Back to Manchester @ChorltonBF

789d2f_cc6d2af0db1f4c12b1409c7ec943895f~mv2I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be appearing at the fantastic Chorlton Book Festival, on Wednesday 22nd November 2017 7:00pm – 9:00pm

Being in Manchester, I’ll be talking about Skin Deep – about Hulme and art, and beauty and exploitation, and all things bookish. The event is at Chorlton Library, Manchester Rd, Manchester M21 9PN and it’s free to attend. I’m excited to be returning to Manchester – a city I know and love – and hope that some of you can come along.

To book: 0161 227 3700 or visit the website here: https://www.chorltonbookfestival.co.uk/calender

Skin Deep Poster

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Readers, I thank you

Recently I was invited to a book club gathering. The group read was Skin Deep and they were keen to meet with me and ask questions. It’s always nerve-wracking meeting readers even though I have had mostly good experiences and I enjoy it. After a wobble, I accepted the kind invitation.

On arrival in a fluster – late, I lost my way – and anxious I was told that the group (of 12) had eight senior medics and was given a quick run-through of the books they’d considered excellent of late. There were a lot of Booker prize listed novels, most were literary. My stomach knotted tighter. Three (I recall) of the medics were high ranking paediatricians. Jeepers, neither I nor my book are clever enough for this lot, I thought.

An excellent dinner was supplied by the host – lovely Sue – which we ate and made polite conversation. They were a lively and engaging bunch. And then, it time to talk about Skin Deep

I introduced the book, my influences and the journey. As one might expect, the first question concerned Cal’s medical condition. I explained it was fictional, deliberately non-specific, and I had known from the outset with absolute certainty that it would not be based on an actual condition; I would pick and mix from a number of sources. And I spoke about why this felt important: I would not want any individual – or relative, or friend of a person with a deformity – to think that they ‘were’ Cal; that they were ‘ugly’. We spoke of parental consent, abuse, exploitation, unconditional love, the visual world we live in and whether or not we can escape the pressures of this.

And then various members of group spoke of the characters, the details they’d enjoyed or admired, plot points and authorial choices, and I was blown away by what close, attentive readers they were. They talked about things I’d forgotten about! As I drove home I felt honoured they’d given so much to my book and I reminded myself that it is an honour when someone chooses to read your work, invests hours in this world in which there are a great many others demands on our time.

So, this is me, saying a huge THANK YOU to readers – those of the Westdene Book Club and others out there in the big wide world. You are why we authors do what we do.

 

The Cornish Hotel by the Sea by Karen KIng. Extract.

I’m delighted to introduce readers to author Karen King today. Karen’s work is new to me and her delightful romance set in gorgeous Cornwall, The Cornish Hotel by the Sea, is the first of her novels I’ve read – it won’t be the last. A charming sweet romance it’s perfect for lazy days on the beach. Here’s an exclusive extract with information about Karen and the novel following. Enjoy!

The Cornish Hotel by the Sea

“Excuse me.”

The man’s voice made her jolt. Ellie tore her eyes away from the figures on the computer screen and looked up, straight into a pair of deep grey eyes set in a ruggedly handsome face topped by chocolate-brown hair. Very nice. It took her a few seconds to realise that it was Merc Guy, now wearing a black tee shirt and jeans, and to notice the angry set of his jaw and the frown lines in the middle of his thick eyebrows. He was staying here then. Great.  An unhappy customer was all she needed.   She just hoped he didn’t recognise her from this afternoon when he was blasting his horn at her. Thank goodness she’d been wearing sunglasses.

She fixed a pleasant smile on her face. “Can I help you?”

“The shower isn’t working in my room and I have an important business meeting in less than an hour,” he informed her curtly. “So will you either arrange for it to be fixed immediately or provide me with the use of a shower in another room?”

Great. Problems already.

“Did you hear what I said? I haven’t time to waste. I have an important meeting to go to.”

The man’s abrupt tone annoyed her but she kept calm. “Of course, Mr…er…” she glanced at the hotel register for the man`s name.

“Mitchell.” He supplied. “Reece Mitchell. I arrived earlier today. And I’m in a hurry.”

Yes, I got that. A quick glance at the register told her that Reece Mitchell was in Room 12. Luckily the room next to him was empty and there was a connecting door between the rooms. Problem solved.

