Thursday, April 30, 2015

Reasons to Read YA … even when you’re more A than Y.

Nostalgia. Isn’t it lovely to feel young again? To remember your youth. Things pop and zing in your brain that you had completely forgotten about when you think back to your teenage years. Reading through the eyes of a teenager can almost transport you back in time. Hubba Bubba, Charlie Red perfume and Coffee Shimmer lipstick. Temporary Mahogany hair dye and Smash Hits. Suddenly, I remember it well. And it’s not quite as shit as I had previously recalled.

Fresh voices. Teenagers are still full of hope. They have the world at their feet, they’re not steeped in the mundane trivia of direct debits, energy suppliers, the deficit, mortgages, garden centres and kitchen showrooms. Their concerns are far more basic but also more important. They think about love and friendships and all of the things that are just so much nicer than money and that is so much more pleasant to read about.

The thrill of the new. Opening yourself up to any genre that you don’t normally tend to read can be good for you. Step outside of your comfort zone. Discover authors that you wouldn’t usually come across. Change is invigorating.

Reconnect. If you have children, reading YA can be a fun way to connect with them. Refresh your memory. Understand what they are experiencing and feeling. Swoon over the same gorgeous young man. Which leads me on to …

*WARNING* MAY CONTAIN NICE BOYS. Not cartoon versions of men that can be often found in more adult romance stories. No selfish and abusive Christian Grey types. Satisfying characters which we can all adore.

Escapism. YA is a beautifully diverse genre. Many YA novels are so much more inventive than their grown-up counterparts. I’m not sure why. Perhaps authors assume that their younger readers need to be kept on the hook more. I can guarantee that you will find some juicy page-turners.

Instant satisfaction. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all YA novels, but a lot of them are shorter in length. You could sit and read a book in one sitting. You can devour it. There will be short and snappy chapters, cliff-hangers all the way through. It’s delicious.

Milestones. Important ones. Ones that you never forget. That first kiss, first sexual experience, ‘I love you’. Those coming of age landmarks are eternally etched in our memories because they matter. Always.

Compelling characters. Let’s face it, teenagers can be volatile, emotional walking bags of hormones. They are also vulnerable and not quite ready for the big scary outside world. There’s an honesty, I think, that you get in YA books that you don’t quite get elsewhere. You can really get behind a YA character and root for them.

Well-written. Not all of them, obviously, and nothing is ever perfect. But the writing has to be strong if you wish to engage younger readers. You have to capture adolescence just right, otherwise they won’t appreciate it and rightly so.

And here is my own YA novel:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

10 Things to Love about Emily.

Black Eyed Boy is written through the eyes of Emily. We see and feel all that she does. I’m immensely fond of her. For a while, it is time to budge the boy out of the way and celebrate what I love about the girl.

Her strength. Emily rarely sees this amazing trait in herself, but she is an extremely strong character, even at her lowest. She isn’t afraid to stand up to people or speak the truth.

There was a round of elbowing, pointing and whispering as I arrived at school. Nobody came forward and spoke to me; not even Billy, who turned his back as soon as he saw us coming. I felt crazy being there. I expected to fail miserably at this exam, but it was all I could do for Mum now. I’d promised her that I would take them, and so I somehow tore myself away from Dylan and I ventured into the hall. The teachers stared, shocked that I was there. They all, in turn, sent sympathetic smiles to me across the room. I couldn’t make my face give one back, so I just lowered my head and willed myself to get on with it.

She isn’t perfect. Because nobody is, right? Despite her many positive personality traits, sometimes she messes up as we all do. She tends to learn from her mistakes, but it doesn’t stop her from making them in the first place. She’s fiction, yet somehow quite real.

“I’ve got to do it at some point. I know what I’m like, things get harder if I put them off,” I said, thinking about hiding my relationship with Dylan from Billy, trying to spare his feelings – and how that had seriously backfired.

She’s a deep thinker. There is no room for a vacuous leading character in my books. Emily questions everything. She can be a sensitive girl, often deep in thought, and prone to over-analysing situations. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I wondered why they were unable to grieve together, support each other, clasp hands and talk about him. Seventeen years had gone by since baby Matthew died, and they still couldn’t do it. I thought that was so sad, the way they had both retreated like wounded animals, and they still couldn’t face the hurt and deal with it together.

She sticks to her word. Emily keeps important promises and is someone you can rely on.

“You may be right. You’ll have to wait and see, I suppose. I want you to go and do your exams. Do you promise me that you will?” “I promise,” I said, wondering how on earth I would manage to get through that once she had gone.

Her maturity. Yes, she is largely inexperienced and sometimes naïve but she has a much older head on her shoulders most of the time, though I suppose this is the way that she has to be.

So, this would be my last night, to do whatever I wanted to do, before things changed and I became Mum’s carer. Normally my plans revolved around Billy, but I didn’t much feel like seeing him. But, then again, I didn’t really want to sit around here studiously avoiding Dad. I would have to go out. And it would have to be something without cost, seeing as I’d spent most of the housekeeping money in the supermarket today. It felt like the end of an era, perhaps the end of my childhood. Life would be so much more difficult and sombre now. I was aware that dark moments were ahead.

Her warmth. Emily could have gone the other way after a lifetime living in a largely loveless house. She has a determination to be different and change things for herself.

I gave her a kiss on her cheek which seemed to surprise the pair of us, and I’m certain that we both felt sorry that our relationship had never been affectionate and tactile.

She’s protective. If she loves you, she will fight for you and give you everything that she possibly can.

The days rolled by. Mum slept a lot and stopped trying to eat at all. Dad drank. I pined for Dylan and missed Billy too. Amber came and went, staying for a little longer each time as Mum’s condition worsened and she could no longer support herself. She had regular fits of choking, her breathing had become arduous, and I knew that I would soon have to steel myself for the moment I dreaded. I spent every day and night in the spare room with her. I felt suffocated by the silence, as she rarely spoke now; words had become too tiresome a task.  

She has the most beautiful red hair, even if she doesn’t always appreciate that.

“As do you, and beautiful hair,” he said, stroking it. “Now you must be joking,” I snorted. “Who wants to be a ginger?” “But red hair is the best. You remind me of a fox with your red hair and your green eyes.”

She’s funny. I love her quips and occasional sarcastic tones. She’s quick and feisty.

“We’re not leaving until I win that ring,” he said, pointing to a cheap-looking plastic ring with a butterfly attached. “I can see why you want it so badly,” I mocked him, “it’s an intricate piece, it will look so pretty on you.” “Ouch at the sarcasm. It’s for you. Not that you deserve it now, of course.” “For me? I am honoured and touched and I will wear it forever,” I said, dramatically clutching my hand to my heart and fluttering my eyelashes.

She is open and ready for love. She’s had so little in her life that I relish seeing her surprised by both the simple and complex sides of the romance coin. 

My eyes adjusted to the light and I saw Dylan. He didn’t let go of my hand or say a word at all; we just kept on walking and caught up with the others. I liked the feel of his hands, coarser and rougher than mine. I stood closer to him, taking in his intoxicating aroma, and I felt different. Something had happened to me. Something had changed me. And I welcomed it.

If you still haven't met Emily, here is the link to the book:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Top things to love about THE boy.

Not that there’s anything to dislike about hot gypsy boy, Dylan. But I feel like celebrating THE Black-Eyed Boy. My book is all about him, of course.

Hey, I may as well begin by stating the bloody obvious. He’s gorgeous. Look at him. LOOK. AT. HIM. I seriously wonder how I ever get any work done. ‘He was tanned and toned, and was wearing only a pair of black shorts and some tatty trainers. He was tall and ridiculously handsome. His bare chest and confidence made me lose composure. Suddenly I felt much too hot.’

He believes in romance and is quite old-fashioned in his chivalry. “I think this is the bit where I lean in for a kiss,” he said. I beamed at his romantic movie analogy as his lips tormented me, promising to kiss mine but teasingly moving away at that last minute.

He may not have had the practice but he certainly knows how to kiss his girl. At once, Dylan climbed on top of me and kissed me hungrily. The fact that we were in his bed and lacking our usual amount of clothes wasn’t lost on me. My whole body throbbed, and I could feel that he was excited too. A little moan escaped my lips as I felt the familiar pressure building up, and the need for all of him. This was becoming more tempting every time. I don’t think my moaning helped, because he let out a frustrated sigh and rolled off me, back on to the bed.’

He has an army of teenage girls lusting after him but he only ever has eyes for Emily. “You also have beautiful legs,” he said. “Do I?” I asked, surprised. I’d never really thought about my legs before, they were mostly just there so I could walk to school. “Oh yes, you definitely have beautiful legs.”

He’s spontaneous and fun. He seizes the day, making him a perfect match for an over-thinking Emily. “For you, my lady. Not exactly diamonds, I grant you, but here is a small token of my affection,” he said, going down on one knee, in front of everyone in the tiny amusement arcade. Once again, I knew I was blushing. “Please stand up,” I whispered, “Everyone is looking.” “So what? They’re just jealous of this magnificent treasure which I bestow upon you.” I could see that people were watching us, but the comical charm of Dylan soon made me realise that I didn’t care either.

Dylan is just so utterly charming. He rolled his eyes at me and grinned. “You’re going to make me say it, aren’t you?” “Say what?” I asked, genuinely puzzled. “Pretty,” he said, never taking his gaze from mine. My usually high levels of self-consciousness turned up another notch and I could feel that my face was burning scarlet. “Don’t be daft,” I said, turning away, and beaming a secret smile.

He makes Emily see the positive side of things; things she should be thankful for. “What a lovely place to live. I don’t think I would ever get bored looking out at that.” He was really making me see my home town, properly, without the mist of the everyday. I knew he was right. It was as though he was handing me back a series of joys which I hadn’t experienced for a while. I vastly appreciated that.

He’s protective and supportive. “I’ll take care of her,” said Dylan. I admired the authority in his voice. He wasn’t going to let anyone tell me what to do. It probably helped that he looked slightly older than his years, I thought, as they didn’t question him.

He’s patient and understanding. “You’re being very brave,” Dylan told me. I didn’t feel like it. With every minute that went by I felt increasingly more like a helpless toddler. I needed him to hold my hand just to help me function.

All in all, he is just so lovable. The crowd shivered with tales of shadows of hanging corpses and the ghosts of one-armed fishermen. But my goose-bumps were caused not by that, but by the growing excitement that I was feeling, brought to me by this mysterious and delicious boy. I felt glad when the walk came to an end and the people dispersed. I wanted it to be just the two of us. I tried not to think and hope how the evening may end; for now I was wrapped up in living the moment, happy to be in his company.

If you haven't met him yet, here's a link to Black Eyed Boy:


Saturday, April 18, 2015

And they all lived happily ever after ...

And they all lived happily ever after.

Or did they? How is that even possible? They lived happily until she realised that she would have to spend the rest of eternity picking up a trail of his stinky socks and ignore the eye-watering Google internet history? Until he discovered her penchant for lies and her acidic, nasty barbs if she was even in the same room as a gin and tonic? I don’t know. I’m quite new to this romance lark. Yet, I have a book out very much in that genre category. I notice that the vast majority of publishers demand a HEA (Happily Ever After) ending or, at the very least, a HFN (Happy for Now). Black Eyed Boy sits within the latter. But, I did know that I was writing the first book of a series of three so it seemed preposterous to try and tie everything up too neatly.

It has made me think about book endings, generally. When I write horror, I almost always have to have a dismal end. The monster usually wins. The dark power rises and the poor, pathetic human rarely stands a chance. But, that wouldn’t really work for romance would it? People might be upset if I went round killing off the couple that the story revolves around.

Then it got me thinking about some truly abysmal book endings. Once, I was so angry that a book ended with the clichéd it-was-all-a-dream theme that I launched that paperback right across the living room in contempt and disgust. You can’t take a reader through such an intense journey and then piss in their face at that crucial moment at the end of the book. No. You just can’t.

The same applies to films, of course. I have lost count at the amount of times that I have felt utterly robbed and cheated by the final scene. I openly wept a year or so ago when I didn’t remotely get the ending that I was hoping for. I had watched that bloody film on the edge of my seat, completely absorbed with the storyline and the main character. And they just let him die. It can, of course, work much the other way. Sometimes I want the bad guy to get away with it. Sometimes I root for the bank robbers instead of the cops. But that rarely happens either. Because of morals, lessons to be learned and a twee longing for the right thing to happen. Law and order must prevail. Even if the cop is a massive jerk.

