Writer Wednesday: Jan Ellis

Jan Ellis began writing fiction by accident in 2013. Until then, she had led a blameless life as a publisher, editor and historian of early modern Spain. She fell into fiction when a digital publisher approached her to write a history book, then made the mistake of mentioning women’s fiction, which sounded much more fun.

Jan writes contemporary romcom with plenty of humour featuring characters who range in age from young teens to 80-somethings. She is proud to be a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

The Bookshop Detective will be published by Waverley Books in March 2017. An Unexpected Affair, A Summer of Surprises, French Kisses and A London Affair are available as ebooks (Endeavour Press). Paperback editions will be published in March and June 2017.

1. Why did you want to become a writer?
I trained as a journalist because the careers lady at school said it was a good choice for someone who enjoyed telling stories! I soon moved into book publishing and have been writing and editing non-fiction ever since. I began writing fiction after being approached by Endeavour Press.

2. What's the toughest part of the writing process for you? 
I like to give myself regular frights by starting stories with no idea where they’re heading. My new book (due out next spring) has two historical mysteries in it and I had no idea what the solutions would be. Fortunately, my characters figured them out – phew!

3. What's the most enjoyable part of writing? 
There are lots of enjoyable parts, but I always love it when the dialogue begins to flow and my characters come out with lines that make me chuckle. It’s so weird how that happens.

4. Out of all the amazing books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why? 
I’m going to aim high and say Where Angels Fear to Tread because I admire the way EM Forster combines comedy and tragedy with such a light touch.

5. If you could only save one of your characters from fictional calamity, which would you pick and why?
That’s tough, but I think I’ll go for Rachel in French Kisses. She survived being dumped by the love-rat husband and opened a guest house in France. She’s fun, full of life and has the best friends and family you could imagine. I’m hoping it all works out well for her and the gorgeous new man...

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? 
That’s tricky, but I think you could do worse than stroll along the Dorset coast on a golden summer’s evening hand-in-hand with Gabriel Oak.

7. What can we expect next from you? 
Spring 2017 is going to be very exciting as I have a brand-new paperback coming out called The Bookshop Detective featuring my Devon bookseller, Eleanor Mace. The previous two novellas about Eleanor will be published in one paperback volume at the same time. The publishers are calling these books ‘The Bookshop by the Sea’ series. How cool is that? French Kisses and A London Affair will be published in paperback together in the summer when I’ll be sweating over the third story in the new series.

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 would tell anyone starting out that writing is a lonely business and we all experience bad days when the words won’t come. Be prepared for those times and be kind to yourself.

9. Tell us what a typical writing day involves for you. 
I combine writing fiction with various other editorial and sales jobs, so I tend to write at the end of the day, in the evening and at weekends. Having said which, I can’t write without a deadline.

10. Finally, what are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just finished Barbara Copperthwaite’s Invisible and am about to start Eva Holland’s The Daughter’s Secret. I do love a good thriller!

Follow Jan on Twitter | Buy her books on Amazon |
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Writer Wednesday: F J Curlew

FJ Curlew
Fiona dropped out of school aged 15, because being the consummate rebel, she hated it! After becoming a single parent she decided to return to education, graduating in 1996 with an honours degree in primary education. Ah, the irony!

As soon as she graduated she packed everything she owned into her Renault 11, including her daughter, two dogs and a cat, and headed off to Estonia to become an international school teacher. After fifteen years of teaching, predominantly in Eastern Europe, she returned to the UK to focus on her writing.

She now lives on the east coast of Scotland with a rescued Ukrainian street mutt, a Scottish black lab and a Portuguese cat who doesn't like the weather!

1. Why did you want to become a writer? 
I had found myself in a crisis situation. My career (teaching) was no longer possible due to illness and I had to find something else to focus on, to occupy my mind, other than being ill. I turned to the Open University, choosing their Creative Writing module. My initial thinking was that I could write my biography. My life as an international school teacher had been exciting, unusual, perhaps people might be interested. I soon discovered that I had a bent for writing fiction. After the first year, and a distinction, I took the advanced course. This was great. Something I discovered that I loved doing. I could do well. Something that took me out of my skin, my situation, and gave me hope. 

2. What's the toughest part of the writing process for you? 
There is honestly nothing in the writing process that I don't enjoy from the spark of an idea to the 12th edit and subsequent proof reading. I love it all. Creating something, refining it, improving it, finally saying. Yep. It's finished. The whole thing is so rewarding. What I don't enjoy however is all of the other bits...the admin, publicity, technical aspects (formats and creating covers had me tearing my hair out!).

3. What's the most enjoyable part of writing? 
It's hard to choose one particular thing but I do get an immense kick out of having struggled with something, a scene, a relationship, a piece of dialogue and having it suddenly fall into place. Magic! The whole getting lost in a world of your own creation is just a little bit special too.

