Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Thank you to Sara Moseley for these wonderful photographs

A massive thank you to Sara Moseley for taking the lovely new photos that I've put on my site.  Sara has also blogged about me and said some lovely words about me.  You can read more here.

If anyone is considering having photos taken for any reason whatsoever, whether its for your website, your book cover, your family, or your wedding, Sara really is the most amazing photographer.

Sara, as always, you are a star! Thank you x x x x

Click here for Sara's website.


I'm delighted to be invited by loveahappyending.com to become one of their "Associate Readers".   

loveahappyending.com is about new writers, new novels – fiction, real-life and poetry – Authors, Feature Readers and Associate Readers

Launch day for the site is on 29th June and you can be sure of some great giveaways and special offers, all aimed at giving readers the opportunity to follow these new authors, support their work and grow our little community!

Click here for more information.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Interview with Hazel Osmond

I am absolutely delighted and honoured that the very lovely and extremely talented Hazel Osmond has agreed to do a question and answer session for my site.  

I discovered Hazel's book "Who's Afraid of Mr Wolfe?" recently and enjoyed every minute of it.  It was definitely one of the best books that I've ever read.  Click here to read my review of this fabulous book. 

Spill the beans! Are the characters from your book based upon real people or are they completely fictional?

Good question. As a writer you inevitably store away little observations about people and they find their way into your writing, and that happened with one or two characters in ‘Mr Wolfe’, but no one is based totally on anyone in real life. Edith, for example, has the kind of enthusiasm for life that you normally find in a much younger person and I know a wonderful woman who is now 85 who is like that, but that’s where the similarity ends - she doesn’t play obscene scrabble, dress really badly or have those awful daughters! I also felt I had to be really careful that nobody I have ever worked with thought they’d been used as a model for any of the characters – I still have my freelance advertising career to think of!

Did you create the characters first or the storyline?

I came up with the characters of Jack Wolfe and Ellie first, and although I had a basic idea of how I wanted the plot to develop, once I started writing, the characters sometimes took it in an unexpected direction. I’ve heard people say that before and always thought it sounded a bit weird, but it’s true. I didn’t know Jack was going to run off to New York until I got to that part of the book.

How long did it take you to get your book published?

I managed to get an agent a few weeks after finishing the book, but it was nearly a full year before Quercus offered me a two book deal. During that year I got about 10 rejections and I’d be lying if I said that didn’t get dispiriting, but I write short stories too and had a couple of competition wins that kept my spirits up. It helped too that I talk to a number of other writers on internet forums, so that I was realistic about how much patience and determination you need. If you haven’t got lots of both, you should just write your book and put it under your bed forever.

How did it make you feel?

Completely, utterly, happy. I can’t be cool about it – I was delighted that people were going to read a story that was really precious to me. I’m still delighted about it, particularly when somebody has enjoyed the story and been touched by it.

How much input did you have over the cover and how did you choose it?

My editor at Quercus and I talked over the cover, but it was their basic idea and I was delighted with it - who wouldn’t like to have their name picked out in glitter? I did ask them to change Ellie to make her slightly more curvy though, which they were happy to do.

Where do you write and what is it about that place that inspires you to write?

I’m going to give you a really boring answer to this: I just write at a desk in our spare room at home, which is a light, bright place but there’s nothing really inspiring about it. That doesn’t matter to me - for years I’ve written for a living as an advertising copywriter so I’ve had to produce work for deadlines and haven’t had the luxury of being able to wait for inspiration to arrive. I think as long as you’ve got a comfortable chair, you just put your bottom in it, switch on the computer and inspiration will turn up at some point during the actual process of putting down the words.

Having said that, if I find myself struggling, I get up and go for a walk. I live in Northumberland and the countryside and coastline here is beautiful. It doesn’t take long to find an empty space in which to think and I’ve ‘walked away’ quite a few plot problems like that.

What book are you reading right now?

‘Mr Golightly’s Holiday’ by Salley Vickers. I interviewed her recently at our local book festival and she was lovely. I read ‘Miss Garnet’s Angel’ a while ago and am now reading her other books. I really admire the elegance of her writing and the way in which she explores deep issues with a light touch and real wit.

Who are your favourite authors?

