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The month that was: April

What happened:
Goodbye April, you fabulous month! The first thing that happened was Easter, which involved lots of yummy food and last-minute bits and bobs to finish off the launch and book tour of Lost. That's because I only finished the first draft at the end of January so editing and launch prep took place over an intense two-month period, which also included 40 hours of consultancy work, each week, for many of those weeks... when April 7th rolled round, it was the strangest feeling.

Lost has now had its launch and the book tour is complete. I'm thrilled with the reviews Lost has received, so far, and I'm so pleased that everyone who has read it is excited about Found, the third book in the Arielle Lockley series.

(If you've read Lost, please leave a review on Amazon when you get chance - I appreciate them so much, and they really do help me out as an indie author.)

I'm also thrilled that on the launch day of Lost, Kept went to #4 in the overall Amazon.co.uk best sellers (free) chart and #1 in the humour (free) chart. Kept also made it to #25 in the humour (paid) chart, and stayed in the UK top 100 humour chart for just over two weeks. *proud face*

I finished work mid-April, so caught up with some life admin, including going to the hairdressers. I am not a fan of the hairdressers, and hadn't been since December - oops - I became less of a fan upon learning that my hairdresser has left the salon to work in a bank, of all things! Thankfully, my new hairdresser did my hair beautifully. 

I headed to the land of Arielle's parents to have a birthday lunch with my parents, aunt and uncle (Olly has just started a new job so couldn't take the day off), and to give my dad the keys to my flat since we headed out to Morocco a few days later to celebrate my birthday. (He was down for Comps-sitting.) It was a fleeting visit, but lovely to see the family, plus the sun was shining on the Jurassic Coast - always cheering! (It's *so* Enid Blyton there - Kirrin Castle was based on nearby Corfe Castle, and you can just picture the Famous Five hiding in that gorse. Smugglers ahoy!)

As for Morocco, I'll be blogging all about it soon, but it was a mixed holiday. I had a gorgeous day on my birthday, and there were parts of the holiday I really loved, but we had a lot of hassle from some locals - sometimes aggressive - who seemed to be under the impression that tourists are walking cash machines to extort money from. Still, I turned thirty - gulp - in the scorching sunshine, and I had a fabulous birthday. {^_^}

What I ate:
I went back to Dirty Bones as their guest after my bad experience last month, and this time round things were much better. The service was spot-on, and the food we chose was a lot tastier. I can highly recommend their Mutt's Nuts cocktail and, if you're there on a Wednesday, their Fried Chicken Special is such great value!

The day after my book launch, I had my favourite Bún gà Huế from Pho for lunch - I ruddy love Pho - and a delicious chicken and chorizo burger from Deliverance for dinner. Deliverance tends to be on the pricier side for takeaway food but, man, their food is tasty. It was a very greedy day that day!

I enjoyed a dim sum dinner at Ping Pong with my friend Hayley in April - hello to their ginger and limoncello caipirinha - and tried out Bengal Clipper with friends. The Bengal Clipper is a nice and reasonably-priced Indian restaurant in Shad Thames, a great little part of London, and it's worth bearing in mind if you ever fancy Indian and you're in the London Bridge area.

We cooked so much yummy food at home in April, including LOTS of lamb dishes. There was a roast lamb dinner for Easter, obviously, and we then used the leftover lamb to make this simple lamb tagine with lemon couscous. Jamie's Guinness lamb shank was another dish, and I recreated the Persian lamb couscous dish I discovered via Gousto. (Use this recipe for baharat as you probably won't find this spice mix in the supermarket!)

I also went to Lord Bute in Highcliffe for a family birthday lunch before I headed to Morocco. Their three-course lunch menu is awesome value, and also very tasty (pictures below are two of my courses... Yes, that's more lamb!). As for Morocco, I will be blogging soon about the food we ate there, but I can report it was full of delicious dishes. I had a very happy tummy in April!


What I watched:

Better Call Saul ended - I thought the last episode was a little slow but, overall, I enjoyed the first season - but that was OK because the news season of Game of Thrones started in April. Woohoo! I'm also really enjoying Lip Sync Battle - as someone who *cannot* sing but would love to be able to, I would be perfect on this show!

