.
Unrequited Alice is a new romantic comedy novel, released on 16 March 2017 in paperback and e-book format.
About a month ago, I was asked by Joy Norstrom if I’d like to read her debut novel and provide an endorsement (if I enjoyed it) for the cover. How sweet is that, and how honoured was I?! And, my honest opinion was that ‘Out of Play’, about a married couple torn apart by LARP (live action role play), is a brilliant read. Very funny, but also emotional. I loved the narrative and felt like the main character, Gillian, became a friend.
As you can see, my comment is now on the cover (how cool is that?)
So, I thought I’d invite Joy to my blog for an interview, find out a bit more about her and her great book – which I highly recommend you go and buy right now.
Firstly – Joy, welcome to my blog. Do you want to tell us a bit about your new book in your own words?
Thanks for the warm welcome, Sarah!
Out of Play is about a marriage that has become disconnected over time. Gillian, our protagonist, believes the problem stems from her husband choosing a hobby (live-action roleplay or LARP) over spending time with her. Like many other people struggling in a relationship, Gillian enlists the help of a counsellor.
The counsellor challenges Gillian to move from judgment to openness; she encourages Gillian to try LARP with Ralph. Does Gillian follow-through? Well…she takes her own spin on the advice and secretly attends a larp event as a kitchen volunteer. Spying may not be the best choice for fostering a healthy marriage, but who says marriage always involves making the best choices?
The physical journey in Out of Play is interwoven with an emotional journey. Gillian must face the underlying issues that have left emotional scars in order to find connection and peace.
I’m sure many women can identify with their spouse’s hobbies taking them away from their marriage (be it larp, golf, the X-Box …) – what inspired you to write this story?
I’ve had several people ask if my husband plays larpJ. The answer is no, but I’m certainly not always on friendly terms with his hobby: beer-league hockey.
I believe that we, as women, live a great deal of our lives post falling in love. I wanted to explore a reality that might be faced later on in an intimate relationship.
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing for 6 years. When it was first suggested to me that I should write a book, I was dismissive of the idea. I didn’t see myself as a creative person, but the idea took root. The more I explored storytelling and character development, the more important it became for me to pursue.
Being at home with young children was both rewarding and challenging. I felt run down and as though I didn’t have space or time for myself. Writing became a way to engage my brain in learning something new and exploring my creativity.
I hope your next novel is in progress! What can you tell us?
I can tell you that it is messy, but so was Out of Play 🙂
My current work-in-progress is about a single parent trying to balance competing demands on a very restricted income. Sound fun? Definitely not! So of course I have injected some laughter as she moves forward in love, life and motherhood. I’m having fun with this new character because she has a whole load of past hurts, habits and hang-ups to explore. I’ve also got a cast of eccentric older women who are looking to my main character for sex and dating advice.
Finally, tell us something about you, who is Joy (other than a fabulous author, of course)?
Thanks for the kind words, Sarah!
First off, I’m this person with what my husband calls ‘fire in the belly.’ I tend to be loud and opinionated and not easily swayed. I often say things from the heart without analysing the long term consequences. People either like this…or they don’t!
We share our home with two daughters, who are night and day to each other. They are our raison d’etre.
We’ve two of the gentlest old lady sheep dogs and a pair of breeding finches. I confess to buying the birds while my husband was in Nevada on a boy’s golf trip. It might have been a mistake on my part…but these things happen in even the best marriages!
Thanks so much to Joy for visiting my blog today… everyone else: go buy her book 😉
Find Joy online: www.joynorstrom.ca
Watch my latest vlog, and hear about how you can win 4 signed paperbacks and a £10 Amazon voucher… 🙂
(…and despite what it looks like in the preview, I don’t discuss or particularly try to show you my nail varnish!)
Here are some of the books that have inspired me the most when it comes to writing novels…
1. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
Jane, in a time where women weren’t “supposed” to write, managed to get published and become a national hero. You can’t get much more inspirational than that. I love all of her books, and for me, she created the genre of romantic comedy. P&P is everything a good ‘chick lit’ should be: witty and romantic with hidden undertones of the issues of society, feminism, and so on. I have read it several times, and always enjoy the adaptations as well.
2. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
So, not my genre for writing, obvs. I didn’t even want to read it to start with, I was pretty sure it was just for kids… but these books are clever, engaging, and above all else about friendship and loyalty. Again, Jo went through her trials before getting published – and look at her now. So inspiring. I wrote a whole blog about HP a while ago, read it here >
3. Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding
I was only 15 when the book came out and I knew right away, this was the sort of thing I loved to read, and this was the sort of thing I wanted to write. It’s fun, light, and very much like a modern day P&P. I was 20 when the film hit the cinemas, which just inspired me even more. After reading Bridget, I started to write … and write … and write …
A reader recently compared one of my books to Bridget Jones – I was thrilled! 🙂
I may have to read each of these again now! Which books have inspired you?