Ooh, difficult one – I like a lot of different authors, from a lot of different genres and couldn’t care less if something is deemed to be ‘literary’ or ‘popular’. I’ve loved Richmal Crompton who wrote the Just William books since I was little and Jilly Cooper’s early books, which I read as a teenager, ignited my love of romance novels. Other favourites are Dickens, H E Bates, Katherine Mansfield, Maggie O’Farrell, Rose Tremain, John Donne, John Cheever and Primo Levi. Oh and Dorothy Parker, can’t miss her out.

Can you tell us anything about your next book?

Yes, happy to. It’s about an ex-tabloid journalist who arrives in Northumberland pretending he’s going to write a walking book, but in reality he’s there to get friendly with a girl who is the cousin of a big film star – that way he can be first to get the gossip on her love life. When he arrives though, he gets one hell of a shock and what happens next changes his life and a lot of other people’s. Like ‘Mr Wolfe’ it’s got lots of twists and turns, humour and emotion.

What’s next for you?

More short stories: I’ve neglected them recently while I’ve been finishing the second book and I’m also re-visiting a children’s book I’ve written which has been rejected a few times and which I know I need to rewrite somehow!! On top of that I have a mass of different plots for further romances buzzing around my brain. At some point too I’ll need to do some housework…

Thank you so much Hazel for agreeing to answer these questions and let us learn a little more about you and your writing.  A massive thank you for providing us with such an entertaining and enjoyable read.   

Hazel Osmond lives in Northumberland and is married with two teenage daughters.  She has been an advertising copywriter for 20 years.   This was her first book with her second one launching later this year.  She has also written a number of short stories which have appeared in ‘The Sunday Express Magazine’, ‘The Weekly News’, ‘The  Writers’ Forum’, ‘Writing News’ and ‘Woman and Home’.  You can read more about Hazel and her work at http://www.hazelosmond.co.uk/.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Review - Lessons in Love - Kate Lawson

I’m so lucky to have read so many fantastic books over the last few weeks, there’s some flipping great authors out there and this was another novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. 

I’ve worked out that a great time of day for me to get my reading done is at half five or six in the morning when the rest of the house is asleep and I can have a cup of tea and enjoy a little peace and quiet to relax and enjoy these wonderful books I’m so privileged to read and review. 

Lessons in love is another great, feel good book from Kate Lawson.  

Jane Green lives at Cresswell Road and is a twenty something girl, who has been made redundant from her job, and also found out that her boyfriend has been up to no good.  She’s down in the dumps unsure of her future.  Jayne Green is coming up to fifty, a successful business woman living a life of luxury and riches and she lives in Cresswell Close in the same town but feeling that somewhere down the line she’s missed out on something. 

When Jane gets post which she opens by mistake which is clearly for the other Jayne, she feels that she ought to pop it over to her and explain why it’s open.  She meets Jayne and is very much envious of her opulent and lavish abode. 

After a slightly rocky start, they realise that they have quite a lot in common and Jayne feels that Jane is someone that she would like to entrust her business and home to while she takes off on a sabbatical to “find herself”.  Jane feels that this is too big a task for her to cope with but with Jayne’s reassurance and her “what’s the worst that can happen” attitude, agrees to take on the role temporarily as she really has nothing better to do. 

This is a story of how people you think you trust, can turn out to be your enemy and it’s about greed and envy compared to general decency, innocence and kindness.   It’s about challenging and discovering yourself. 

Kate writes in such an easy to read, amusing, warm and true to life way which makes reading her books so enjoyable.  I love the way that the detail she gives about her characters lets you create them in your own mind so that you identify with them right from the start.  Her descriptions of places are powerful, colourful and realistic and in this book she describes Jayne’s fabulous house in a way that you feel yourself standing in the hallway and imagining the surroundings.  At one point I actually had to work hard at stopping myself shouting out at one of the characters when I didn’t agree with something they said!  Perhaps I just need to get out more!

Thanks Kate for another pleasurable read – have more of her books to read in my TBR pile and am really looking forward to reading more.  

Sue Welfare writes as Kate Lawson and Gemma Fox and is now back to writing as Sue Welfare.   She was born on the edge of the Fens and is perfect placed to write about life in East Anglia.  She has a family, sings in a choir, loves to garden and walk her dogs and enjoys photography and cooking.  She is also a scriptwriter, originating and developing a soap opera for BBC radio, along with the local town panto!   