4. Out of all the amazing books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why?
That would be Andrei Makine's Life of an Unknown Man. I think Makine's writing is sublime in general but the concept of this one is so clever. The way he deals with old and new Russia through an old man who has been left to die in a room in the middle of all that is 'New Russian', his heartbreaking story. Beautiful, thought provoking and, in my opinion, simply brilliant. Having spent fifteen years in former Soviet countries the story also holds a particular relevance for me. 

5. If you could only save one of your characters from fictional calamity, which would you pick and why?
Aargh! That is really hard! I love all of my good guys. I think it would have to be Ranulf from To Retribution. He is such an interesting character with so many sides to him. A depth. I suppose he is the ultimate hero. A man who fights the good fight and doesn't let anything get in his way. He is also completely wacky, which I like!

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? 
That would be Carl Hiaasen's creation, Skink. We would do something completely illegal to some dodgy politician who thoroughly deserved it, exposing dirty dealings, righting wrongs, that sort of thing. And, of course, we'd get away with it, leaving the world a better place!

7. What can we expect next from you?
I have learned not to say too much here. My stories keep changing and life throws curve balls so...we shall wait and see.

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 started writing late in life and had the support of an amazing tutor which helped greatly. The most important thing I have learned is that as a writer you should be yourself, to write what you want, what you feel and most importantly, to enjoy it!

9. Tell us what a typical writing day involves for you.  
Mornings are for huge dog walks followed by admin. Afternoons are when I write. I try to get three or four hours of hard writing done though will admit to the odd wander into the Internet.

10. Finally, what are you reading at the moment?  
I am reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski and absolutely loving it.


FJ Curlew To Retribution book
The military is in control. Tight control. Media is censored, movement restricted. There are re-education camps for trouble makers, repatriation camps for non-nationals. Jake, Brian and Suze, three idealistic young journalists, are used to hiding as they try to keep their online news channel open. They publish the truth about the repatriations, the corruption and the deceit. 

New Dawn, the feared security force, is closing in yet again. The trio run, yet again. This time, however, they are pursued with a relentlessness, a brutality which seems far too extreme for their 'crimes.' A trail of death is left in their wake as they try to escape New Dawn and find out what is really behind this hunt. They are drawn into a web of human trafficking, child abuse and murder. Only it's closer than they think. Much closer.

Follow F.J. Curlew on Twitter | Buy To Retribution on Amazon |
Like her on Facebook | Visit her website

Florida: Miami

Welcome to Miami! (Bienvenido a Miami.) Miami was the last part of our epic trip to Florida, and we arrived in style in our oh-so-cliched shiny red Mustang convertible. The drive up from Key West is beautiful, and I couldn't get over how skinny the Florida Keys are. Strips of land really, either side of the Overseas Highway, with both the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico shimmering in the sunshine.

Palm trees, Miami Beach
We only stopped off at Islamorada for lunch at Mango Mike's Cafe (great spot), but you could make a day of your drive by stopping off at some of the islands, or even exploring the Everrglades National Park once you've cleared the Keys. (We passed on that. I was pretty happy that I'd avoided seeing some alligators this holiday!) Whatever you decide to do on your drive, put on your sunscreen, start your playlist, and enjoy the wind in your hair.

Mustang convertible, driving Key West to Miami Beach
In Miami we stayed on Miami Beach at the Grand Beach Hotel for two nights, though we only had one full day in the city. As valet parking tends to be pricey at hotels in Miami (at least it seems it for us Brits), we handed the Mustang back in. (It cost about £65 to hire it for the day, including petrol - cheaper than two flights.) Uber, though, is super cheap, and we used it to take us to restaurants in the evenings and to visit Wynwood Walls.
Wynwood Walls, Miami
Wynwood Walls is a shrine to graffiti and street art in an area that was once the warehouse and manufacturing district of Greater Miami. It's quite something, and the art has spread beyond the walled area where the concept originally took off. You'll find work from artists from all around the world - some drawing on modern pop culture, others slightly more abstract or arty!

Wynwood Walls, Miami
It's a pretty cool area, and wonderfully colourful, so worth stopping off at if you're in Miami - even if it's just for an hour. We went around lunchtime and had the best meal at Wynwood Kitchen and Bar, home of THE MOST AMAZING shrimp tacos. Honestly, they were INCREDIBLE, and I am very sad that I don't live in Miami because I could eat those ALL THE TIME. Just thinking about them... I can taste that zing in my mouth!

Wynwood Walls, Miami
The best dinner we had in Miami was at Indomania, an Indonesian-Dutch restaurant. It was wonderful to have some tasty food that wasn't BBQ, American, seafood or Italian at this point of the holiday! If you fancy something a bit different, try the rijsttafel menu. Yum!

Wynwood Walls, Miami
As well as exploring Wynwood, we spent time relaxing by the hotel pools and on the beach, marvelling at how put together and stylish people from Miami are. Miami Beach/South Beach is stunning, so head to the ocean and feel that toasty sand underneath your toes. One thing I would avoid, however, is going for drinks on Ocean Drive... unless you want to pay LOTS for a crappy cocktail, that is.

Miami Beach
There's definitely more to Miami than we were able to gleam in the short amount of time we were there - like, we didn't get to see any of downtown Miami - but I'm glad we got to have a taste! Now, when can I go on holiday again, please? x

Florida: Key West

After a pretty full-on (but fun) time in Orlando, we flew to Key West to stay at Silver Palms Inn for five nights. Located a few minutes from Duval Street, Key West's famous party street, we were close enough that we didn't have to walk for ages to get anywhere, but we weren't caught up in the thick of it. (Key West is only four miles long by one mile wide, so you don't really need to rent a car.)

Sunset, Key West, Florida
For us Key West was about relaxing and recharging, and we definitely picked the right place. Although it's known as a bit of a party town, the island is super laid-back. Pool time, reading and awesome food were at the top of our to-do list, but we did visit The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum (home of many six-toed cats!), the Southernmost point buoy and, briefly, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. Briefly because when we arrived some epic torrential rain decided to join us. Doh!

Southernmost point buoy, Key West, Florida
Now, Ernest Hemingway is connected with Sloppy Joe's, a rather famous bar on Duval Street. The ambience is definitely touristy and not what it would have been like in Hemingway's day, but pop in for a drink to say you've been. Another great place to head for a drink is Sunset Pier, right by Mallory Square. Funnily enough, it's the perfect spot to have a cocktail (rum runners FTW) and enjoy the sunset! We enjoyed a local speciality here, too - conch fritters - though Key West is known for its Key lime pie. Make sure you try a piece. Or two! And some Key lime ice cream from Flamingo Crossing if you need to cool down. (Maybe avoid the Key lime Cuban cigars though!)

Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, Key West, Florida
Food-wise we LOVED The Flaming Buoy Grill Co. Definitly the best food we ate in Florida - the flavours were beautiful, plus the service was brilliant. For lunch, you want Bien (ranked #1 on TripAdvisor). I gorged on their awesome Carribean roast Cuban sandwich as Key West's famous chickens pecked at our feet. The taste! Those onions! Incredible. (And I'm not a sandwich person.) Other places we enjoyed: Onlywood Pizzeria Trattoria, Firefly (beautiful pulled pork), Bagatelle (the bread is DIVINE!), Charlie Macs and Sandy's (another great spot for a Cuban sandwich). One thing to note though if you're there off-season is that some of the bars and restaurants are closed whilst the owners are on *their* hols.

Pork tenderloin from Bagatelle, Key West, Florida
Whilst we may have arrived in a small prop plane, we left Key West in a shiny red Mustang convertible to drive up the Florida Keys for the last bit of our holiday... Miami! I'll tell you all about that next time, but we had a wonderful time in Key West - despite quite a bit of rain; oh, hurricane season! - and loved the island vibes. x

Writer Wednesday: Laurie Ellingham

Laurie lives in a small village on the Suffolk/Essex border, with her husband, two children, and their cockerpoo, Rodney. When she is not disappearing into the fictional world of her characters, preferably with a large coffee and a Twix (or two) to hand, she is running through the countryside, burning off the chocolate intake and plotting her next chapter.

Laurie starting writing stories when she was eight years old, and after gaining a first class honours degree in Psychology and a brief stint working in public relations, Laurie followed her passion and her dream to become a writer and now spends her days writing contemporary women’s fiction.

1. Why did you want to become a writer? 
I think I was born with a desire to write. I’ve been writing stories since I was very little. Even at the age of 10 I sent a little story to a publisher (and received my first rejection). Stories seem to appear in my head like a film and I see it as my job to put it into words in the best way I can. 

2. What's the toughest part of the writing process for you? 
 My answer to this question changes daily, but today the hardest part seems to be the just-keep-going mentality you have to have to take your novel from the early 20,000 word mark all the way through to the end.

Of course, rejections, self-doubt, loneliness, and the penniless state of being a writer, could quite easily have been my answer on any other day.

3. What's the most enjoyable part of writing? 
Taking an idea and characters that only exist in my head, and weaving their stories into a novel to share with the world, is a fantastic feeling and the most enjoyable part of writing for me.

4. Out of all the amazing books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why?
Oh gosh, where to start. I could reel off a list of books I’ve read which have changed me in some way or that I wished I’d written. The best books for me aren’t just ones that I enjoy reading, but ones that push me to want to be a better writer. Emma Healy’s Elizabeth is Missing is one of those books. She has taken a truly difficult topic - Alzheimer’s disease - which has affected so many people in so many ways - and weaved it beautifully into a gripping mystery. Amazing!

5. If you could only save one of your characters from fictional calamity, which would you pick and why?
Lizzie Appleton. She’s one of the main characters in my next novel to be released (Three Months to Live, published by Carina and out in April 2017). Lizzie is sweet and funny, and horribly sarcastic to the point of rudeness sometimes, but she’s had a tough life and spent a lot of her life in hospital battling brain tumours. She definitely deserves saving.

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? 
Ooooo good question. I’ve been reading so many thrillers lately, which are great, but perhaps don’t make for the best characters to hang out with. So, it’ll have to be Arielle Lockley (is that too stalkerish? :-)) I read Kept over the summer and just loved Arielle’s character. I really felt her pain, and enjoyed the humorous disasters that struck her life. I imagine we’d have a right good gossip over lunch.

7. What can we expect next from you? 
Next year is going to be a really exciting year for me as I’ll have two books being published by Carina. The first is out in April and called Three Months to Live and here’s a peak at the blurb:

Twenty-nine year old Lizzie Appleton has a brain tumour, but is she hiding something? Jaddi has a secret life not even her best friends know about. If the truth comes out, she’ll lose everything. Samantha’s in trouble, but she hasn’t told a soul. Would anyone believe her if she did? 

When three best friends are offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel the world, they jump at the chance, but there’s a catch - they have to take part in a TV documentary following the final months of Lizzie's life. 

With the world watching, Lizzie, Jaddi, Samantha, and cameraman Ben, embark on a journey which will push their friendship to the brink. 

Three Friends...Three Secrets...Three Months to live.

The second book is called The Stranger on The Boat and is much darker than anything I’ve written before. It’s been a challenge to write, but one I’ve loved.

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? 
Don’t let the rejections get you down. Don’t give up! It wasn’t advice I was given and there was a spell of three years where I stopped writing all together. Luckily, I found my way back to writing in 2013, and whilst it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, and whilst I have still dealt with some harsh rejections, I do feel that I’m going in the right direction now.

9. Tell us what a typical writing day involves for you. 
When I’m working on a first draft my aim is to write 1000 words a day. This goes a lot easier if I sit with a coffee straight after the school run and make a start. I usually write for a few hours and then get some fresh air with either a dog walk or a run. Then it’s back to it until school pick up. Some days I can sit at my desk all day and make no progress. Others, I’m popping out to do errands or helping over at the school, and still squeeze in a good writing session. The important thing for me is to do something with my work in progress every day. Even if it’s just reading through the last chapter I’ve written. This keeps the story fresh in my mind.

10. Finally, what are you reading at the moment? 
Right now I’m reading Lucie Whitehouse’s latest novel - Keep You Close. It’s a slower novel than her previous books, but beautifully written and very compelling.

Follow Laurie on Twitter | Buy How To Throw Your Life Away on Amazon |
Like her on Facebook | Visit her website

Florida: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

About 50 miles from Orlando, on the East coast of Florida, you'll find NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Opened in 1962, this is where the Apollo missions and Space Shuttle missions were all launched from.

Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center is launch control whilst Space Center Houston is mission control, if you're wondering why the famous phrase is "Houston, we have a problem". (Though it's usually misquoted; it's actually: "Houston, we've had a problem".)

Kennedy Space Center
This means that KSC look after the rocket/shuttle to get it to launch and until it clears the launch tower, which takes about seven seconds. How incredible is it to be able to get something so vastly complicated safely off the ground, let alone into space - and with people involved!

Kennedy Space Center
All this assembly action takes place in the Vehicle Assembly Building, which is where both Saturn V and Space Shuttle were assembled. The Saturn V rocket is the one that got man to the moon, and it all happened here at Kennedy Space Center. You can actually book and watch the rocket launches that take place on site, so keep an eye on dates if you're planning a visit!

SpaceX, Kennedy Space Center
Whilst NASA don't currently have a space program, SpaceX launch their rockets from Cape Canaveral. Owned by Elon Musk, SpaceX has the vision of getting 1 million humans to Mars at some point in the future! (They'll likely achieve it as well.)

Kennedy Space Center
The best (and only) way to see and learn about these various buildings at Kennedy Space Center is to take a bus tour, which drops you off afterwards at the Apollo/Saturn V Center. (This is the only way you can get to the center, too.)

Kennedy Space Center
The basic bus tour is included in the price of your admission, but there's also the option to book more in-depth tours and see more restricted areas of KSC. I'd definitely do one of the extra tours it we go back to Orlando.

Kennedy Space Center
Whilst we did gain some awesome insight and history from our bus tour guide, one thing I'm glad we missed out on was seeing some alligators! They are prevalent around KSC - and one of my biggest terrors - but when we stopped at a creek which had twelve 'gators snoozing there the day before, it was, mercifully, alligator free when we stopped!

Kennedy Space Center
Do take your time to look around the Apollo/Saturn V area before you get a bus back to explore the rest of the visitor complex. Focusing on the Apollo days, it's a fascinating insight into the classic era of spaceflight.

Atlantis, Kennedy Space Center
Once you're back in the main area at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, it's time to find out about the Space Shuttle program and see Atlantis for yourself. Atlantis launched in October 1985 and had its last flight in July 2011, which was also the end of the Space Shuttle program for NASA.

Atlantis, Kennedy Space Center
In this area you'll also have the opportunity to experience a shuttle launch for yourself (the orange version of Mission: SPACE at Epcot is more intense, I thought, but this is still fun to do), take part in simulators, learn about the Hubble Space Telescope and pause to reflect on all those who lost their lives in the name of space. For all the triumphs, there were also many sad, life-taking failures.

Kennedy Space Center
Elsewhere at Kennedy Space Center you've got the Rocket Garden, two IMAX 3D films to watch (both very good!) and a new Heroes and Legends section, which wasn't open when we were there. You can see a full list of attractions here, and I'd highly recommend that if you're in the area that you pay a visit. You can just about squeeze everything in a day if you plan carefully!

Kennedy Space Center
We enjoyed a truly fascinating day at Kennedy Space Center learning all about life beyond Earth. For someone like me who has an awesome imagination (I'd like to think so anyway!), I have no idea how people ever came up with the idea of getting us into space, let alone actually making it happen - but I'm glad they did. Aren't you?

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, SR 405, Titusville, FL 32899
Open daily. Tickets can be bought online here

Writer Wednesday: Colette Kebell

After being a Legal Secretary for about 10 years, Colette was on the hunt to find something else that she would find just as interesting. She found that in writing and she hopes you like what you read. She loves fashion with a passion (pardon the pun) and therefore it is not surprising that her debut novel was going to follow that theme.

Her debut novel was Blue and Green Should Never Be Seen! which was followed by The Retail Therapist, both of these being romantic comedies/chick lit, a genre she adores.

When she’s not in writing mode she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, a task that usually produces good results; as her husband would say, as opposed to “his” experiments which often end in a culinary disaster. She lives in Coastal Kent, UK with two adorable dogs. Oh yes, and hubby too.

1. Why did you want to become a writer? 
Honestly, due to having been made redundant. Not that it wasn’t already something I enjoyed, but other than about 15 years ago (my first attempt that still sits in the cupboard collecting dust), I never really considered it an option until I discovered a fellow indie author’s books and became friends with her on Facebook. After various discussions with her I thought to myself, whilst I was twiddling my thumbs waiting for those all-important interview calls, I might as well have another go at it.

2. What's the toughest part of the writing process for you? 
The toughest part, at least in the past year or so, is actually finding the time to write. With our house having been on the market, then the resulting sale (which took almost 2 ½ years), house hunting each time we thought we had a buyer, looking after the house (regular cleaning due to said house marketing), hubby, dogs and marketing of my current books, along with a myriad of other distractions, I have struggled to get back into it, until recently.

3. What's the most enjoyable part of writing? 
In my household, the most enjoyable part, at least as far as my current two books are concerned, are the conversations that have taken place between myself and my husband. He works from home too, though is glued to his all-important computer each day dealing with IT software that I wouldn’t ever attempt to comprehend. Having said that, in the evenings he read through what I had written and gave me a few pointers or would suggest where the plot might go next, or just plain laugh and joke about how funny my books are. Our house was filled with laughter during that time which seems to have translated to the pages; and I had found a new lease in life.

4. Out of all the amazing books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why?
If you asked me this a few years ago, I probably would have answered the Santagelo series by the late great Jackie Collins or and I have to say, Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series (can’t forget her as it was those that were the deciding factor on which genre I wrote). I was hooked on these for years and have read all but the last one which is still sitting patiently on my TBR pile. In the past year though, the book which touched me most was Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I have yet to see the film, due to currently being stuck in France awaiting the completion of our purchase, but from the accounts of Facebook friends it has been made true to the book, which is a rare occurrence. I would love to have written that book as it has touched so many people’s lives in quite a profound way, as I am sure the film will do the same.

5. If you could only save one of your characters from fictional calamity, which would you pick and why? 
That, I have to say is a tough question as I prefer each character to have found some kind of happiness or growth from their roles in my books. I think, if I wanted to be a bit of a devil about things, I might decide to rescue Jasper Barnes, not that he deserves it you understand, but it would be fun to play around with to get him out of the holes that he digs for himself.