Film-wise, from what I can recall, I watched Divergent, The Art of the Steal, A Beautiful Mind, Chef, Begin Again, The Pursuit of Happyness, and the latest X-Men film. I enjoyed Chef the most, out of these.

What I read:
In April, I read 23 books! But, I had no book to write, plus I also joined Kindle Unlimited which spurred on my reading. As always, you can find all my book ratings over on Goodreads. My favourite reads this month though were: The Paper Magician and The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg.

I also really liked Prey by James Carol, Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch, Follow the Leader by Mel Sherratt, Second Time Lucky by Sophie King, Fat Chance by Nick Spalding, Because She Loves Me by Mark Edwards, From the Cradle by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards, and The Venus Trap by Louise Voss.

How was your month? x

Writer Wednesday: Aven Ellis

1. Why did you want to become a writer?
I have wanted to be a writer since I was about ten years old. I’ve always loved developing characters and telling stories.

2. What's the toughest part of the writing process for you? 
Without a doubt, the editing process. It’s very tedious to me.

3. What's the most enjoyable part of writing? 
Creating stories that make people laugh and fall in love. I love hearing that readers turn to my books for light reading and enjoyment.

4. Out of all the amazing books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why? 
None. I enjoy writing my own books, and I’m happy with that!

5. If you could only save one of your characters from fictional calamity, which would you pick and why? 
Hmmmm, hard question! But probably William Cumberland from Connectivity. He’s very smart and could get us out of any crisis.

6. If you could spend the day with your favourite literary character (not from your books), who would you spend it with and what would you do? 
Any of Holly Martin’s heroines. Her characters are funny and smart. We’d go to a coffee shop and dish for hours.

7. What can we expect next from you? 
Another hockey rom com! The Definition of Icing is coming out on May 27.

8. Is there any particular writing advice you wish you'd been given at the start of your writing career? If so, what is it? If not, what advice would you give to someone starting out? 
I had no idea you have to do so much of your own marketing. I would advise any writer to be prepared to promote your own work and find the right social media avenues to do so.

9. Tell us what a typical writing day involves for you. 
It’s always on a Saturday, right around lunch, and goes for a couple of hours. I always have a cup of coffee with cream as I write, too.

10. Finally, what are you reading at the moment? 
The Body Book by Cameron Diaz. I’m a sucker for fitness and health books.

*

Surviving the Rachel:
Bree Logan is ready to start her post-college life, but when she’s dumped by The One, unable to land a professional job, and has to move back in with her parents, she doesn’t think things can get worse until she ends up with her hair chopped into The Rachel, the infamous haircut made famous by the show Friends. Which is not good since it’s no longer 1994.

But sometimes you have to go through challenges to get what you really need, and for Bree, could that include a different career and a romance with Jack Chelten, the boy-next-door?


Follow Aven on Twitter | Buy her books on Amazon |
Visit her website | Like her on Facebook

Lost book tour, part II

The book tour for Lost is now finished - thank you so much to all the bloggers who took part, and to everyone who shared about Lost's release and the tour. You can buy Lost here in Kindle and paperback format. x

  • The second half of the tour started at AJBOOKREVIEWCLUB, where Amanda reviewed both Kept and Lost, and made Kept her book of the week - hurrah!

  • On the same day, I shared how Arielle's love of fashion came about on Zili in the Sky, and Zili also reviewed Lost, giving it 4/5: 

I really enjoyed this instalment, although I wasn't expecting the ending and considered doing a Joey from F.R.I.E.N.D.S and putting my kindle in the freezer at one point. When I wrote my review for Kept it was probably one of the first chick-lit books I had really paid attention to. Now I read a lot more of this genre because I enjoy the drama chick-lit often provides.

  • The next day, Shaz interviewed me over on Jera's Jamboree, and I revealed that Lost came about because the readers of Kept were desperate to find out what happened next!

  • Lynsey reviewed both Kept and Lost, and concluded that:

Lost is a fun, enjoyable and a light read; it's perfect chick lit and anyone liking this genre will love Lost.

  • Over on The Book Corner, I shared my top five tips on making the time to write.

  • The next day, Sky's Book Corner reviewed the book, and I shared my advice to any aspiring authors out there on her blog.

  • I was interviewed on Comet Babe's Books, and I revealed the worst writing advice I've ever received, plus more!


The plot of Lost is one that has been well thought out and well executed with the reader in mind. I found myself racing to the conclusion of this novel only to find that it was left on a stonking cliff-hanger and has me desperate for the next book – which is what all good authors manage to do; have you so invested in the lives of the characters that you can’t wait to find out what happens to them next. 

  • Finally, the tour finished over at Dot Scribbles with a guest post from me about "A day in my life", plus an excellent review of Lost.

Writer Wednesday: Z. Elizabeth

Z. Elizabeth is a début author who grew up in Wales, UK and wishes she knew how to speak fluent Welsh. Bore da (Good morning), Wedi Bleno (tired) and Ydw (I am) just don't cut it.

Reading has always been a part of her life since she was a young kid and writing came quickly after she discovered her love for studying English Language and writing fiction. Since graduating with a degree in BA Journalism, writing is embedded into her everyday working and personal life. At 15, she finished a full length novel and thought nothing of it until now. The Deal is loosely based upon that story and it's one that she is hugely proud of writing and re-writing and re-writing...

When she isn't slaving away at her day job, you can find her daydreaming about her book boyfriends, reading the next hot book out or binge eating with her friends, continually shocking them with the filth that flies out of her mouth.

Z. Elizabeth hopes that her characters end up on your book boyfriend/girlfriend lists and her book ends up on your favourite list, maybe even your bookshelf.

1. Why did you want to become a writer? 
When I was in secondary school, my favourite lesson was always English Language. I used to love the lessons where we got to write our own stories. When I got to around 14/15, I began writing McFly fan fiction and I had actually written a full blown novel. I had forgotten about the file with so many half written stories in until about two years ago when I began book blogging and stumbled upon it on my laptop. I sent a snippet of one story to Anna Bloom and she encouraged me to rewrite the book- so that's what I did. It was more of a bucket list thing to write a book - something for myself.

2. What's the toughest part of the writing process for you? 
Having the motivation to write. I work 9-5.30pm and I get home after 6. I spend all day on a computer so wanting to turn my laptop on after working all day takes great motivation and encouragement from others.

3. What's the most enjoyable part of writing? 
Learning who your characters are the more you write; their traits, their fears, strengths, their overall attitude and personality. I loved watching everyone grow in The Deal, especially Nic and Craig.

4. Out of all the amazing books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why? 
Oh God, there are so bleeding many! The one that sticks out for me is Laura Ward - Not Yet. I had quit my book blog but I knew I had to write a review for this book. It truly is a book everyone needs to read!

5. If you could only save one of your characters from fictional calamity, which would you pick and why? 
Oh, Matt for sure! If you have read The Deal you know him to be a bit of a cocky asshole who gets all the girls, but you also see a vulnerable side to him further down the line. He needs to be saved and loved and that's what I'm doing at the moment- saving him in book two!

6. If you could spend the day with your favourite literary character (not from your books), who would you spend it with and what would you do? 
Benjamin Chambers from The Uni Files series by Anna Bloom. I’d make Ben serenade me, go to Trafalgar Square and sit on the Lion and then cwtch in the night. Just like a fun day in London, he can show me all the sights!

7. What can we expect next from you? 
As mentioned, I'm motivating myself to get a move on with book two - Matt's book. I have no idea when it will be released yet though but this book will be set in both Swansea and Dublin, to give you a little spoiler!

8. Is there any particular writing advice you wish you'd been given at the start of your writing career? If so, what is it? If not, what advice would you give to someone starting out? 
The only advice that I and others should take on board is 'write every day, no matter how little words you write'. Just wish I actually took on this advice!

9. Tell us what a typical writing day involves for you. 
With The Deal I used to write in work and come home and do half hour sprints with my friend, Mallory. With book two, I began writing it in work too. I see a pattern occurring here. HA.

10. Finally, what are you reading at the moment? 
A Perfect Ten – Linda Kage

*

One feud. Two families. One secret. What happens when you fall for the enemy?

Thanks to their fathers' feud, Nicole and Craig have been enemies since the moment they were born. But six years ago they fell in love... They just never told each other.

Motivated by their grandparents' money, they agree to a simple deal: Stay married for a year and unravel the secrets and lies surrounding their fathers. Bound together, they must figure out why the two former best friends have spent the last thirty years ignoring one another and prohibited any contact between Nicole and Craig.

 Craig is more than happy to uncover their fathers' past if it means he gets Nicole for real. Nicole wants to keep the past exactly where it is and she will fight Craig every step of the way. With only limited time together, delving into their family history could be the mistake that will break both their hearts.

What happens when secrets and lies are revealed? Can Nicole and Craig live their Happily Ever After after waiting six long years to be together? Or will one secret be enough to break them apart, just like their fathers?

Follow Z. Elizabeth on Twitter | Buy The Deal on Amazon |
Visit her website | Like her on Facebook

Kindle Unlimited review

I've found that since I added Kept to Kindle Unlimited, more people have borrowed the book than bought it, so because of this I'm investigating Kindle Unlimited as a reader. I have two weeks off to do nothing but read, relax, and go on holiday, so I can read as much as I desire at the moment. Hurrah! I'm three days into my free 30-day trial, and I've already read six books(!).

Kindle Unlimited costs £7.99 per month, and for that you can borrow any book that's part of the scheme - you can borrow a maximum of ten books at a time, but can "return" books to take out some more.

I utterly loved The Paper Magician and The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, which I borrowed via Kindle Unlimited. Whether you borrow or buy them, I highly recommend that you read these two books. (The third book in the series, The Master Magician, is out in June - I can't wait!)

If I had bought these two books, it would have cost me £7.96, which puts the Kindle Unlimited fee at a bargain as I can take out as many books as I want (that are enrolled in the scheme) for a further 3p. (Actually, it's a real bargain for me since I'm currently using the free trial. Mwah ha ha!)

I've also borrowed Follow the Leader by Mel Sherratt - a solid 4/5 rating for Mel's latest book - and all Mel's books are available to borrow - make sure you read them if you haven't already. The Mortal Instruments series is available via Kindle Unlimited, which is another series I'll be borrowing before my trial ends. (I've only read the first book in the series.)

Whereas I can't see me having a rolling subscription, I will activate my subscription for a month or two when I have the time to have a bit of a binge reading session, like I do now. The only downside I've found, so far, is that the navigation makes it hard to find books that are enrolled in the scheme that I would actually want to read. Maybe a top 100 Kindle Unlimited chart would work better, or more genre filters?

Have you tried Kindle Unlimited? If so, are there any Kindle Unlimited gems I should be aware of?

PS: Because of Kept's popularity on Kindle Unlimited, I've also added Geli Voyante's Hot or Not. Happy borrowing!

Update: Lost book tour

The book tour for Lost is now halfway through, can you believe! I hope that you've all been enjoying the reviews, features and interviews that have happened so far. Remember to enter the giveaway for your chance to win books, Amazon vouchers or a Scrabble mug.

 I really liked Lost and I am looking forward to Found already. Elle Field has this incredibly warm, engaging writing style and her story telling is incredible.

  • On the same day, I was interviewed over at Chick Lit Uncovered, where I shared what I've been up to and what I'm working on next.

  • The next day I headed over to Chouett, who gave a fair and balanced review of Lost. Chouett preferred Kept to Lost, but is looking forward to reading Found. 

I really like the way that it ended and it definitely leaves itself open to the next book in the series which, thank goodness, is out later this year - I honestly can't wait to read to the conclusion to Arielle's adventures and to find out what happens with Piers, Felicity, Ob and the gang!

  • Day three of the tour saw me over at A Spoonful of Happy Endings, where Jody interviewed me and also reviewed the book. Jody rated Lost 8.5/10:
'Lost' is a thoroughly enjoyable, fast-paced and fun chick lit read; the second part of a book series I'm quite excited about and I already can't wait for Elle Field's next release!