So, yes, I am a mess of mangled contradictions. Sometimes everyone should snuff it. Sometimes I want it all to be sealed up, nice and pretty with a silky bow on top; no unanswered questions. Sometimes I want it to be open to my own interpretation. I want to have my cake, scoff it, down a bottle of wine and sink down a whisky chaser, with the promise of more cake after that. I want it my way, which is irrational as what I think I want changes, depending on what I am reading or watching.

What do you think? What kind of ending makes you pull your hair out? What do you prefer?

For anyone interested, this was the book that went for a flying trip around the living room:

And this was the film that had me wailing about life not being fair:

Friday, April 10, 2015

Looking Back. Looking Forward.

A week has gone by. Black Eyed Boy, my first novel, was launched on Good Friday. And what a fabulous, exciting and emotional Good Friday it was. The day was filled with constant Facebook notifications. There were so many messages of congratulations. People wanted me to know that they had bought the book. Some were even reading it immediately. That made me nervous. You see, I love Black Eyed Boy. That’s good, I did write it. In some ways, it has become more than just a story. I have been living alongside these characters in my head for a while now, they are familiar friends and I can’t let them go. Not that writing the sequel has been calm and easy sailing. Though, perhaps that is for another blog post, another time.

The online launch party was fantastic. I laughed and cried through the entire time. From touching replies from an old friend from primary school to hilarious banter with some of my writing friends, it was a blast. Friends I have never met were encouraging their friends to buy a copy. I have never felt so much support and love from such a huge group of people before. I was amazed. However many times I could thank everyone, it would never be enough.

Then the first reviews started coming in as I bit off all my fingernails in a nervous anticipation. As silly as it may sound, I genuinely wept. I couldn’t believe the things that people were saying. They got it. I’d got what I wanted; readers rooted for Emily, were smitten with Dylan and completely went with the story I had created. Their words on Amazon have made me the happiest of all. That’s what it has all been about. I wanted to tell a good story that would capture the imagination. I wanted to create characters that felt real and that people would care about. Here are the reviews that have left me so emotional:

More. That’s what the reviews are asking for. Now, that I can do and I am more than happy to oblige. I love my characters very much and I am editing the sequel right now. Fans of Black Eyed Boy: fear not; they are coming back soon. I will just leave you with this … if Black Eyed Boy was the emotional one … then Green Eyed Girl is the intense one. *Super Vague Teaser Alert* Hee hee hee hee!

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Black Eyed Boy Reading Companion.

I created this soundtrack as the perfect partner to read my book with. As I wrote the first draft, the scenes played like a film in my mind. I could visualise everything that the characters did and said. I associated various chapters with specific songs. My brain kept thinking … if this part of the story really was a film, which song would be playing?
Even the title of my book is a song by Texas, music very much went hand in hand with my words from the start.

Here is the playlist:

I have recently completed a first draft of the sequel and I have written this much in the same way. So, you can expect a Green Eyed Girl Reading Companion music list in the future. Of course, I can’t give much away at this early stage but you can certainly assume that another eclectic musical mix is coming your way.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


I wrote a book. I wonder if anyone would be reading it now if I hadn't have submitted it to Crooked Cat Publishing? I have to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to husband and wife team, Laurence and Stephanie Pattison. They said yes. Having a publisher behind a story is something that I had always dreamed of. THANK YOU.

Thank you to the lovely Sue Barnard, an excellent editor. She did a brilliant job and she is also very friendly and supportive. THANK YOU.

Thank you to Glenn Kilpatrick who kindly allowed me to use his beautiful photographs of Whitby on my launch page. Glenn is an extremely talented photographer with such a generous spirit. THANK YOU.

To my partner, Elliot, who has had to put up with my endless Black Eyed Boy related chatter ... my word, you are a patient man. THANK YOU.

Finally, to everyone who has attended my online launch party, showed interest, been happy to retweet, has liked my quotes, has bought the book or provided advice and support ... AN ABSOLUTELY MASSIVE THANK YOU.