I’ve been reading lots lately, and here are some of my faves. Check them out if you haven’t read them already.
- Lindsey Kelk : A Girl’s Best Friend
I love all of Lindsey’s books, they’re funny, romantic, inspiring and written at just the right pace. I particularly love her protagonist’s best friends (not just here, in all her books), not only do they have great sub-plots but they’re so loyal, and strong, and I wish they were real people so I could hunt them down and make them be my friends.
A Girl’s Best friend is the third in the series of books about Tess, struggling to change career and sort out her love life, between her long-term crush Charlie and her intense feelings for loveable rogue Nick. Loved this book. As I do all Lindsey’s stuff…
- Lindsey Kelk : Always the Bridesmaid
Okay, so I’ve read two Lindsey books in the past few months. Loved this one as well. Caught between a Bridezilla and a about-to-get-divorced-zilla, this is entertaining, funny and feel-good.
- Jojo Moyes : Me Before You
Okay, so I was way behind the times on this one. But with the movie coming out (which I’ve yet to see, is it awesome?) I thought it was about time I read it, see if it was as good as everyone thought.
It was. Brilliant writing, amazing characters, beautiful story. It made me laugh, but also sob. A lot. You have been warned.
- Andy Weir : The Martian
Totally not my usual genre but I have a bit of a fascination with space and Tim Peake and all that jazz, so decided to give this a go. It was gripping, funny and far, far better than the movie. I wrote a whole blog on it that you can read here >
- Zanna MacKenzie : Amber Reed series
Romantic love triangle, celebrity crime solver – need I say more? Love these books, never sure if it’s the thrill of the mystery Amber has to solve or the will-they-won’t-they love story but it’s probably a wonderful combination of both.
Lastly. I have a confession: I’ve hardly written anything myself for MONTHS. This is the longest I’ve gone since I first learnt to write, and I’m getting withdrawal. I’ve got no excuses other than I’ve been busy. But I was over half way through book 5, so watch this space. In the meantime, thanks for all the lovely comments, reviews etc. I will try to blog more.
Over and out.
What are the main ideas or themes in your book?
My new novel, PICA, explores the relationship between people and the natural world. Luke is a cynical teenager who is slowly introduced to the wonders of nature by an enigmatic young man called Guy, who seems to possess strange powers, such as shape-shifting. Luke discovers ancient secrets and magic that will change his life forever. The very future of planet Earth itself is in his hands.
What is the setting or context of the narrative?
Luke lives in an unspecified but typical British town. His family and school life will be familiar to most readers, and the narrative is set in the modern day. However, fantastic events begin to occur within this naturalistic setting. I want readers to believe in the reality of all that takes place. Even though some of the action is fantastical, the underlying theme and message is very real.
Tell us more about the main characters and their dilemmas:
Initially, Luke hates going on walks in the countryside, preferring to mess about with his air pistol or massacre alien species on computer games. When he first meets Guy he joins in the general bullying before witnessing the new boy’s strange control over nature. Luke is the character who changes the most. He has to decide whether to stick with his mates who are being mean to Guy – or turn his back on them and befriend the new kid. Making that decision rips his life apart…
Why did you write this novel? Any issues or ‘big ideas’ behind it?
PICA (which is the first book in the ‘Gaia’ trilogy) deals with environmental issues. Humans are slowly destroying planet Earth with our pollution, greed, consumerism, over-fishing and deforestation. Someone has to stand up to the politicians, multinational ‘fat-cats’ and world leaders.
How do you go about writing a novel? Is it a simple or complex process?
You have to think long-term when writing a novel. It’s very complicated, with many strands to consider. I spend some time planning and structuring what to write – with enough flexibility to include changes and new ideas. Then I find it’s best to just get on with writing – not worrying too much about editing at that point. I’ve come to realise that it’s important to get words on paper. I write the first draft (I’ve made that process sound simple – it isn’t: it involves a lot of sweat and tears and decisions to give up) and then I look at how the structure can be improved (particularly the beginning and ending), plus what else can be added. The next editing phase involves looking at what does NOT work and deleting or changing those sections. You have to be brutal and if you read something and remain uncertain about it, then it probably needs to go.
What advice do you have for less experienced writers?
Never give up and keep believing in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself then nobody else will. Act professionally and take your writing seriously. Think long-term in your writing career too. Unless you’re very lucky (or a celebrity), it will take time and effort for you to establish yourself, or even to get published. Take rejections on the chin and don’t let the bastards grind you down.