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? 
You probably would expect me to immediately say Becky Bloomwood but you are wrong on that one. Sophie Kinsella may have been somewhat of an inspiration to me when writing but having said that I prefer the strength of character that Lucky Santangelo has, so she would be my ideal literary character to spend a day with. As far as what we would do is concerned, I don’t have a clue. In any one day Lucky’s life took her through fashion, finance, dealing with The Mob, worrying about family and a myriad of other things. Anything that came her way I would be more than happy to ride alongside and hopefully find out how things pan out.

7. What can we expect next from you? 
I have a few irons in the fire at this point and one or more of them may well have come to fruition by the time this interview is posted. I have three further chick lits under way, one of course being the sequel to Blue and Green Should Never Be Seen! (Or so Mother Says), another which is set in New York about a lawyer who is laid off, and the third is under wraps currently due to the title I have given it. Please don’t expect me to let too many cats out of the bag at this stage but they will follow my style of writing and therefore, hopefully will be as enjoyable as my first two.

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 think, other than the vast learning curve I had to take to learn how to self-publish, I would have loved someone to tell me just how important book bloggers are to authors! I knew that they needed to play a part when I set out and so enlisted the help of three to provide my first three reviews for each book. I then asked each of them if they would be OK with my placing an excerpt from their reviews on the back cover of each of my paperbacks. This they readily agreed to and I thank each one of them immensely for that. So, despite the hours of research I undertook following deciding to write, I still have plenty to learn, even now. I shall in future though, as much as I possibly can, enlist the assistance of as many bloggers as I can, hence this interview I guess, as they help every author they come across to reach a wider audience. I am so grateful for every approach that has come my way, despite it taking time away from writing books, as if nothing else you know that one or more people might be interested enough to buy your books as a result and the more that are bought and enjoyed the more satisfaction you feel from knowing that your hard work isn’t going unnoticed. Not only that but to put it bluntly your blood, sweat and tears though in my case mostly laughter, hasn’t gone to waste and you have brought, at least, a smile to someone’s face.

9. Tell us what a typical writing day involves for you. 
Due to all that I have mentioned above, I don’t, at least these days, have a typical writing day. I did when writing the first two and that entailed starting the day with my dogs. They come first in my household (next to hubby of course) as they are my babies. So, every morning I put the kettle on to make my tea and whilst doing that I prepare their breakfast. That of course is a task as my two little beauties are rather spoilt. They have their mixer but I rotate between roast chicken, chicken livers, pork mince and as I am currently in France beef offcuts. I don’t give them any fat though as I want them to remain healthy for as long as possible. This they have a bit of with their mixer biscuits, as I don’t much like tinned dog food. Some days they even have green beans, carrots, courgette or some other veg as well. Whilst drinking my first cup of tea I catch up on the news on my Daily Mail Iphone App. Then comes the second cup of tea and usually by that time I’m up and running. I check in on Facebook etc, check through my emails and open my document relating to the next book. I re-read the last couple of chapters just to remind myself of where I am up to in the story and off I go. I’m not one of these people who plans at the outset where the story is going to lead and just follow my urges.

10. Finally, what are you reading at the moment? 
If I had started this yesterday, I would have said I have stepped away from my favourite chick lit genre and had been reading Vengeance Wears Black by Seumas Gallacher. I was fortunate enough to win a signed copy and so needed to give it a go. It was a page turner and quite exciting and fast flowing so I was glad I did. Today, however, I returned to my genre and started You and Me, Always by Jill Mansell. This is another signed copy so I’m having to be careful as for this one I attended the book launch and was fortunate enough to meet Jill in person. Having said that, by the time this is posted, I shall be reading something else so next on my TBR are two books, one I am very much looking forward to though shall be saddened when I finish it is, The Santangelos. The other, which will be a first from this author, is The Debt and the Doormat by Laura Barnard. I’m not a prolific reader as that is one thing that I am slow at, but I am never without a few books to choose from, nor am I without one to start when I’ve finished one, due to hating the withdrawal symptoms…


Window shopping! Don’t you just hate the term?

It is like going into a sweet shop and not being able to buy anything, or not knowing what to buy first. That is exactly my line of business, helping people make the right choice.

I’m one of those fashion consultants that are so popular nowadays amongst the upper crust, although I started ages ago. Choosing the right clothes for the right occasion is not an easy task: the dress has to match your personality and, if it can, enhance it.

This story is about how I abandoned the rat race, spending days in a legal office, and followed my dream of becoming a fashion consultant. I believe I’m something more though, I’m a Retail Therapist and I’m sure you are itching to know the story about how I started and how I helped my clients look fabulous! So, what are you waiting for? Hurry up, click that “buy” button up there and be prepared to enter the mysterious world of a Berkshire Retail Therapist girl.

Follow Colette on Twitter | Buy The Retail Therapist on Amazon |
Like her on Facebook | Visit her website

Florida: Universal Orlando

With Walt Disney World out of the way, it's time to tell you about Universal Orlando! Comprising of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, Universal Orlando is much closer to downtown Orlando than Walt Disney World, and the parks are a little more intense! (There's also CityWalk which has restaurants and shops, plus water parks and hotels.) Parking costs $20 for cars if you're driving there.

Universal Orlando, Florida
We bought a 2-Park Bonus ticket back in the UK for £171 each, which was valid for 14 days from the first time we used it. This worked out about £20 cheaper than buying a two-day ticket, even though we did only visit twice. The bonus ticket also meant that we could take the Hogwarts Express between the two parks, which was a must for me as a Harry Potter fan. Make sure you ride it in both directions for two different experiences!

The Blues Brothers, Universal Studios, Florida
There are plenty of rides and shows at Universal Studios to keep you busy, including E.T. Adventure and Revenge of the Mummy. E.T. Adventure is seriously cute and old-school, whilst Revenge of the Mummy is a fun, dark roller coaster ride. Try and catch The Blues Brothers, too, though you can probably skip Universal's Superstar Parade unless you really want to wave at SpongeBob SquarePants.

Despicable Me, Universal Studios Parade, FloridaSpongebob Sparepants, Universal Studios Parade, Florida
Whilst I loved the idea of Krustyland, The Simpsons Ride (a simulator ride) made me feel a little queasy. I was also a little meh when it came to the food in that bit of the park, even though I was so excited to eat there - who wouldn't want to eat at Krusty Burger or grab a drink from Moe's Tavern? The queuing system was painful and the food was just OK. I definitely found the food tastier at Disney World.

Krustyland, Universal Studios, FloridaKrustyland, Universal Studios, Florida
One ride that's not a simulator at Universal Studios is Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, which is a BEAST of a ride. Going up on your back for 17 storeys listening to the song you chose - Gimme All Your Lovin' by ZZ Top for me - you are then flung down the track. It's pretty intense. I was shaking when I got off it, which I've never reacted that way to a rollercoaster, and I may not have had my eyes open the entire time!

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Universal Studios, FloridaThe Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios, Florida
The big pull of Universal Studios is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley. Though there's only one ride there - Escape from Gringotts, which was my favourite Harry Potter ride - Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley are cool to look around. On big rides like Escape from Gringotts you're not allowed to take your bags on the ride, but there are free lockers where you can leave your things.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios, Florida
At Diagon Alley we had some butterbeer, naturally, and tried both the normal and frozen variety. (A butterbeer cost a bit more than a bottle of water did. Food and drink is pretty pricey.) Normal is more flavoursome, though the frozen variety was more refreshing on that hot Florida day.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Hogwarts Express, Universal Florida
Once you've sufficiently explored, catch the Hogwarts Express to Island of Adventure. You'll emerge in Hogsmeade where there are three Harry Potter rides - Flight of the Hippogriff, Dragon Challenge and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a cool rollercoaster/simulator hybrid but, personally, I think Escape from Gringotts has the edge on it. Olly thought the opposite!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Island of Adventure
As well as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade, you'll find Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, The Lost Continent, Seuss Landing, Skull Island and Jurassic Park at Island of Adventure. Two of my favourite rides were both in Toon Lagoon: Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls and Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges. You're going to get VERY soaked on both!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Island of Adventure
I'm sad that we didn't get to go on The Incredible Hulk Coaster - it was closed due to repairs and also inclement weather whenever we were on Marvel Super Hero Island - though The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is awesome. Seuss Landing is also super cute, and perfect for little ones.

Seuss Landing, Island of Adventure
Universal Orlando is very different to Walt Disney World, but different is good. The rides are more intense, more grown-up, and we had such a great time. Like with Disney World, download the app to keep an eye on queue times to maximise ride time. We found Skull Island: Reign of Kong to have the longest queue time (around 45 minutes in the morning; the app showed it at around 90 minutes later in the day), but you do seem to be constantly moving in it. Have fun! x

Writer Wednesday: Claire Morley

Claire Morley lives in North Cyprus with her dog, cat and partner, Steve.

In her previous life she has been a marketer, a journalist and a wedding planner.

Tindog Tacloban is her first novel and was inspired by a trip to the Philippines as a volunteer to help after the devastating typhoon known locally as Yolanda hit Tacloban on 8 November, 2013. Sales from this book will go to benefit charities working to stop human trafficking and helping in disaster areas.

1. Why did you want to become a writer?
I have always loved words and have worked as a journalist here in Cyprus, however the idea of writing a book came from my volunteering trip when I helped in the Philippines after typhoon Haiyan (locally know as Yolanda) devastated Tacloban. Initially I was thinking of writing a non-fiction book or a series of articles and it was my partner who suggested I write a novel. I had interviewed a lot of people, survivors, volunteers, aid workers and felt there was a story to tell about the long lasting effects of a natural disaster and I wanted people to be made aware of how the vulnerable, particularly children, can be drawn into human trafficking by unscrupulous people.

