A Q&A With Marieke Nijkamp!

FIVE friends go to a cabin.
FOUR of them are hiding secrets.
THREE years of history bind them.
TWO are doomed from the start.
ONE person wants to end this.
NO ONE IS SAFE.

Are you ready to play?

Ahead of her new book coming out I was able to as Marieke a few questions about Even If We Break, writing and what she likes to read.

The new book is one that sounds perfect for the Autumn evenings with Halloween not far away – what gave you the idea for it?

I love cabin in the woods type stories, and I really wanted to write a book that centred around a roleplaying group and friendships. RPGs have always been a big part of my life, and I’d been wanting to play with them in fiction more. In this case, what happens when friendships start to shatter and a previously closely knit group goes awry.

If you could explain the book in 5 words – how would you describe it?

A roleplaying game turns deadly.

How do you plan your novels? Do you have a process you stick to?

I plot and plan a lot in advance. For this, there was an extensive timeline and lots of flashcards. I also wrote an extensive outline during edits, because it helped me and my editor keep track of everything.

What would your advice be for people who want to write and publish a novel?

Learn as much as you can. Write the books you want to read. And persevere.

What is the best book you’ve read in 2020 so far?

For YA murder mysteries: Darcie Little Badger’s Elatsoe. I’ve been recommending that book far and wide, because I love it so.

For YA that fills your heart and makes you dance: Lyla Lee’s I’ll Be The One, which is joy in book form.

For YA that makes you feel seen: Kacen Callender’s Felix Ever After, which is about love and identity and embracing who you are.

And if you’re looking for a good graphic novel recommendation: Niki Smith’s The Deep and Dark Blue, which made me cry in a good way. Oh, and also check out Kat Leyh’s Snapdragon, which is a modern type fairytale. And Kiku Hughes’s Displacement, about history and memory. And Sarah Kuhn and Nicole Goux’s Shadow of the Batgirl, because Cassandra Cain is the best and I’m always hear for Oracle!Babs.

Let’s just stick to seven recommendations. That’s a reasonable answer to your question, right?

Thank you to Marieke for chatting to me and Midas PR for the opportunity!

Enjoying Writing Again

Enjoying Writing Again

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll have noticed I didn’t post much in July…in fact I only posted 3 times. I got to a point where I felt like the blog was another pressure in my life, another thing I needed to do and that’s not what this blog is about.

My blog has always just been a place where I can write, get ideas down and create something that I’m proud of. So when it stopped being fun I took a step back. For me, there was never a question of me getting back to it but I didn’t know when. I thought maybe I’d take until September because I was just so overwhelmed and struggling with my mental health.

That is until today, when I could feel my fingers itching to get to the keyboard and write about things. I could feel ideas for posts forming in my brain without it feeling like a colossal effort. Despite the fact I’m absolutely exhausted today (gym workout felt great yesterday, less so today) I wanted to write again. Yippie!

So, I’m not planning on putting pressure on myself to post a certain number of times a week at the moment, or on the views because, really does it matter? I blog mostly for me, to write, to get better at my craft etc. I don’t rely on this blog for my income, it’s not something I have to do so I’m going to get back to writing what I want again…I hope you enjoy it!

It’s good to be back.

What I Read In April 2020 – Part 2

Welcome to the second part of my April reading wrap-up. Will I do as well in May? Who knows? I’m hoping to focus on some longer books on my physical TBR. Missed part 1? You can catch up here.

Let’s get on with the next reads.

As part of the Easter Readathon I also read Before The Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, a Japanese short novel about time travel. It can be quite an emotional read. I thought it was interesting, it was a 3 star read for me.

I then wanted to pick up a few more graphic based books to make me laugh which lead me to All My Friends Are Dead by Avery Monsen and Jory John. This is a quick flick through and quite funny – a 3 star read for me.

I also found the Sarah’s Scribbles books by Sarah Andersen after really enjoying the first one. These are short cartoons but I found myself laughing along and seeing myself in them. Big Mushy Happy Lump was a 4 star read for me and Herding Cats was a 3 star.

All My Friends Are Still Dead by Avery Monsen and Jory John I found was better than the first volume and really came into its own.