Great answer! What are you working on currently?
I’m currently writing the third book in the ‘Gaia’ trilogy. Book two, Falco, is with the editor.
What would your perfect day be?
My perfect day would involve writing, as it’s what I love doing. I also enjoy being with my kids. So a walk in the countryside with my children, followed by a pub lunch with family and friends. Then the chance to write, whilst sitting by the beach or a lake, somewhere secluded. If I could fit in a rock concert or the chance to watch Liverpool win the FA cup then that works for me…
Name a book or a film that means a lot to you:
Smoking Poppy by Graham Joyce is a beautiful tale of a father whose daughter is caught smuggling drugs in Thailand and sent to prison there. So he travels to Thailand to help her. It’s a brilliant and emotional journey of love and reconciliation.
If you could leave a message to the world, what would it be?
Stop being selfish and think of others – especially those who are struggling. The real heroes of this world are selfless and compassionate; helping those who are disadvantaged.
Thanks Jeff, for visiting my blog!
More about Pica:
Luke hates nature, preferring the excitement of computer games to dull walks in the countryside, but his view of the world around him drastically begins to change when enigmatic loner, Guy, for whom Luke is reluctantly made to feel responsible, shows him some of the secrets that the very planet itself appears to be hiding from modern society.
Set in a very recognisable world of school and the realities of family-life, Luke tumbles into a fascinating world of magic and fantasy where transformations and shifting identities become an escape from the world. Luke gets caught up in an inescapable path that affects his very existence, as the view of the world around him drastically begins to change.
Connect with Jeff:
More about Jeff
Jeff Gardiner is the author of four novels (Pica, Igboland, Myopia and Treading On Dreams), a collection of short stories, and a work of non-fiction. Many of his short stories have appeared in anthologies, magazines and websites.
Pica is the first in the Gaia trilogy – a fantasy of transformation and ancient magic, which Michael Moorcock described as “An engrossing and original story, beautifully told. Wonderful!”
“Reading is a form of escapism, and in Gardiner’s fiction, we escape to places we’d never imagine journeying to.” (A.J. Kirby, ‘The New Short Review’)
So, after finishing the utterly beautiful ‘Me Before You’ by Jojo Moyes (if you haven’t read it, you’re missing out), I decided no chick-lit would do. I needed something very different than my usual romcom reads.
I love space. I love hearing about the ISS, and Tim Peake. I love looking at the stars. I am just fascinated by it. So, The Martian by Andy Weir seemed like it might be a good read for me. I’d seen the movie trailer, it looked pretty interesting. And you’ve always got to read the book first, right? So, I started reading……
Mark Watney is part of a crew on a mission on Mars, when a storm means early evacuation. He falls behind and his crew leave, assuming him dead. But he’s not dead. And not only does he have no way of letting anyone on Earth know this; he has a limited amount of food and other life-supporting supplies. Somehow though, whatever hellish situation Mars throughs at Mark, he has a wit and humour and style that made me regularly laugh out loud. For example:
“They say once you grow crops somewhere, you have officially ‘colonised’ it. So technically, I colonised Mars. In your face, Neil Armstrong!”
There are other bits that made me hold my breath, feel nervous, and even tearful. It’s an emotional rollercoaster.
So, yeah. Wow. I just couldn’t put this book down. It has so many plot twists and cliff-hangers that you’re always waiting for the next disaster or triumph; and now I’ve finished I feel a little lost.
Bravo, Andy Weir.
What can I possibly read next?!
Having read the first two in the Lizzie Hart series, I can’t wait to read this third instalment from fab author Caroline Fardig 🙂
Lizzie Hart is overjoyed that six whole months have passed without a single murder in the sleepy town of Liberty. It’s also been six months since Blake Morgan heartlessly dumped her, but she’s determined to get over him. She’s slimmed down, ready to party, and injury-free, except for a little nagging pain in her ankle. She’s also very single, but her friends are doing everything in their power to fix that—including setting her up on one disastrous blind date after another.
Lizzie’s reprieve is short-lived when an old friend of hers is found dead from an apparent drug overdose. She wants to write it off as bad behavior after having seen the guy cheating on his wife with the new chiropractor in town. However, when she sees that same chiropractor playing doctor with another man who ends up dead, she worries there could be murder afoot.
Doing her best to stay on the right side of the law this time, Lizzie decides to go straight to the police with her suspicions. Unfortunately, the only cop available to speak with her is the stern yet hot new detective who has already given her a traffic ticket and a reprimand for public intoxication. Not surprisingly, he brushes her off, leaving her no choice but to begin snooping on her own. Lizzie soon learns she’s going to need help to get to the bottom of this mystery, but her best partner in crime solving, Blake, has turned into her worst enemy.