“I do apologise, Mr Mitchell. I’ll get it sorted for you today. Meanwhile, please use the shower in the room next to you. It’s vacant at the moment and you can access it through a connecting door.” She reached for the key and handed it to him. “I’m very sorry for the inconvenience. Would you mind popping the key back on your way out?”

He didn’t look too pleased. “Well, I guess it will have to do. I must say this hotel isn’t what I’d expected. I’m surprised you do any business at all.” He almost snatched the key out of her hand.

She swallowed the angry retort that sprung to her mouth reminding herself of Mum’s mantra that the customer was always right. And if they weren’t you didn’t tell them so. She watched, fuming, as Reece Mitchell stormed off.

What an arrogant man!  

Author Bio.

 A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, Karen King writes sassy, fun, heart-warming romance. The Cornish Hotel by the Sea is her second chicklit for Accent Press, her first – I do?… or do I? was published last year and there is another one in the process of publication. In addition, Accent Press have republished her earlier romance novels, The Millionaire Plan and Never Say Forever.

Karen has also written several short stories for women’s magazine and had 120 children’s books published.

When she isn’t writing, Karen likes travelling, watching the ‘soaps’ and reading. Give her a good book and a box of chocolates and she thinks she’s in Heaven.

Author links

Website: http://www.karenking.net/

Twitter: @karen_king

Karen King Romance Author Facebook Page

Karen King Young Adult Books Facebook Page

Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/karenkingauthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karenkingauthor/?hl=en

Blurb

The Cornish Hotel by the Sea: Escape to Cornwall with this perfect summer read

“A feel-good summer escape.” Mandy Baggot

Ellie Truman’s widowed mum is struggling to keep Gwel Teg, the family hotel in Cornwall, afloat.  Ellie is determined to do everything in her power to help her, even if that means moving back to the sleepy Cornish village she fled from broken-hearted a few years ago.
Things go wrong from the start and she’s grateful for the help from hunky guest, Reece Mitchell. But does Reece have ulterior motives? Will Ellie’s efforts be for nothing?

Buy Links

Amazon

Waterstones

W.H.Smiths

Thank you for hosting me!

Thanks for coming over! Do follow the rest of the tour. Dates here.

It’s What’s Inside That Counts: Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

Clichés? Certainly. True? Certainly. Except we do judge books by their covers, don’t we? And we judge people too.

My new novel, Skin Deep, is published in June by Accent Press and addresses the sticky issue of outward appearance versus inner reality – amongst other things. But today I’m talking about the cover – because a brand new one is unveiled today and I couldn’t be happier. The team at Accent have done a fabulous job at capturing the tone of the book and as we all know getting covers spot on is hard. Very hard. But this is perfect. I LOVE it, and I hope you do too. Can you tell how excited I am about this new novel?!

So here it is – the Skin Deep jacket. And the blurb and a link should you wish to pre-order.

It’s what’s inside that counts…

Former model and art student Diana has always been admired for her beauty but what use are good looks when you want to shine for your talent? Insecure and desperate for inspiration, Diana needs a muse.

Facially disfigured four-year-old Cal lives a life largely hidden from the world. But he was born to be looked at and he needs love too. A chance encounter changes everything; Cal becomes Diana’s muse. But as Diana’s reputation develops and Cal grows up, their relationship implodes.

Both struggle to be accepted for what lies within.
Is it possible to find acceptance in a society where what’s on the outside counts for so much?

PRE-ORDER LINK

Laura x

The Unbeatable Bard: A Review of Beth Miller’s For The Love of Shakespeare

My copy of Beth's brilliant book with fave bits post-it-ed!

My copy of Beth’s brilliant book with fave bits post-it-ed!

Prior to writing for a living, I was a professional actress so when the opportunity arose to review Beth Miller’s companion guide to the world’s most famous dramatist there was no way I was going to refuse. I adore Shakespeare, though I never did get to play one of his characters. I performed in many of his contemporaries’ works but not the great man’s. Pisht!

Like the book’s author, it wasn’t always thus. I loathed the bard at school. Along with my classmates I stared baffled and bored at a battered copy of the Dream. I fell in love during a performance of the Scottish play at Theatre Clwyd. It was the appearance of the witches that did it – mesmerising performances from the three actresses. If you’re tiring of my waffling, please do bear with. I share because Beth Miller opens her book with her ‘switched on’ moment, also during a performance: a charming, and funny, anecdote from her teenage years and it sets the tone for the book perfectly.

If you’re a fan already you’ll love this book and if you’re not it could persuade you to give old Shakie a bash. It’s wonderful.

For The Love of Shakespeare is not designed to be read cover to cover – though I did, ‘cos I’m geeky – but to be dipped in as and when. Nor is it designed for the super-serious scholar. Right up my alley then.

The first 50-odd pages are rammed with background information – gems on the man himself, the times, his world. Did you know George Bernard Shaw wasn’t a fan and would have liked to dig Will up and throw stones at him? Me neither.

After the introduction Miller divides the guide into three main sections: the Comedies, the Histories and the Tragedies; with shorter chapters on the bard’s poetry, the apocryphal plays (those whose authorship is in dispute) and his legacy.

The plot of each play is explained in conversational English, followed with the plot in a nutshell – a phrase invented by Shakespeare along with a zillion others we use today, many of which Miller shares. These nutshell plots are often hilarious. Of Antony and Cleopatra Miller writes: ‘Antony learns the hard way that mixing business with pleasure is a bad idea.’ And of Macbeth: McGame of Thrones meets The Apprentice, with knives. Plot summaries are followed by other notable characters and a body count. There are ‘Did You Know?’ sections and quotable lines, and peppered throughout are interviews with people closely associated with Shakespeare today (actors, directors, academics and the like) which are also utterly delightful.

Not only is the information that Miller has lovingly and painstakingly researched fascinating, she delivers her material in such a warm and witty style whether you’re a Will fan or not it’s an entertaining read. Perfect for a quick overview for not-too-keen young students – I’ll certainly encourage my son to read Miller’s thoughts on the plays he’s studying (Romeo & Juliet, another of my favourites, A Midsummer Night’s Dream – definitely not one of my favourites, and Macbeth. Love) – and for someone who’s perhaps being dragged to the theatre reluctantly. And for those already smitten there’s plenty of fresh material.

A witty, informed guide infused with love and a healthy dash of irreverence. Fab-u-lous.

My thanks to the publisher, Summersdale and TBC (Facebook Group); I was given a book in return for an honest review.

Good times, bad times, good memories, good lessons

This post’s title paraphrases an anonymous quote: Good times become good memories and bad times become good lessons

Across the media there’s been much talk of the terrible events of 2016 – and the terribleness of some depends upon which way you voted, though it’s fair to say most people I know, myself included, were crushed by the June result here and the November one across the pond.

Today as I dragged out my new diary – sniffed it, enjoyed the crisp, as yet unsullied pages – and transferred important information across (like all those passwords we’re not supposed to write down!) my Facebook timeline was dotted with posts celebrating Good Things of the past twelve months.

Traditionally, I have penned a review of my year here but had not felt inclined to do so for 2016 till now. The positivity on social media reminded me that I, too, have had as many good moments as difficult, if not more, and in the spirit of #lovenothate #beattheblues #hopenothate here’s my list:

Giinger2's fabulous locks

Giinger2’s fabulous locks

Ginger1 turned 18 and what a fine young man he is. Some might say my job is done, though I can’t agree. Parenting is for life.

Ginger2 turned 13 and he is shaping up nicely. And growing the finest head of hair I can think of.

I published my third novel – thanks are due to my publisher Accent Press and to all the book shops, bloggers, readers and fellow authors who supported it along its way. Bless you all.

I wrote a radio play after attending a script writing course led by Sue Teddern. It was brilliant to take on a fresh challenge and make new friends along the way. Whether or not the play is ever produced doesn’t matter (much!); the process was priceless.

I began a new novel – abandoned it and began again. Another lesson and reminder that no matter where you are in the journey there’s always something new to be learnt or discovered.Redemption Song Final

A conference I helped to organise and run – The Beach Hut Writing Academy’s From Inspiration to Publication – was a sell-out success. So much so that we’re running another in 2017.

I took part in a number of fantastic literary events – including City Reads, part of the Brighton Festival.

I was a writer-in-residence for Little Green Pig’s pop-up gallery in the summer and subsequently have been running workshops for the organisation which offers creative writing and storytelling workshops to children and young people in Brighton & Hove. A fabulous charity.

2016-08-30-09-20-40The BigFella and I made it through another year together – that’s 25 in total since we first met – and we love each other as much, perhaps more, than we ever have.

We enjoyed a great holiday in Cornwall with my lovely sister-in-law in August.

My parents are healthy and living well at a time when so many friends are facing/have faced the loss of theirs.

I witnessed friends fall in love, marry, have children, be published for the first time.

There is more love and hope in the world than hate and despair. The bad shit is given so much more air time because it is rare – at least here. We are truly blessed. Winners of the lottery of life.

Be thankful, be content. Know that every small act of compassion and kindness is meaningful. As my lovely grandma used to say: From small acorns…

Happy New Year!

 

2016: Brilliant books, according to me

In common with many people, 2016 has been a tricky and often difficult year for me but the pleasure and stimulation (intellectual, emotional and creative) I receive from reading has remained constant. Thank goodness for books. Beautiful books.

Since I began this blog in 2010 it has become customary to share my favourite reads as the year draws to its close. They are not necessarily works first published in the year; they are not necessarily prize winners (though sometimes they are) and they come from a wide range of genres. I’m an eclectic reader and it’s a very personal list. The following impressed me enormously. In no particular order:

Fiction

Bashed up proof copy. BigFella read & also loved. And dropped it in the bath.This Must Be The Place, Maggie O’Farrell

A huge canvas; an intimate and expansive examination of a marriage.  Quite simply genius.

 

Animals, Emma Jane Unsworthimg_2608

A tale of two not-quite-ready-to-be-grown-up 30somethings, this book made me laugh and cry in recognition. Unsworth writes with enormous wit and compassion, and an uncanny ability to cut to the heart of female friendship. Brilliant.

img_2614The Versions of Us, Laura Barnett

With its satisfyingly complex structure this novel explores three possible outcomes of the lives of two Cambridge undergraduates who meet – or not – in the 1950s. Spanning 50 years, it is involving, rich and clever.

 

We Go Around in the Night and Are Consumed by Fire, Jules Grantimg_2609

One of the reasons I love this novel is because it vividly portrays a world I hitherto knew little about: the female criminal gangs of contemporary Manchester. The voices of gang leader, Donna, and her lover’s daughter Ror, are raw and, surprisingly, poetic. Stunning.

img_2615Summertime, Vanessa Lafaye

A historical love story centred around a true event, a hurricane, in 1930s Florida. The veterans’ tale is a shocking and shameful blemish on American history, brought vividly and compassionately to life. Thrilling and sad.

 

Stargazing, Kate Glanvilleimg_2616

A warm and touching family drama exploring serious issues like family breakup, domestic abuse and falling for the right person. Moving.

img_2612Sandlands, Rosy Thorton

A collection of sixteen diverse tales set in and around one coastal village in Suffolk.  Poignant, unsettling and often extremely funny. Magical.

 

 

Wake, Anna Hopeimg_2613

There are many books covering the Great War but few are as powerful and memorable as this one. Pegged to the search for the Unknown Soldier Wake covers three women’s stories.  Unforgettable.

51d7b-eedl-_sx318_bo1204203200_Where Love Lies, Julie Cohen

This has all the fabulous Cohen trademarks: warmth, insight, tenderness, and it really stands out. It was shamefully overlooked on its release in my humble opinion. I suspect this is because the hook is impossible to talk about without spoilers. Suffice to say: read it. It’s wonderful. Poignant and tender.

 

Non-fiction

The Outrun, Amy Liptrotimg_2606

A searing, honest, unsentimental account of one woman’s recovery from alcoholism and the transformative power of nature and home. I want to visit remote Scottish islands (despite the brutal weather) after reading this book. Outstanding.

img_2611Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit

Solnit’s history of activism and social change over the past 50 years (first published in 2005 – revised and updated in 2016) is as important now as it ever was. A case for hope, arguably we need it now more than ever.

 

There we have it. Now it only remains for me to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Let’s hope 2017 is a good one.

Laura x