2. What's the toughest part of the writing process for you?
The discipline! I really enjoyed researching how typhoons worked, what the real situation is regarding Webcam Sex Tourism, how aid organisations work, however, the discipline of writing every day was a tough one for me. I set myself a daily word limit and sometimes I struggled to reach it and wrote total rubbish, but I knew if I let one day go by without writing, others would slip past and before I know it a month would go by without writing a word. So the discipline was really important, but really difficult to keep to.

3. What's the most enjoyable part of writing?
Seeing the story progress, working out how to get from one part of the story to another. I had a rough idea of how the story would go, but there were times I couldn’t work out how to get there. Living in a hot climate, I swim every day in the summer months, and I would use that time to think through how to link things, it was such a great feeling when I could see how the next phase could work.

4. Out of all the amazing books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why?
That’s a really tough one. I guess it would have to be something like The Zahir by Paulo Coelho, it’s a book that made me question things and I would love to be able to write something which makes people sit back and think about their life, their priorities and what’s really important.

5. If you could only save one of your characters from fictional calamity, which would you pick and why?
Helen, I put a lot of myself into the character of Helen, so I would have to save her.

6. What can we expect next from you?
Not another book, for now at least! However, I am now working with other authors who don’t have the time or don’t have the knowledge on how to self-publish and promote their work. After the process of writing, self-publishing and promoting by own book to best seller in its categories, I thought about how I could use that knowledge and set up My ePublish Book to help others achieve their publishing goals.

7. 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 did a huge amount of research before embarking on writing Tindog Tacloban, not only regarding the subject matter, but also the process of writing, I would advise every writing to ensure they have a really good proof reader and editor. There is nothing worse than bad grammar or loose ends in a book and you really need someone objective to be able to see that.

8. Tell us what a typical writing day involves for you.
I can’t really say I had a typical writing day, it was more a goal of words which some days I could manage first thing and other days would put off until I had to force myself to sit at my computer and put words on the page.

9. Finally, what are you reading at the moment?
At the moment I am reading books about how to market non-fiction as most of my current clients are non-fiction authors and the process of promoting them is very different to fiction.


In the aftermath of the fiercest typhoon on record to hit land, banners bearing the words Tindog Tacloban started to appear all over the city. Meaning Rise Up Tacloban, they were a testament to the determination and resilience of the Filipino people as they tried to rebuild their shattered lives.

For many, things would never be the same: Izel Sombilon watched in horror as two of his children were ripped from his arms and swept away by the huge storm waves.

Eleven year old Lika Faye was plunged into the sordid underworld of Webcam Child Sex Tourism.

For Helen Gable volunteering in the typhoon ravaged area was a chance for her to come to terms with her own personal tragedy.

Follow Claire on Twitter | Buy Tindog Tacloban on Amazon |
Like her on Facebook | Visit her website

The month that was: October 2016

What happened:
Not much! We flew home from Florida on the 1st, and spent the first week or so getting back into a routine. At the weekends we've been to Kent to visit Olly's family, and to Yorkshire to visit mine. We've caught up with friends... and that's about it!

Autumn day Nostell Priory, YorkshireHalloween pumpkin carving
We did go to the Halloween events at Midnight Apothecary and Barrio Brixton after dinner at a friend's house - that's the first time we've been back to Brixton since we moved from there earlier this year, though I probably should go back more since book 6 is set there!

What I ate:
I cooked quite a lot of simple Mexican food for dinner this month: this Mexican chicken stew dish is ideal for an after-work dinner, as are these smoky pork and black bean tacos. Oh, and Jamie's chicken fajitas, too. (I have my own salsa recipe that I like to use.) If you have any easy Mexican recipes, do share!

What I watched:
We finished watching GBBO, and watched Stranger Things. I love Dustin! I also binge watched the first season of Gossip Girl, and some of the second season (I've watched season one before and some of season two, but not the rest of them).

Films watched: Hocus Pocus, Daddy's Home, Bad Boys, The 5th Wave, Sisters and The Danish Girl. At the cinema I watched Bridget Jones's Baby, which was a delight. Renee Zellweger is always *perfect* as Bridget.

What I read:
In October I read 23 books and abandoned reading 18 books. I have so many unread books on my Kindle that I've decided to be quite ruthless - if the book hasn't piqued my interest in the first few chapters, I'm not finishing it. (Sorry!)

My favourite reads of the month were Twisted Palace by Erin Watt, All About the Hype by Paige Toon, Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Abducted by T.R. Ragan and A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas.

How was your month? x


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