Can Lizzie and Blake find a way to work together to catch the killer…or will they kill each other first?
Buy from Amazon:
About Caroline Fardig:
CAROLINE FARDIG is the author of the LIZZIE HART MYSTERIES series and the forthcoming DEATH BEFORE DECAF, available November 2015 through Random House. Her eclectic working career included occupations of schoolteacher, church organist, insurance agent, funeral parlor associate, and stay-at-home mom before she realized that she wanted to be a writer when she grew up. Born and raised in a small town in Indiana, Fardig still lives in that same town with an understanding husband, two sweet kids, two energetic dogs, and one malevolent cat.
Connect with Caroline:
Today I’m featuring some information about Jeff Gardiner’s novel Treading on Dreams – looking forward to reading this one 🙂
It’s the worst thing in the world: being in love, or even obsessed with someone who doesn’t feel the same way about you.
“Let’s just be friends” or “I don’t feel the same way about you” are terrible phrases to hear. There’s very little you can do about it whilst clinging on to your dignity, unless you plan to provoke or bore them into eventual submission. The message is pretty clear.
It’s not easy to then ignore the images, emotions, thoughts and fantasies dominating your mind, as those cruel words echo through it (usually when you wake up at 3am). But just for your own sanity you’ve got to decide whether to continue with the friendship and hope – risking serious hurt as you watch them get involved in other relationships; or to give up on them entirely.
In Treading On Dreams, Donny is obsessed with Selena who is engaged to the perfect man. But Donny refuses to give up, and he bides his time. It’s a risky strategy, which is very likely to go horribly wrong.
I wrote Treading On Dreams in an attempt to explore how those feelings of hope and desire mix with the jealousy and anger rising from romantic and sexual rejection. Donny attempts to distract himself from his obsession by enjoying other sensual and sometimes overwhelming new experiences, guided by his dubious friend, Jaz. It’s contemporary fiction, with twenty-something characters learning about love (or not).
Donny is obsessed with his housemate, Selena – but his love is unrequited. He enthusiastically accepts her willing friendship, which only fuels his deepening fantasies.
Jaz is their crazy landlord who likes sleeping with women – lots of them. He takes pleasure in educating the once innocent Donny in the hedonistic pleasures of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. It blows Donny’s mind.
Selena is engaged to Melvin – the perfect man – but is also keen to befriend the ever-demanding Donny … until she falls pregnant and her wedding looms.
Donny expresses his true feelings at the wedding, causing mayhem and anger. But there remains a chink of hope: perhaps Selena’s marriage to Melvin is not quite as perfect as it seems.
Extract from TREADING ON DREAMS:
Donny sat in his room reading, until interrupted by a light tap on his door.
‘Is it okay if I come in?’
He jumped up and opened the door. ‘Of course. I always allow beautiful women into my bedroom.’ She didn’t respond with her usual coy smile.
‘I need to have a chat with you, Donny. Is now a good time?’ She sat on the corner of the bed and he sat next to her, carefully cradling his drink.
‘Donny, I get this feeling you and I have been getting quite close recently and I’ve really enjoyed your company and friendship.’
Donny’s face went hot.
‘Yes, it’s been wonderful. I love being with you.’
‘Well, I don’t think we should spend so much time together.’
Blood pumped in his ears and it almost deafened him. ‘Sorry?’
‘I only want us to be friends. I don’t want any more than that, Donny.’
‘Oh… no, okay.’ However, it wasn’t him speaking; he was a character in a corny film.
She walked out without looking at him or saying another word.
The phrase haunted Donny’s mind, echoing through the lonely darkness of each night: ‘I only want us to be friends.’ He imagined Selena saying it to him with her face warped into a mocking snarl.
After a while, the tablets started to lose their effect and waiting to drift into sleep was a tortured agony, but the more he thought about sleep, the more awake he felt.
How stupid he was to believe he ever had a chance with Selena. Scared of bursting into tears when meeting her, he avoided her for a few days, until one day he walked in on her making a cup of tea.
They both smiled politely but managed to avoid a conversation. Once Selena had made her drink, she quickly scuttled off to her room for the evening.
Donny struggled to put his thoughts together with his mind a jumble of loss, vulnerability, and dismay.
Jeff is a British author and editor, born in Nigeria, now living in West Sussex. Treading On Dreams is published by Tirgearr, and his other novels are Myopia and Igboland (both published by Crooked Cat), and he also has a collection of short stories and a non-fiction work to his name. Jeff recently gave up teaching to concentrate on writing, editing and performing, and has just signed a three book deal with Accent Press for his ‘Gaia’trilogy.
Buy TREADING ON DREAMS: