Tag Archive | keris stainton

#ROW80 Check-in and Win Books!

Yes, you read that right, win books. Yesterday I celebrated my 555th blog, with a competition to win 3 books – The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell, Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay and Emma Heart LA by Keris Stainton. The competition is still open if you want to win – just click here.

Now on with the bad bit, the check-in.

It’s gone all bad again. Well, this week is bad. This week is almost terrible. Until today I had only written 50% of days. Granted there’s only been 2, but it feels bad. To be honest, I’m really stressed at work, so don’t feel too bad taking some time off. However, as I always have some kind of excuse, I probably should.

My ROW buddy Laura and I decided at the weekend to kick ourselves back into action by seeing who could write the most each day. We’re checking in at 9pm each day. So far, we stand at:

  Helen  Laura
Saturday 0 707
Sunday 350+ 500+
Monday 0 375
Tuesday 296 300+

Well, we can see who this is working for, and it’s not me. It’s great having someone to kick my ass, even if it’s not working. At least it makes me think about writing, which I wouldn’t do without her. Thanks Laura. The new round starts in a couple of weeks, I think it’s going to be our round. I think we’re both going to smash it!

Nothing else is going particularly well either.
I did my Just Dance thing on the Wii on Sunday, but haven’t done any other exercise. I am back in the habit of 20 mins walk to and 20 mins walk from work, so that’s good. I just need to push it that extra and go to the gym, or running, or more Just Dance. Just remembered I got off the tube a stop early today, so had an extra 12 minutes walking, that’s good (even if the reason was delays rather than exercise!)

Not doing great blogging either. I’ve got a great excuse though. I decided last week to celebrate my 555th blog, but I’d just posted my 554th. That meant until I did my celebration 555 blog, I couldn’t do any others. And I dragged my feet arranging it. I’ll try harder.

I’m not going to bed early, I’m not doing my daily exercises, I’m not dieting very well (today might go ok, except I’ll probably drink half a bottle of wine – not so good, but needed, see above re work!).

This time last round I gave up. I’d done so badly running up to it, that I just couldn’t be bothered with the last week. Writing this, the thought went through my mind again, but this time, I’m stronger. I’ve not been doing well, but without ROW80 (and Laura), I bet I’d be doing worse. One week to go, lets see if I can make it count!

555 Blog Competition

This is my 555th blog.
555.
I started blogging just over 3 years ago, which means, on average, 14 blogs a month (on average, sometimes there must have been more, because sometimes there’s been a whole lot less!). That’s quite a lot. Certainly worth celebrating anyway.
A few months ago, WordPress changed. When you posted a blog, it started telling you how many you’d posted. And it started giving you goals. Rubbish goals to the next 5 above where you were (500, 505, 510 etc). I hated it. How dare WordPress tell me what MY goals were? I had my own goals.
That’s when I made a decision. I was going to get myself a massive blog goal. A really good one. 555. That was going to be it, I love repetitive numbers.
And to celebrate hitting it, a competition.
One of my favourite things to do is read, which I think is something I share with lots of the readers of this blog. It’s obvious then isn’t it, what the competition is to win. BOOKS!
It was really easy to decide which books to give away as well – ones by my favourite authors. Yes, ONES, I’m giving away more than one. More than two in fact. I’m giving away three.
Two of my favourite current books are The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell and Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay. So those two. Then another of my favourite authors – Keris Stainton – has just brought out a book, Emma Heart LA. I’ve not read it, but if it’s anything like the last two, it’s going to be great. Three. Easy! Three books, one winner.


So, fancy winning 3 books? I’m not going to make it hard, just leave a ‘pick me’ comment (leaving your email address, for my eyes only), by midnight (BST – London time) on Friday 22nd June. After that, my independent adjudicator (boyfriend) will pick a name out of a hat (or more likely a bowl, or mug, or maybe, to make it special, a champagne glass). I know a lot of people are non-UK based, so the competition is open internationally. For an extra entry, tweet about the competition – remember to let me know you’ve done it though and your twitter name if it’s not the same as your name here, either on here or directly on twitter (@new2writinggirl).
Good luck everyone.

A to Z Reading Challenge 2011

Ok, so I’m a little late doing this, sorry, but better late than never eh!

In late 2010, I heard some people talking about reading novels from A to Z. I thought, what a brilliant idea, and decided to set myself a challenge of doing exactly that in 2011. As I was writing a blog about it, it occurred to me that other people may have the same idea. I googled A to Z Challenge and found this site – A to Z Challenge I didn’t have to start one all by myself!

I started with no plan at all, except to read the A to Z (author surname) in order, and stick pretty much to just those 26 books. In 2010 I’d read about 24 books, so knew I wasn’t going to be able to read many more than the 26.

Of course as time went by and I made my way through the challenge, I found there were other books I really wanted to read that either were a letter way further down the line, or that had a letter I’d already read, or already planned what I was going to read for it. I let myself read a couple of other novels – but only if I REALLY wanted to needed to.

I did cheat a little. Kinna. I didn’t actually finish 26 novels. There were 3 letters that for different reasons I didn’t finish the novel.

Letter L was Girl with a One Track Mind by Abby Lee, I started it and was enjoying it, but it was all about sex, when this girl had it, where she had it and how much she thought about it. Nothing really wrong with that, but I do most of my reading on the tube, I felt embarrassed reading it on the tube, so picked up M, and told myself I’d read L at home. I never got round to it.

Letter O was a really good book – The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell. I got it from the library (a god send, I couldn’t have afforded 26 books in 1 year on top of the ‘really want ones’), and took it to Sweden when I went. I’m not sure if it was on the flight, at the hotel, or our friends’ house, but somewhere I lost it. Typical. I ended up having to pay it in the end anyway. I’d gone on to P while I was away, and just never got the opportunity to go back to it. At some point, I would like to buy it, or borrow it and finish reading it.

Letter Z was a hard one, which I started before a few other letters. I unexpectedly finished the novel I was reading on a Sunday and didn’t have a chance to go and get the next letter. Boyfriend came to the rescue and gave me a Z – Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny. It was sci-fi which isn’t my choice, but I’d borrowed a couple off him in the years previously which I quite enjoyed. Lord of Light was not another one though. I just couldn’t get into, or really understand it. I gave it 50 or so pages, but couldn’t go on. When I gave it back to boyfriend, he said he’d had a hard job getting into it. Sigh.

So, I didn’t make 26 novels, but I started them all. In my book I finished it – yay!

Also, I didn’t review all, or add any of my review to the site, but to be honest, I didn’t find the website too easy to navigate, and lets face it, all I need is a little excuse and I won’t do something. I guess technically if I didn’t check-in, I didn’t really do it. In my mind I did though!

I’m really glad I did the challenge, I read a lot of authors that I’d never had done otherwise, and you know me, I love a challenge. But, I’d never do it again. I found it WAY too constrictive, and because I knew I couldn’t really read many other books, I felt guilty when reading one that wouldn’t go towards the challenge. There were times when I just HAD to read other books – like The Ugly Sister by Jane Fallon and Faking It by Lotte Daley – and there were many, many more times when I wanted to read another book, but just couldn’t. There were also quite a few letters where I was so torn over which novel to read. M was a good example, I had about 3 books with the letter M on my TBR shelf at home. So what did I do? I went out and bought another. Typical! It was New Moon (Twilight) by Stephanie Meyer.

I discovered some brilliant authors because of the challenge though – Jeff Abbott, Allison Brennan, Ilana Fox Rob Ryan, Nancy Taylor Rosenburg and Minette Walters. Weird – most of the new good authors write thrillers… what does that tell me? I say I prefer women’s lit (chick-lit), but it’s a close call. I did discover new chick-lit authors, but when I discovered them, I read them out of sequence and out of the challenge because I just HAD to read them there and then (Ali McNamara and Lotte Daley)

I know all the books are listed on my ‘Books’ page, but here’s a list of them – from A to Z. Just for fun, I’m putting a comment and rating out of 5 after each one – not something I usually do. The ones which I have reviewed have the links to the actual review.

A Kiss Gone Bad by Jeff Abbott – brilliant. Can’t wait to read the other ones in the series – 4.5/5

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern – Prefered her earlier stuff, but still pretty good – 4/5 (I couldn’t choose between the As, so read them both)

Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay – Loved it, love his work – 5/5

Fear No Evil by Allison Brennan – So happy I discovered her. Can’t wait to read the rest of the series 4.5/5 (ditto the comment re A for B)

The Famous Writer’s School by Stephen Carter – Not what I imagined. 2.5/5

Ex-Girlfiends United by Matt Dunn – Little slow 2.5/5

Past Mortem by Ben Elton – Good, he’s done better, but still good – 4/5

Spotlight by Ilana Fox – Didn’t expect to, but loved it 4.5/5

The Love Verb by Jane Green – As usual loved it – 4.5/5

This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes – Slow 2/5

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro – Couldn’t get over the cultural difference – 2/5

The Truth About Melody Browne by Lisa Jewell – Once got into it, really enjoyed – 4/5

The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson – Loved every second – 4.5/5

Girl with a One Track Mind by Abby Lee – what I read was good. I will finish it at some point 3/5

Twilight: New Moon by Stephanie Meyer – Not as great as Twilight, but still good. 4/5

One Day by David Nicholls – Took a long time to get into it. Had me crying like a baby at the end though. 3.5/5

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell* – I need to finish this – 3/5

Still Thinking of You by Adele Parks – as always a brilliant read from Ms Parks  4.5/5

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen – took ages to get into the story – 2.5/5

Trans Am by Rob Ryan – fast paced, gripping – 4.5/5

Jessie Hearts NYC by Keris Stainton – loved. Better than her first (and, you know –New York) – 4.5/5

Mitigating Circumstances by Nancy Taylor Rosenburg – Brilliant 4.5/5

Die for You by Lisa Unger – Not what I expected in a really good way. 4/5

The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine – slow, slightly boring. 2.5/5

The Sculptress by Minette Walters – Excellent – 4.5/5

The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai by Ruiyan Xu – Really enjoyed it 4/5

Amrita by Banana Yoshimoto* – again, couldn’t get over the cultural differences 2/5

Lord of light by Roger Zelazny – just couldn’t get into it – sci-fi really isn’t my thing – 1/5

All in all, it was a good year, but I’m glad it’s over and I can read what I want to read, not what’s next on the list!

Jessie ♥ NYC by @Keris Stainton Review

Jessie’s just arrived in New York, hoping to forget about her awful ex.
New Yorker Finn is in love with his best friend’s girlfriend.
They might be perfect together, but in a city of eight million people, will they find each other?

I had the honour of reading an early draft of this novel, and giving my feedback, so reading the finished product was brilliant.

I loved ‘Della Says…’ but this – this was SO much better.

I love Stainton’s voice in this novel – Jessie was me at 16 – but me if I got to go to NYC.

The thing I loved the most about this novel was the anticipation Jessie has when travelling to NYC. I’ve been a few times myself, and hope to go again in December, and I know for a fact everything Jessie felt getting closer and closer toManhattanare the same feelings I had myself, and will have again. I genuinely felt nervous and excited along with Jessie.

The relationship that progresses with Jessie and Finn is great – it’s that will they won’t they meet situation which you see in movies now and then, but I’ve not seen in a novel – and it’s done really well here. I love both Jessie and Finn, and although sometimes, knowing what was coming up made me cringe (that’s being a teenager isn’t it – cringy experiences)  I loved them all the way through, loved the development and the story.

There have been a couple of changes that I remember from the earlier version which are totally for the best.

I would totally wholehearted recommend Jessie Heart NYC. If I do get to go in December, I’ll definitely be re-reading it on the plane. IF I don’t, I know I’ll be re-reading it at some point – it’s one of those books.

Writing, Writing Group and My Name in Print

Obviously we’ll start with the most exciting – my name in print. Now, when I say my name in print, I mean it literally: ‘Helen Jackson’ not something I’ve written. Which would be awesome, but not yet (like how I say yet!? That’s optimism for you!).

A few months ago I got offered the opportunity to read a draft of a soon to be published novel. The author wanted comments on it. Of course I jumped at the chance because I’d loved her first novel and had a feeling I was going to love everything else written by her.

I was shockingly honest. Telling her what I did like and what I didn’t like. I’ve never done anything like that and the idea of doing it scared me immensely. How could I, a writer, and reader, but with no other credentials than that, give advice to A PUBLISHED AUTHOR? Well, somehow I did (thank god I liked it eh!) and she was very grateful.

How grateful? Well… if you turn to the acknowledgements page of Keris Stainton’s new novel ‘Jessie ♥ NYC’ at the 3rd paragraph down you’ll read ‘… Helen Jackson… for reading an early draft and giving fabulous feedback’ WOOP! How exciting is that. A properly published book, carrying MY NAME! That is the most exciting thing that’s happened to me this week… maybe this month (year?)! WOOP!

As I’m mentioning it, I really should recommend the book (and not just cause it’s got MY NAME in it). It’s a brilliant novel, I fell in love with Jessie and Finn is great, and the story is wicked, and you know, it’s set in my favourite city in the world! I’m now having an internal argument with myself about reading it. One half of me thinks I should stop reading what I’m on now to read this (the finished version) the other half is saying I can wait a couple of days. I don’t know which will win.

Moving on.

This morning, I saved all the parts of ‘Holiday’ I have to a memory stick to take to work. I was planning on going to my writing group tonight, but hadn’t decided what to read yet (I knew it had to be from Holiday) so thought I’d decide after work, before I left for the group (there’s not time to go home first). When I got to work, I realised I had left the memory stick at home. I know, I hear that – doh!

Luckily when I was having a writing spurt last year (or the year before? I can’t remember) I used to email bits and pieces to myself. So I found some. And among that ‘some’ was the perfect part for tonight.

The people at the group enjoyed my piece. I think they’re interested in the story, and seem quite excited about it. I really should go more often, as it makes me want to write more and more. I guess positive feedback does that to you doesn’t it. The negative feedback is great too (too much repetition here etc).

I’m starting to feel more… settled in the group now. After I went last time I wrote a huge long blog about what it was I didn’t like about it vs the little I did like (unfortunately it got ‘lost’ when I tried posting it, so it never saw the light of day) – the negatives totally outweighed the positives. BUT I liked the boost I got from people saying they liked my work, so wanted to go back.

I’m glad I did. I think my main issues with the group have been resolved. Or in part anyway:

I have been a little wary of commenting on other people’s work. I’ve not done this before (ok, so I’ve said in this post I’ve done it before – by via email is so different to face to face). Before now, I’ve not really been sure of what to say, or indeed, how to say it. Practice. I think that’s the only way I’m going to get better at this. Today I was less worried about it than last time. I expect next time I’ll be more confident. I’m getting there.

The genres other people’s writing are totally different to anything I read. This has kind of put me off, I feel like maybe I should belong to a group who have more chick lit/romance writers (any other than me would be a start). But, this could open my horizons to other genres. Already today I found myself really interested in a story that previously I’ve been a little bored by. This could be a positive thing.

The genres other people’s writing are totally different to anything I write. This worried me a lot. Surely I’d want romance writers to comment on my writing? Right? Well, no, not necessarily. I want help with the nuts and bolts of the writing, the grammar etc just as much as the content, so in that respect it doesn’t matter what other people write. Plus, I’m discovering there’s something really satisfying in hearing men who don’t read chick lit laughing at, and being interested in my words!

I know there’s other things that were putting me off the group before. But you know what? I think I’m starting to enjoy it. Enjoying it, and getting something from it – that has to be good!

Very quickly now, cause I’m really tired (which is what happens when your other half decides he can’t sleep at 5am and starts getting up and coming in and out the bedroom! Shouldn’t complain – he brought me breakfast when it was time for me to get up! Result!)

Today, I’ve done some EDITING! Not any old editing. Editing of Holiday. That’s a 1st. I realised earlier I needed to at least tidy up what I was going to read at the group, then when I got into it, I edited the hell out of that passage. Well, maybe not the hell out of it, but made significant changes/adjustments. You know what? I didn’t hate it! Maybe one day I’ll start enjoying editing. We can but hope!

Really Good Books

I was thinking earlier it would be really good to do a blog today. Then I started wondering what I could write – it’s not like I’m actually writing is it. So that would leave… reading. I’m really enjoying the book I’m reading now Jeff Abbott’s A Kiss Gone Bad, and the thought of that led me to… I’m reading a lot of really good books at the moment.

In 2009 I only read 17 or something books, and only a handful of them really stood out. I think I tried to do a top ten books I read that year, but didn’t have a top ten. There just weren’t enough good ones there.

Last year was the opposite. I read 45 books, and enjoyed a huge number of them. So, what better way to spend a blog, than with my top books of last year. I was thinking top ten, but going through my list, I’ve actually made a top twenty. Hope it’s not too boring:

YA:

  • Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (I only read this to prove to people I wouldn’t like it. I loved it. I think it’s my favourite book of the year)
  • Avalon High by Meg Cabot (When I was researching YA novels before writing mine, I knew I had to read one of Ms Cabot’s books – the queen of teen and all that)
  • Summer Dreams Winter Love by Mary Francis Shura (this was my favourite book growing up, and I wanted to read it again. It still had that magic)
  • Della Says… OMG by Keris Stainton (I loved the sound of this when I started following Keris’ blog, and was lucky enough to get invited to her launch party where she signed the book. After all that I was so glad I loved it)

Chick Lit:

  • Love Lies by Adele Parks (I got given a small booklet on the street. It was the first two chapters. I couldn’t read just that, I had to get the whole book and read it.  But then I love Adele Parks so would have had to get it at some point anyway)
  • Foursome by Jane Fallon (This is the best book I read in this category. I loved everything about it, and will definitely be on the lookout for more books by her)
  • Husbands by Adele Parks (what can I say? I love the lady, I had to read more than one)
  • The Happy Home for Broken Hearts by Rowan Coleman (I got a copy of this from the publisher to review. I was pretty scared I wouldn’t like it then there would be loads of pressure on me to say something nice about it. Luckily it was great – it was Rowan Coleman, of course it was great)
  • The Baby Group by Rowan Coleman (ditto the great comment above)
  • What My Best Friend Did by Lucy Dawson (another that is in my top three of the year I imagine. Great. Not sure if it’s really chick lit, but I think it belongs here)
  • Ralph’s Party by Lisa Jewell (I read this when it came out ten years ago,  but after winning a ticket to an evening with Lisa, I thought I should re-read it before I went. So glad I did, I’d forgotten how good it was. And Lisa Jewell – she’s awesome and funny, and has a great story of how she got published. I like the idea that mine could go the same way…)

Thrillers:

  • Until It’s Over by Nicci French (my step mum gave me this, saying she loved it. Well, so did her step daughter)
  • The Memory Collector by Meg Gardiner (Although this is only the second book of hers I’ve read, I am a huge Meg Gardiner fan, and this is my favourite book. Can’t wait to start on her other series of books)
  • Too Close to Home by Linwood Barclay (Again second book of his I’ve read. Again this is my favourite)
  • Random by Craig Robertson (I got this free from the publisher because of doing the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge. It’s his debut book, and it’s brilliant)
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo & The Girl Who Played with Fire both by Stieg Larsson (I only picked the first up because of the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge. I was so glad I did. I watched the movie too – it sucked)

 Sci-Fi:

  • The Caves of Steel by Asimov (I read this on recommendation from the other half. He thought I should read something DIFFERENT, so I did. I didn’t want to enjoy it, but I did. I want to read the rest in the Robot series)
  • 1984 by George Orwell (It’s a classic – I had to read it at some time. This was the year. It totally deserves the hype it gets)

I really hope 2011 is as good for books as last year was. I’m on book three, and so far it’s certainly shaping up that way!

What were your favourite books from last year?

This Week’s Round Up

I thought I hadn’t blogged much this week, but I’ve just checked and I actually did three plus Fiction Friday. Strange, it feels like I didn’t do much. I guess that’s because I’ve been doing them late at night, not during the work day like I’m used to doing.

So this week has been my first real week at work. And I failed miserably to do anything productive writing wise at work. I lie actually, I wrote my words for NovelPI on Thursday at the end of my lunch break – but only because I knew I was going out that night so wouldn’t be able to do any later. I guess the reason doesn’t matter, the fact is, if I’ve done it once, I can do it again!

The good news for my writing (but bad news for me) is the girl I’ve been having lunch etc with this week is leaving on Friday. That means I’m more likely to sit at my desk during my break and write or blog from the week after onwards – brilliant as NaNo starts that Monday.

Yesterday is another example of if I put my mind to it, I can do anything. I got up, went to work, came home, got changed and went out. I literally had no time to write. I was going to call in another reprieve for NovelPI (you get one for every 5 days continuous writing you do, and I’m pretty sure I’ve done more than 5), but thought there was another way. So on the tube into town for my night out, I did some writing. 270 words at that. Woop! I just need to see if I can read them now – the Victoria Line is pretty bumpy.

Last Thursday, I finished the scene I’ve been working on for Holiday for the last week. I’m really happy with that as when I started it I didn’t really know what was going to happen in it, considering that, I’m pretty happy with it. I say that, I’ve not read it back, but from what I think happened, I think I’m happy with it.

I finished Avalon High by Meg Cabot this morning. It was so good. And so different to those two YA novels I read before (or started to read before). The only difference I noticed reading it to an adult novel, is the fact the MC was 15/16 not grown up, there was less sex and less swearing. Although there are a lot of adult books without sex and swearing too!

I’ve decided that I now HAVE to reread Della Says:OMG by Keris Stainton. Totally brilliant excuse too. The YA novels I’ve read recently have been American. I’m English. Keris is English… see where I’m going with this one? I feel like I need to have read more English YA novels before I start working on mine.

And I’ll be starting on it next Monday. Yes, NaNo starts a week tomorrow. Eek! I’ve not done the plan and sent it to my tutor for my next assignment yet. Damn. I wanted to get that in and returned before I started writing the novel. She usually ‘marks’ them at weekends, so if I can get it in early this week – I’m thinking tomorrow or Tuesday, then I’ll hopefully still get her comments back in time. Maybe. I’m going to try for it anyway.

ErgoFiction are now on story 8 of 10 in their Search Term Challenge. One of the 10 stories is mine, it may be one of the eight, it may be the one posted tomorrow or the last da. I can’t tell you. The point of the challenge is to make a story using at least three of the eight search term phrases. It’s really great because it’s amazing how varied the stories are when they all come from the same words. Some of the stories are really really good. Go have a look, then after the last one is posted, go vote for your favorite one!