Check out her website for more information on Sue, Kate and Gemma at www.katelawson.co.uk

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Review - Who's Afraid of Mr Wolfe? by Hazel Osmond

What a wonderful book!  This was a book that I have to shamefully admit, had me wanting to ring in sick at work so I could stop at home and carry on reading it!  This is Hazel Osmond’s first novel and what a way to start your book career?   I cannot wait for her next book “The Genuine Article” to come out.  I’m SO looking forward to reading more of her work.    When Hazel asked me to review this book she said that she hoped I enjoyed it.  I can honestly say that this is one of my most favourite books I’ve ever had the opportunity to read. 

When it arrived at home, it was a book that I immediately warmed to and wanted to read.  I know this makes me sound like a complete freak, but the wording of the title was raised and sparkly, and the colours and pictures were really attractive.  The pages "flicked" well and it "felt" like a lovely book that I couldn't wait to get my hands on. 

Ellie Somerset is an advertising copywriter, reasonably content in her job and her relationship with her boyfriend Sam who works too hard and she hardly ever sees.  The agency is taken over by the handsome and moody Jack Wolfe who all the girls simper and moon over, while Ellie takes an immediate dislike to him as he seems to pick on her all the time, and she doesn’t really understand why.  As the relationship between her and Jack develops, she questions all her own judgements, thoughts and feelings.   Ellie is a great character, a truly lovely person who looks after her elderly aunt Edith who is an eccentric old dear who lives life to the full, and she is also a great friend and colleague to Lesley.  Jack is a strong, enigmatic, confident, mean and moody character who has a reputation for being a tough cookie.  Ellie finally learns things about Jack and his past that have made him the way he is and tries to work out how it is affecting their relationship.  I don’t want to go into too much detail as I don’t want to give any of the plot away.  You need to read this book!

This book had me feeling warm and fuzzy in some parts and quite hot and sweaty in some of the others!  It was a fabulously funny, emotionally charged and an extremely enjoyable read which made me laugh out loud millions of times and left me still thinking about it days later.  The characters and the plot were so strong and likeable that I'm left feeling as if I actually miss them in my life.  I know, I really need to get more don't I? 

For a great, feel good, colourful, funny read, you really should give this book a try. 

Hazel Osmond lives in Northumberland and is married with two teenage daughters.  She has been an advertising copywriter for 20 years.   This was her first book with her second one coming out later this year.  She has also written a number of short stories which have appeared in ‘The Sunday Express Magazine’, ‘The Weekly News’, ‘The  Writers’ Forum’, ‘Writing News’ and ‘Woman and Home’.  You can read more about Hazel and her work at http://www.hazelosmond.co.uk/.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Review - Who's Afraid of Mr Wolfe? by Hazel Osmond

Made a start on Who's Afraid of Mr Wolfe by Hazel Osmond last night.  Actually can't wait for a spare minute to carry on reading it. . .

I have a large pile at the site of my bedside table waiting to be read but I chose this one in particular as my next one because the cover is all sparkly and purple and I keep touching it - yes I know it's strange!

Hazel's writing is just so easy to read, and I'm already really into the characters.   I found myself just having a quick peek before bed, intending to read the first couple of pages but it ended up as one of those nights when I read far more than I intended and woke up about an hour later with it open on my lap!  

Here's a link to the book launch article on Hazel's site, I'll post my review when I've finished it.    You can read more about Hazel Osmond at her website http://www.hazelosmond.co.uk/

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The Versatile Blogger Award

Thank you to the lovely Janice Horton for passing me the Versatile Blogger Award - the rules of acceptance are to tell you seven things about myself that you might not already know. 

I have chosen to pick some general points and I’ve just discovered that I’m not that interesting really!