  • Laura from Chick Lit Love interviewed me on her blog as part of the tour, and her review will be following soon!

  • It was a glowing review from Ginger Cat on Monday, and Kirsty is now desperate to read the third book in the Arielle Lockley series:
This book captured my attention from start to finish and I honestly cannot wait to read more of Arielle Lockley's mishaps and adventures. Well done to the author, Elle Field, on the publication of another fantastic book!


  • Hannah interviewed me on Tuesday over on Hannah Says... and I hinted I might have a secret identity who writes other genres!


Thanks to all the bloggers who have completed their tour stop, and I can't wait for the rest of the tour. Check out the stops above, and remember to enter the giveaway! x

Writer Wednesday: Sarah Louise Smith

Sarah Louise Smith is the author of three chick lit novels: Amy & Zach, Izzy's Cold Feet, and Independent Jenny.

Sarah lives in Milton Keynes and has a passion for reading and writing, her favourite genre being "chick-lit".

1. Why did you want to become a writer? 
I love getting absorbed in a book, and have been writing stories since I can remember. So it just sort of came naturally; there was no decision, it just happened.

2. What's the toughest part of the writing process for you? 
I usually get about 75% done and then struggle to complete - I am by that point often thinking about the next book. But I try to be disciplined it always comes together eventually.

3. What's the most enjoyable part of writing? 
It's very satisfying reading through the final manuscript; knowing that it's all come together I've got a whole story ready to send to my publisher. I also love hearing from readers (who doesn't like a bit of ego-flattery!) 

4. Out of all the amazing books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why? 
Well my absolute favourite is Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. The first chick-lit, she was way ahead of her time with her wit, humour, etc. but the relationship issues she explored could be just as likely to happen in 2015 as 1813.

5. If you could only save one of your characters from fictional calamity, which would you pick and why? 
Izzy from Izzy's Cold Feet. She's my favourite (don't tell the others) - I'm not sure why, but I just like her best. I like the guy she ends up with best too!

6. If you could spend the day with your favourite literary character (not from your books), who would you spend it with and what would you do? 
Elizabeth Bennett. We'd talk about books and Mr. Darcy ;)

7. What can we expect next from you?
My next book is called The Truth About Ellen. It's about a girl who gets to date a guy from a band she used to love as a teen, but she doesn't tell him everything about herself...

8. Is there any particular writing advice you wish you'd been given at the start of your writing career? If so, what is it? If not, what advice would you give to someone starting out?
Keep writing. It took me 10 years to actually complete a novel because I kept starting, stopping, procrastinating... you just have to keep at it, and be dedicated. And keep with the same novel rather than starting new ones all the time!

9. Tell us what a typical writing day involves for you. 
I tend to write a lot in one day, then not for a few days. So that one writing day, I'll get up "in the mood" to write... I'll literally get my MacBook, and sit in my pyjama's writing. I don't eat or drink - my husband has to remind me to keep hydrated - and I'll keep going until bed time. Then I'll think about it all for a few days, and go back to it again.

10. Finally, what are you reading at the moment? 
I'm just starting The Single Girl's To Do List by Lindsey Kelk. I've read a few of her others and enjoyed them so looking forward to getting into this one!

Independent Jenny

"I slept with someone else"

Those five words changed everything.

After her husband Ross drops a bombshell, Jenny's emotions go hay-wire. Things are made even more complex when his brother Aiden makes a confession of his own...

A holiday escape with her friend Hayley seems the perfect way to figure out what - and who - she wants. But Hayley has a hidden motive that results in Jenny spending time with her ex-boyfriend Will, who is now married.

Should Jenny forgive Ross? Can she ignore her feelings for romantic Aiden? And why can't she get Will out of her head?

One thing is for sure: Jenny doesn't want to be alone. Surely any man is better than no man, right?

Follow Sarah Louise on Twitter | Buy her books on Amazon | Visit her website |

Lost book tour April 8th-23rd

I'm thrilled to announce that the book tour for Lost starts today - hurrah! (If you want to see which lovely book bloggers are taking part, the tour list can be found here.)

The tour runs until April 23rd; to celebrate, I'm running a giveaway. You can enter below for your chance to win an Amazon voucher (four vouchers are up for grabs), Kept and Lost in paperback, or a Scrabble mug.

A big thank you to everyone who wished me a happy publication day yesterday and supported the launch/promotions - I appreciate it so much. I'm thrilled that Kept got up to #4 in the overall best sellers chart on Amazon.co.uk and #1 in the humour chart. {^_^} A-mazing! x 

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Writer Wednesday: Jenny Hale

1. Why did you want to become a writer? 
I’ve always been an avid reader and a storyteller. It only occurred to me in adulthood to write fiction. It was something I was driven to do. I remember the very moment I opened my laptop for the first time and decided to write. I’ve never looked back.  

2. What's the toughest part of the writing process for you?
Writing conflict. I have to really stretch to do it, and it doesn’t come naturally. (Although, I love every part of the process - even the tough parts.)  

3. What's the most enjoyable part of writing?
Any part where I get to collaborate with the publishing team - getting the revision letter and seeing my words through someone else’s eyes, the cover art, even the blurb on the back of the book. Writing is a very solitary process so getting to talk to experts in the business is really enjoyable for me.  

4. Out of all the amazing books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why?
None of them! Part of my delight in reading is seeing how someone else tells the story. If I told it, it would be totally different. Each book that I read is the author’s story to tell, and watching the magic of how they tell it is what I love.

 5. If you could only save one of your characters from fictional calamity, which would you pick and why?
I think I’d save Libby in Love Me for Me. I’d tell her never to move to New York, no matter how good it seems. It isn’t right for her.  

6. If you could spend the day with your favourite literary character (not from your books), who would you spend it with and what would you do?
Elizabeth Bennett. I’d probably just sit and chat with her about her family, or we could read together under a tree or something. I’d love to hear her opinions on things - she’s so endearing.  

7. What can we expect next from you?
Summer by the Sea is my next novel! It’s set to be released this summer!  

8. Is there any particular writing advice you wish you'd been given at the start of your writing career? If so, what is it? If not, what advice would you give to someone starting out?
I wouldn’t have ended up where I had if I’d changed a single move in my career, so I’m glad I didn’t have any advice to go on. I found my way on my own, and I ended up right where I was supposed to be. So, my advice is just to trust your instincts. If it feels right, it probably is, and if it doesn’t, move on.  

9. Tell us what a typical writing day involves:
I am a full-time elementary school teacher and a mother of two young boys, so my writing happens at night and on weekends. I hate to admit this, but I have no set writing time. Instead, I set a certain number of words for each day. Then, it’s a mad scramble to get those words. Every day is different.  

10. Finally, what are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading Tied Up with Love by Amelia Thorne and loving it!

Follow Jenny on Twitter | Buy her books on Amazon | Visit her website |

Lost (Arielle Lockley series book 2) - out today!

I'm thrilled to share the news that my third book, Lost, the second book in the Arielle Lockley series, is out today!

To celebrate this, Kept, the first book in the series, is FREE worldwide today.

If you help me to spread the word about this, using the Rafflecopter below, you could win a £20/$20 Amazon voucher.

What are you waiting for? Get tweeting!

PS: To coincide with the book tour for Lost, which starts tomorrow, I'll also be running another giveaway. Come back tomorrow for more details!

PPS: You can also enter on Goodreads now to win a paperback copy of Lost. This is open to the UK, Canada, US and EU. x

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The month that was: March

2015 is galloping by, and I can't believe we're a quarter of the way through the year already! April is going to be an exciting month for me - not only is my third book, Lost, published on April 7th, but I'm in Morocco this month, celebrating my birthday. But, I need to tell you about March before that lot can happen!

What happened:
I finished off the final edits for Lost, and also revealed the cover. And then I went back to Notting Hill to do some more social media consulting work. That's about it! I sort of echoed February in that I explored the local area, but I also came down with a bad sore throat and cold whilst I was working - it was a stinker, much worse than last February's. (It's totally taking the Tube. People are gross. I can't tell you how many times I see people splutter and sneeze on the Tube and not cover their mouths. SO. GROSS.) Resting was key in March, especially as I had to prepare for the book tour and do last minute book tweaks when I wasn't in the office.

To fill the Serial hole in my life, I tried finding new podcasts to listen to in March and came across You Must Remember This. The podcast focuses on yesteryear in Hollywood; as an Audrey Hepburn fan, I loved Sex, Style and Sabrina. Narrator Karina Longworth also sounds a bit like Christina Ricci, I think! I also listened to some of the Criminal podcasts. Anyone have any other podcast recommendations for me?

What I ate:
Remember how I said the fridge freezer was fixed? Yeah, it broke again. (So annoying.) This time round a new one was bought instead of repairing it... here's hoping this one survives until we move!

I met my friend Isabelle and had a much-needed catch-up at Dirty Bones, which is halfway between Notting Hill Gate and High St. Kensington. Dirty Bones was a disappointment, to be honest, with really terrible service and so-so food. I will be back in April as their guest, however, to see if they can turn around my bad experience.

A really poor Nando's and Domino's also stuck in my mind in March, but so did some awesome chicken katsu currys from Wasabi. (Such a fan.) I also visited The Happenstance for dinner, which was OK. I'm not having much luck with restaurants recently! The service was quite slow, though the staff were lovely, and the food we ate was average. I love its name though!

At home, I baked an epic Maltesers cake, a ridiculously chocolatey cake. If you make it, invite a big crowd around as even the most hard-core chocolate fan will never be able to finish it off! We also made delicious pizza - we use this recipe for the base and load with our favourite toppings - and also this curry. That's my favourite go-to curry; it never disappoints!

We served up Jamie Oliver's awesome Empire roast chicken for one Sunday lunch - add some spinach to the potatoes to make it even more Indian, and to include some vegetables with your roast - and I made paratha bread to soak up the gravy. Delicious!

What I watched:
We raced through all three seasons of House of Cards (US version), and this time round I loved it. I say this time round because we watched the first season two years ago... after a few episodes I gave up whilst Olly watched on. I have no idea why I hated it then, but I'm glad I gave it another go. Frank and Claire Underwood, what devious characters!

I also finished the fifth season of Pretty Little Liars, and only have two more episodes of Better Call Saul to watch. Hurry up season six, and season two, respectively, though Pretty Little Liars is getting a bit *too* ridiculous, if you ask me. Still, I'll be watching season 6 in June, desperate to work out who Charles is! (Jason's twin, right? It has to be!)

Movie-wise, I enjoyed The Maze Runner and The Imitation Game. I also watched The Longest Week, which tried too hard to be a Woody Allen film, and half-watched 300: Rise of an Empire. That wasn't my cup of tea!

What I read:
I read The Martian by Andy Weir, which is an awesome book - I reckon it's going to be one of my favourite books of the year. I tried to read The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton for the 2015 Classics Challenge but gave up on it; my book for March is Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. It's been twenty years since it was first published, can you believe!

I also tried to clear some of the back catalogue of chick lit books I have on my Kindle - I don't like reading my genre when I'm working on a book - and I really enjoyed Prada and Prejudice by Katie Oliver, Conditional Love by Cathy Bramley, Letters From My Sister by Alice Peterson and Tied up with Love by Amelia Thorne. All-in-all, I read 15 books in March, and I discarded a further three. Life is too short to read bad books!

How was your month? x

Writer Wednesday: Caroline Smailes

Caroline Smailes lives in the North West of England. Her latest publication, The Drowning of Arthur Braxton, is her fifth novel.

1. Why did you want to become a writer?
It was because I had stories that I wanted to tell. It’s never been about money or even about other people reading my words, it’s always been about an absolute need to write out something that’s been jumping around inside my head. If I’m honest, my head breaks when I don’t write. But, mainly, I still write because writing excites me and I still have stories to tell. When that changes, I guess I’ll stop.

2. What's the toughest part of the writing process for you?
At two a.m., around twenty-two thousand words, when the task feels too large and I feel inadequate.

3. What's the most enjoyable part of writing?
When I get a seed of an idea and plan out a novel. I become overexcited and have trouble sleeping. The feeling produces anxiety, exhilaration and nervous rumbles that are reminiscent of starting a new relationship. When the seed is planted I feel truly alive.

4. Out of all the amazing books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why?
I wish that I’d been one of the Grimms (probably Jacob), collecting tales, folklore and mythology, then retelling and reforming. I wish I’d written a collection of fairy tales. The retelling of oral tales and that sense of how we can alter stories, to fit with new readerships and their sensibilities, fascinate me.

5. If you could only save one of your characters from fictional calamity, which would you pick and why?
I’d pick Jude from ‘In Search of Adam’ and I’d rewrite that opening scene where her mum commits suicide and leaves little Jude to fend for herself in a dysfunctional environment. I’d give Jude a mum who could protect her from abuse and neglect. And why? Because Jude deserved love and writing that novel left me a little bit broken.

6. If you could spend the day with your favourite literary character (not from your books), who would you spend it with and what would you do?
I’m cheating slightly by selecting three, but I’d quite like to go roller-skating, and then for a spot of afternoon tea (a bit of a Mad Hatter’s style afternoon tea), with The Cat in the Hat, Atticus Finch and Molly Weasley. We could end the day with cocktails, or possibly a few pints. I think it could be the best day ever.

7. What can we expect next from you?
Lots of exciting announcements will be coming in the next few months. 2016 looks to be a thrilling year for me. That’s an annoyingly secretive response, I know. Sorry!

8. Is there any particular writing advice you wish you'd been given at the start of your writing career? If so, what is it? If not, what advice would you give to someone starting out?
My advice is simple - writers must write. You can’t be a writer unless you write. That oversimplifies and is super obvious, but so many of us make excuses for not writing, when, essentially, it’s all we want to do but the fear of failure (or even people reading our work) is crippling. So, my tips are:
  • Don’t let fear stop you from writing that novel. I promise you – you’ll spend the rest of your life wishing you’d been that little bit braver
  • Write wherever you can and whenever you can. Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect and neither does the environment where you write 
  • Don’t think about the overwhelming task of writing a complete novel
  • Think about small word targets and write in manageable chunks 
  • Don’t set yourself rules for needing a certain pen or that fifteen people need to favourite your #amwriting tweet before you can start. Avoid excuses and bad habits 
  • Grab those ten minutes, write in the car, write in the bath. Writers will write
  • So many writers have small families and juggle fulltime jobs, but they find a way. If you really want to be a writer, then you will also find that way. Again, avoid excuses
  • Write that first draft as quickly as possible. I often refer to this as a ‘vomit draft’, for obvious reasons  
  • Once you have that first draft, then you can start worrying about everything you feel you need to worry about. Anxiety and angst are in our job description. 

9. Tell us what a typical writing day involves for you.
I work with writing mornings, rather than writing days. My children have all left the house by around eight a.m. and I’d love to say that I start typing the minute they leave. In reality, I spend at least an hour checking various online outlets, then (when I’m fully up-to-date with photos, trending hashtags, book recommendations and essential tweets!) I turn everything off and write. I write quickly and my daily target is always around two thousand words. I’m usually finished in time for lunch, which allows for my afternoons to be about my work as an editor. I always leave my writing knowing what I’ll write next, to avoid staring at a screen and making the most of the precious writing time. If the words aren’t flowing, or if real life has prevented my reaching the word target, I’ll be back at my desk later in the evening. I believe in small word targets and regular writing.

10. Finally, what are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just finished a stunning debut, James Hannah's ‘The A-Z of You’, and have ‘A Partisan's daughter’ by Louis de Bernières to read next. I’ve heard wonderful things about it.

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton

Arthur Braxton runs away from school. He hides out in an abandoned building, an Edwardian public baths. He finds a naked woman swimming in the pool. From this point on, nothing will ever be the same.

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is an unflinching account of the pain and trauma of adolescence, of how first love can transform the most unhappy of lives into something miraculous. It is a dark and brooding modern fairy tale from one of our most gifted writers.

Follow Caroline on Twitter | Buy her books on Amazon | Visit her website |

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