Next up number 4 in the Wayward Children’s series, In An Absent Dream this follows Lundy and her story. I found this one a little slow to start with but still enjoyable and worthy of 4 stars.

Us by Curtis Wicklund is a really sweet collection of sketches that he drew over a year of him and his partner. A really sweet and quick read – 3.5 stars.

Ok, so Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire was amaaaaaazing. Another look at Jack and Jill in a different light and that’s all I can say but I loved it and it was a solid 5 stars.

I got an ARC from Netgalley of Love Your Body by Jessica Sanders and illustrated by Carol Rossetti is a wonderful book about body positivity and diversity. Beautifully illustrated and with a great message – I can’t wait to get a physical copy.

There are cartoons of Lady Stuff online so I thought I might as well give Lady Stuff: Secrets To Being A Woman by Loryn Brantz a go. It was quite repetitive and not that memorable, a 2 star read for me.

Debbie Tung’s Quiet Girl In A Noisy World – Debbie Tung made me feel seen. It was very much like reading my life, particularly the working situations. I love Debbie’s illustrations and I *think* there is another one coming out soon about relationships – I hope I can get hold of it in the UK.

I also picked up another Christina Lauren audiobook and adored it. Roomies is set in New York, it has music and arts and romance and everything was just perfect. The little musical theatre geek in me was squealing with happiness. Is it any surprise it was a 5 star read for me?

Last but not least, I won a copy of Noelle Stevenson’s The Fire Never Goes Out in Kate’s Easter giveaway. I’d seen it recommended and the illustrations looked great. Plus, I’m interested in memoirs from late teens/early twenties. This is a great read and looked at creativity, depression and identity – a 4 star read for me. It also made me finally order a copy of Nimona.

And that’s that! Over 20 reads – have you read any of them or do you want to? Let me know in the comments below!

Blogmas 2019 - Ranking Cadbury Heroes

Blogmas 2019: Ranking Cadbury Heroes Chocolates

We’ve made it, the last installment of ranking Christmas chocolates. It’s been long, it’s been opinionated but here we are. Now it’s Cadbury’s turn to be under the microscope.

Are you ready? Let’s do it.

9. Fudge

Ok, I confess I find these super bland and pretty tasteless compared to some of the other varieties of fudge in other boxes around Christmas. Always left as a last resort.

8. Dairy Milk Caramel

I’m not a fan of caramel and in these it’s too sickly sweet for my liking. and there’s never a good chocolate to caramel ratio. I’m very passionate about this.

7. Eclair

Similar to the toffee penny in Quality Street, this one can take a tooth out if you’re not careful, even though they are pretty yummy. It just takes a while to get through them.

6. Double Decker

They’re not the best but they’re definitely not the worst. I much prefer the bigger version of these but beggars can’t be choosers.

5. Wispa

Pretty standard but also pretty good also works super well if you dip it in hot chocolate – thank me later. 😉

4. Twirl

All hail the Twirl, one of my favourite Cadbury bars in tiny format – what’s there not to love?

3. Crunchie

The addition of the Crunchie was a bloody brilliant idea and they are so tasty, which is why they are secure in the spot of number 3 and not to be moved.

2. Classic Dairy Milk

You can’t beat a classic bit of Dairy Milk can you? It’s a staple of British chocolate and I don’t think you can go wrong with it.

1. Creme Egg Twisted

A little bite of Creme Egg at Christmas? Yes please. One of the best decisions the people at Cadbury made. I stand by it.

Where would you rank the Heroes? Let me know below! 👇

Blogmas 2019: Getting to 1,000 Subscribers!

This wasn’t a planned post from Blogmas but it’s one that I’m pretty chuffed to write! In the last few days I reached 1,000 subscribers to my little corner of the internet!! Yippie!!

Way back when I started University in 2013 I didn’t think of this blog as being something I’d still be doing 6 years later and with over 1,000 people getting my posts to their email. It’s been a really nice end to the year blogging wise, particularly as I haven’t been able to put as much into my blog in 2019 as I wanted to but you guys have still kept reading!

Thank you so much to each and every one of you 1,000 people because it really does mean so much to me to have your support. Whether you’ve been here since my daily posting at university to 2-3 posts a week now you’re awesome and I can’t wait to keep sharing with you the next part of my life and ideas!

This was a pretty great gift!

I'm Attempting Blogmas 2019

Blogmas 2019: I’m Attempting Blogmas

It’s the first of December which means we’re officially counting down to Christmas! Advent calendars have been opened, you trees are going up (or maybe they’re already up) and it’s the start of Blogmas! Yes!

I’ll be honest with you, I kept going back and forward on whether I was going to do Blogmas this year – it’s a lot of work and I wasn’t sure if I could do it again to myself alongside everything else I’m doing at the moment including working my ass off so I can have a break over Christmas! Although, who are we kidding here? Of course I’ll end up doing some kind of work – but I digress.

I’m excited to write about one of my favourite times of the year, a mix of fun and silly posts but also some which might be harder to write or harder to read about some of the struggles that people face. Will it be random? Most likely.

That said I’m trying not to put pressure on myself – if I miss a day because I’m busy, that’s ok. If it gets to half way through and I need to put my health first, that’s ok too.

So, buckle up it’s time to get festive!

Q&A With Melanie Blake, Author Of The Thunder Girls

Melanie Blake is a pretty big deal – when you hear the term self-made woman she embodies it. As if being one of the UK’s leading music and entertainment managers wasn’t enough, Melanie has now turned author with the much anticipated novel. The Thunder Girls is here and it’s set to be the perfect summer read.

When I was asked to partner with Midas PR I jumped at the chance and a brilliant launch party I was able to get Melanie to answer a few questions.

Q: What was the main motivation for writing this novel? 

A: The characters had been in my consciousness for as long as I can remember and in a way their voices were so powerful, I had no choice but to tell their story. I do feel like The Thunder Girls are real and I guess I’m sort of like a medium they’ve shared their story through. Often when I would write, their voices were so strong I would find myself typing away almost in a trance and even when I read it back to edit, I was so engrossed- I knew I was onto a winner.

Q: Female friendship is at the centre of the novel, why do you think this isn’t something widely seen in novels? 

A: Publishers – lots of men are in power in publishing which is why you see so many male crime writers and not so many women writing about crime. What they fail to understand is that friendships are what make or break our lives so everyone who’s ever lived can identify with my book because we’ve all had those relationships, good and bad.

Q: Who were your writing inspirations? 

The women that influenced me to write in my early career where Jackie Collins, Lynda La Plante, Martina Cole, Judith Krantz, Jilly Cooper and Helen Fielding.

Q: Your characters are working class – what’s your advice for the modern working-class women? 

A: Never accept “no” for an answer. Never expect anyone to validate you. There’s an inherent stigma against working class, which is why you see so many successful working class and regional people often change their accents once they become successful. I never wanted to be part of ‘that club’. Being different is what makes us unique, despite what anyone tells you, never change. I spent my whole life being told “no” and when I stopped asking for approval, I started getting what I wanted. No-one is in charge of your own destiny but yourself. It doesn’t matter where you’re, from if you have a dream you must follow it.

Q: Do you consider this a feminist book? 

A: 100% – although on initial reading you don’t realise it is until you get halfway through. I’m not going to spoil the story but to say that it’s clear by the way it ends that these women know their own minds and bow to no man.

Q: And finally, what is one thing you want people to take away from reading this book? 

A: I want them to feel like they’ve been on an adventure, a white-knuckle rollercoaster ride that has moved them, made them laugh, made them cry, shocked them and warmed their hearts all at the same time, there’s a lot going on in this book.

A huge thank you to Melanie, Pan Macmillan, EDPR and Midas PR for this opportunity and my copy in exchange for this interview.

The Thunder Girls by Melanie Blake is out now, published by Pan Macmillan, priced £7.99 in paperback original. 

Blogging Struggles

Hellooooooo blogging friends!

Let’s be real here, trying to write a blog regularly can be damn hard work. This isn’t a post to complain with a ‘woe is me’ attitude. But, it is one that’s going to be pretty damn honest.

I’ve honestly felt so unmotivated. While there are pages of ideas for posts I’m kind of deflated. While everyone gets like this and, real talk, it can feel incredibly frustrating to be blogging for years and then see newbie bloggers getting great sponsorships and collabs. There’s no shade in that but it can really make you question yourself and your blog.

So, I thought, why not write a blog about not being able to write a blog. There we go. What an idea! I guess, part of this is me forcing myself to write and publish something no matter how I feel about it and, quite frankly, getting over myself and this writing thing. The only way I’m going to get out of this damned slump is by writing myself out of it.

I’m fully aware this has become a storytime/pep talk for myself/ word vomit situation and you know what? I’m okay with that. I’m okay proving that I’m not a perfect blogger, I’m just doing the best I can with what I’ve got.

How I’ve Evolved As A Blogger

Ah blogging, something we all love – well I’d assume so, seeing as you’re reading one! As I write this I’m struggling with blogger block, I’ve got over 100 ideas in drafts but can I finish one I’m happy with? If you’re reading this then clearly I can.

I’ve been blogging on this site for almost 6 years, originally starting it just before I went to uni because I wanted to write about what it was really like to be a student, rather than just a generic guide. Comparing my blog then to what it is now is odd. I’ve grown as a person, but so has my blog.

I don’t post every day

When I went to uni I wanted to write on my blog every single day. It had a kind of diary element too I guess. The longer I’ve been writing the more emphasis I put on quality, not quantity. Each week I try to post 1 book review and 1 other post. I don’t put any more pressure on myself than that.

Of course, if there is something in the news or something that’s caught my eye that’s time sensitive I write about it. Personally, I think my blog is better for it.

I learnt about images – and where to get free ones!

When I first started I knew I wanted to write, that was it. I had a shiny camera and I’d try and add pictures when I could or I’d just find some on Google. I didn’t know about sites like Canva where I could create my own. I had no idea about image copyright – now it’s something I do and make sure that I only use images I have permission to use.

Everything about blogging has been a learning curve and I’ve gained so many skills from working on my little corner of the internet.

My writing is better

Every year I write the equivalent of a book on here (let’s hope I can sit down and write an actual book at some point too!) over 6 years that is a lot of writing. I can see such a positive change in my writing and hopefully in another 6 years it will have improved even more.

My opinion is valid (to some people at least!)

It’s crazy that I get asked to read and review books. I’ve been sent some absolutely incredible reads, my NetGalley is fit to burst – I couldn’t have imagined that people would care about my opinion on anything, let alone books.

I definitely feel like I’ve evolved for the better and while I might have a few slumps a year, and I do, it’s a part of me now. So, I’m curious how have your blogs evolved?

Why I Haven't Planned Any Blogmas Posts

Why I Haven’t Planned ANY Blogmas Posts

It’s the 1st December and bloody hell hasn’t that gone quick! Throughout the internet, I’ve seen people starting Blogmas and Vlogmas where the very dedicated post every single day either in the run-up to Christmas or throughout the month of December. So, what about me?

I love seeing everyone’s post and last year had a great time with my own Blogmas posts, however, when I came to this year I had to think about it. Things are different to last year, mainly, because I started working freelance and running my own business all of my spare time and energy are going into that to make it a success. I’ve been doing this since August. And, honestly, I really want some time to relax in December. I need to take a break before the madness of 2019 when I’m hoping to get a few projects going.

Really, this is a form of self-care for me. When I blog I want to put things out that I’m passionate about and care about. Trying to write and schedule 25 posts just felt a little overwhelming this year and so I decided to take care of myself. That said, I’ll still have all of my regular blogs up and ready to go! There’ll even be some bonus blogs with my favourites of the year posts that I LOVE to do (they’re my absolute favourites).

Why am I writing this? Mostly because I wanted to remind other bloggers too that if you simply don’t have the time, the energy or don’t want to do Blogmas don’t feel like you have to! We all know how long blogging takes getting the ideas together, writing, editing, taking any images, making images etc. With Christmas being such a hectic time of year I don’t think we should put more pressure on ourselves.

While I will 100% be supporting and cheering on my favourite bloggers as they take part in the mammoth task and maybe next year I will get involved again, who knows? Right now, my focus is going to be recharging my batteries a little and making big plans for next year!

Are you taking part in Blogmas or Vlogmas? I’d love to know why/why not in the comments. If you are please leave your links too – I’d love to support you!