  1. I’ve been to see David Essex in concert over 30 times!  My sister has been dragging me along to see him for years and its probably time that I admitted that I actually quite like him.  It’s those twinkly eyes!
  2. My aim in life is to be the best Mom I can be to my darling little boy Oliver.  My Mom was the most fantastic Mom that I could wish for and I hope that one day Oliver can say the same thing about me!
  3. When Oliver was born, I left the curtains open in my hospital room in case my Mom was looking down on us from Heaven so that she could see me and my boy!
  4. I am a qualified Reiki practitioner.  With not much time on my hands and lots to do, unfortunately, I haven’t been practising but I really should as I believe that Reiki and holistic therapies is the way forward.
  5. When I was 20 I buggered off for a summer to Corfu with three of my best friends.  We’re still all really good friends now and we still talk about those great times every time we meet. 
  6. I make my own jewellery, again when I have time. Haven’t done any for ages, but I love doing it and when I get a new outfit with nothing to go with it, I can just knock something up. 
  7. I have a University Diploma in Counselling & Psychotherapeutics.  This was an area of work that I wanted to work in further, but never really progressed.  One for the future maybe!
I'd like to pass on the award to these seven wonderfully versatile bloggers. Please accept your awards by copying the logo above and listing seven things about yourselves before passing the award on.

Sara Moseley
Frances Weston
Linda Jones
John Hibbs
Milly Johnson
Libby Hill
The Book Barge

Monday, 9 May 2011

Review - Mother of the Bride by Kate Lawson

This is a wonderfully funny, highly emotional, loving, warm and extremely realistic tale of how weddings can take over your entire life.  When Molly’s daughter Jess tells her that she’s marrying Max, Molly is firstly surprised then excited about helping her to organise the wedding that Jess has always wanted.  Max who is once divorced, and going through a busy time at work, says that he trusts Jess entirely with the wedding but the proviso is that he wants to do it quickly giving her a short time to organise it.  Molly’s radio show wants to record the whole process and while Molly and Jess originally weren’t keen, everyone else thinks it’s a good idea so they end up agreeing.  Molly’s ex-husband Jonathon and his extravagant and over the top, society wife Marnie also want to be involved and between them Marnie and the groom to be have a tendency to take over situations agreeing between them on involving Noo the wedding planner and they manipulate and rail-road Jess into doing things that she really wasn’t keen to do. 

Molly tries hard not to take offence and to stand up for Jess who is becoming increasingly miserable, but the whole situation gets completely out of hand and Molly develops a dislike for the groom who is showing no real interest in or commitment to her daughter or the wedding.  When Jess meets her brothers’ colleague the gorgeous Oliver and opens up to him about her concerns about Max, Molly wonders whether Max is the right one for her daughter or not!  She wonders whether she is just turning into the mother-in-law from hell or whether her concerns are actually genuine.  She dithers over whether she should voice her thoughts to Jess or just keep them to herself. 

This story is a fabulous read with a cliff-hanger of an ending that keeps you guessing what will happen right up until the very last moment.  It highlights the love that a mother has for her child and the way that she wants her daughter to flourish and live in a happy relationship with someone who will always love and respect her.   Another book that I couldn’t put down, a great holiday read.  It was a really comfortable read with characters who were easy to relate to.  Kate is very good at descriptions in her book, so that you can picture the places she describes and the people that she has created.   You almost become an outsider in the story!  Thanks Kate for another marvellous book.

Sue Welfare writes as Kate Lawson and Gemma Fox and is now back to writing as Sue Welfare.   She was born on the edge of the Fens and is perfect placed to write about life in East Anglia.  She has a family, sings in a choir, loves to garden and walk her dogs and enjoys photography and cooking.  She is also a scriptwriter, originating and developing a soap opera for BBC radio, along with the local town panto!   

Check out her website for more information on Sue, Kate and Gemma at www.katelawson.co.uk

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Libby Hill blogging about why it's important to read to children

I asked a very good friend of mine; Libby Hill who is a Speech & Language therapist and runs Smart Talkers language groups for children about the importance of reading to children.  She pointed me to an article she wrote on her blog site http://smarttalkers.blogspot.com/ which is really interesting.  Hope you think so too, please feel free to leave comments on my site, or comment on Libby’s site directly.    You can get more information about Libby at http://www.private-speech-therapy.co.uk/

I think books are a great way of interacting with children, hence my interest in the topic so following my in-put, they had the bears looking at each other while holding the book. Unfortunately they were pipped at the post by someone else (I hope it wasn't my ideas that did it!) but the findings are interesting so I thought Id share them:


There have been many, many research studies on the influence reading to children has on their educational growth, and in almost all of the studies done, reading to children as early as six months of age has been ‘proven not only as a good parent-child bonding, but as giving the child a good educational start in life’ (Maria-Helen Goyetche, owner of Early Childhood Education, 2009). The following is a summary of the available research & results of interviews with several early years’ practitioners:

General points:
1. Babies: There’s no such thing as too early. It’s good to start showing babies pictures and talking about them as soon as they focus her eyes on the pattern on a jumper or the change-mat. It’s part of parent –child interaction. Sue Gerhardt, discusses the major adverse implications on the developing brain if not there is not this type of quality interaction, (‘Why love matters’, 2004) *

2. Toddlers: discovering new words, learning to "read" pictures to find the meanings of words or the answers to questions hiding behind those thrilling pull-tabs: where's the kitten gone?

3. Pre-schoolers: a realisation that pictures on the page are the introduction to print; being read to helps the child toward written language at this age just as it helps towards spoken language two years previously.

4. School-Aged: Once children are used to being read to, they will never be bored if somebody will read, and since there are bound to be times when nobody will read and they are bored, they'll have the best possible reason to learn to read themselves.

All the research agrees that reading to themselves isn't a signal to stop reading to them though, even when the child starts to read stories to himself for pleasure.

1. Bonding
Maybe the most important benefit a parent and child have from reading together is a bond which naturally develops as they spend time together. They are connecting with the baby while the baby is doing the things she likes best; being with you and hearing your voice speaking to her. ‘The book isn’t as important as the moment and........ it could even be a comic,’ Lesley Smith, Early Years Practitioner.

2. Attention/listening:
Attention skills are extremely important and need to be learnt to be successful in school. Attention and listening are the main skills in decline in the 21st century. A recent survey of 100 primary schools hi-lighted this (Libby Hill, 2010). By sharing a story book early on, it is helping to develop both attention span and listening.

3. Social interaction
Perhaps the most important benefit is the time the adult spends reading with the child. ‘The book is the vehicle for the interaction, which is the most important thing,’ Deborah Falshaw, Teacher & Early Years Practitioner.

4. Communication
Many of the components of communication are developed whilst sharing a book: turn-taking, listening, shared attention and speaker/listener roles are identified

5. Language
Hearing the adult use different intonation patterns and the full range of phonology of the language they’re speaking helps develop the child’s own speech and language.

a) Vocabulary: linking the names of words to the pictures helps vocabulary development. It’s often easier to find pictures than real objects to show the child. In any event, the pictures supplement the child’s semantic links to aid the acquisition of new vocabulary.

b) Reasoning: Following a character's actions in a story helps develop problem solving skills. Children are just learning about the world they live in. They are beginning to learn that their actions have consequences. Story book characters can help test these sometimes confusing issues without the pain of going through it themselves. The next time a child is confronted by a situation he has encountered in a story that has been read to him, he will know he has options.

6. Intelligence/Imagination
Getting children absorbed in books helps stimulate imagination which has been proved to advance their thinking power. They learn to pretend and put themselves in the story which often promotes a higher level of thinking. Children who are read to at an early age find it easier to express themselves and their feelings, making them more confident as they grow up (Professor James Law, City University, own conference notes 2009).

7. Emotional development
Children’s emotions can be validated through story reading. Sharing stories about characters who have the same emotions, especially negative ones, lets the child know that the feelings are normal. Children can learn from the reactions of the characters in the story (Susan Anderson, ‘The invaluable importance of reading to your child’).

8. Good habits
Children will pass on the love of reading to their children if they have been read to. Children live what they learn. They will be more likely to share reading with their own children.

9. Introducing difficult topics
Sharing stores about controversial topics is a good way to introduce discussion. Topics from sex education to drug issues can be difficult to discuss without a book as springboard.

10. Helping to handle stress
Life can be tough for a child in the 21st century. Books provide escapism as well as a source of comfort.


Maryann Wolf Director/professor of the Centre for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University, USA "Children who begin kindergarten having heard and used thousands of words, whose meanings are already understood, classified, and stored away in their young brains, have the advantage on the playing field of education. Children who never have a story read to them, who never hear words that rhyme, who never imagine fighting with dragons or marrying a prince, have the odds overwhelmingly against them."

Penelope Leach, child development guru: ‘When parents read aloud to their children, everyone wins. It's fun for the adult and great for the kids. Easy for you and good for them. You don't even have to ration it because, unlike TV or ice cream, there's no such thing as too much’.

* Crap title but great book.