Fiction, therapeutic writing

Update: Books, Research and New Projects

Hello all,

It’s been a while since I blogged about any of my goings on – mainly as I’ve been desperately trying to finish a book. Thankfully, that happened!

I’m excited to announce that Goodbye Ruby Tuesday  will be released on the 28th April. You can pre-order it now. There will, as usual, be a blog tour, a (truly) fantastic give away and a really different and creative event to promote the book and raise money for a great cause! The excellent Sara from Huhbub will be arranging all of this for me, so if you are a lovely blogger interested in the blog tour, leave a comment or send me a twitter message (@almichael_).

Goodbye Ruby Tuesday

It’s a book about three childhood friends who are brought together by the death of a rockstar they used to know, and start up an arts centre. It’s a noughties nostalgia-filled jaunt through the creative goings on in north London, with three friends fighting to create something special in memory of their friend.

Research:

My research into the application of creative therapeutic writing in eating disorder recovery starts next week. I’ll be running workshops in London, working with some lovely people in order to research how useful creative writing can be. I really do believe in the power of writing to heal and help arrange thoughts. I’m excited to see what this research discovers.

Future Writing:

Goodbye Ruby Tuesday is the first in a series of three books coming out this year. Each main character gets a book, so I hope you love the girls as much as I do, because there’s a lot more coming from them this year. The second book, Nice Day for a White Wedding will be our over the summer. The third, you’ll have to wait and see, but as I’m sure it’s clear, I’m picking some of my favourite songs as titles this time!

Other:

I’m excited to say I’ll be back at the wonderful Larmertree Festival this year, providing some creative writing for wellness workshops. They’ll be focused on nature and the body, really working to be inspired by the natural environment of the festival. If you’re there this year, stop by and try it out!

 

 

 

 

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Prince Charming- is perfect just a little boring?

After seeing the latest reincarnation of Cinderella last week (very pretty, not so much with any interesting backstory added, which was what I was hoping for) it’s made me wonder: Why must we beautify our princes?

This isn’t a post about masculinity or any of that crap, it’s literally the fact that a very handsome, and very (usually) talented actor Richard Madden (The One True King of the North) was stripped of any rough edges or…dare I say it…personality. We often have a whinge about the feminist issues surrounding princesses and fairytales, and when I work with kids I think it’s my responsibility to make sure the main character is something more than just beautiful. She’s kind, or she’s clever, or she’s determined. But why aren’t we doing this for our princes?

Teeth whitened, eyes brightened...personality dulled.
Teeth whitened, eyes brightened…personality dulled.
Here, rugged and not perfect but certainly more interesting.
Here, rugged and not perfect but certainly more interesting.

Charming (Or Kit, as he’s actually given a name) exists as the answer to Cinders’ problems. Sure, he’s got a little drama going on with his dad wanting him to marry a princess instead of a commoner, but really, we all know the old dude’s gonna cave in, in the face of True Wuv.

I know it’s a fairytale, and that the love story is really just the icing on the cake, and I know I was probably not the main audience for this (considering the alarming number of Disney store toys that this movie has created) BUT where is the drama? Even in Enchanted, a delightful cinderella-esque story, the Prince started out as a little bit of a smug ass who had no idea what his kingdom was really like. And we liked him for that because he GREW and CHANGED as a person by the end.

Maybe it’s because Prince Charming doesn’t interest me. Don’t get me wrong, Richard Madden interests me A LOT. But where was he in this? They shaved and shined, and whitened and brightened so much that it was like a living doll version of a human. No flaws, no details, no strangeness.

My current leading lady in my WIP is someone who studied English Literature and then fairytales. She knows they’re false, that they’re stories to teach and amuse, but it’s changed the way she looks at love. No, she doesn’t want the fairytale necessarily, but everything else in the real world looks a lot less dramatic. A lot more plodding. But flaws make us who we are!

This is a lesson I’ve got to take into my own writing, as often my female leads are in a time of transition, and their male counterparts have already had their issues and now (mostly) have their shit together. Is that fair? No, but you try writing two neurosis-filled characters into a love story. You’d spend most of the time with them being awkward and apologising at each other. So I hereby declare, I’m going to allow my leading men to be dicks sometimes. Because that’s real life. And we still love people when they’re idiots.

Let’s try appreciating some flaws, Hollywood. Because that’s where all the interesting stuff is.

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Without You To Hold- Christmas Novel Update!

So, incase I haven’t harped on about this enough, Carina UK asked me to write them a Christmas Novel to be released in November. Originally, I was stumped. My mum had watched enough crappy Christmas movies on the ‘christmas movie channel’ this year for me to know what had to be involved, but how do you do it without tinsel covered cliches?

Well, I focused on food and booze (because, duh, Christmas) and just focused on the idea that whatever is normally pretty dramatic and difficult, at Christmas time it’s multiplied by a hundred.

So the book is called Without You to Hold, and yes, there’s a lot of Elvis references! I’m currently editing it before sending it off, but if you want to get a taste for it, you can check out my Pinterest Inspiration board here.

 

And here’s the blurb!

Megan McAllister hasn’t been back home since getting pregnant at 17, and getting the hell out of dodge. Now she’s back, ten years later for Christmas, along with her daughter Skye. Reconnecting with her parents is going to be difficult enough, but when her childhood sweetheart turns out to be still living in town and looking for answers, everything gets a little more complicated!

 
In the meantime, don’t forget you can get hold of The Last Word on Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Sainsburys and many more! 

 

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Release Day: The BookShop On the Corner by Rebecca Raisin

The Bookshop on the Corner

Release day!

 

Who said that only real heroes could be found in fiction?

Sarah Smith had an addiction – she was addicted to romance novels. The meet-cute, the passion, the drama and the gorgeous men! Now this wouldn’t have been such an issue if she hadn’t been the owner of the only bookshop in Ashford, Connecticut.

Ever since her close friend Lil, from The Gingerbread Café, had become engaged she had been yearning for a little love to turn up in her life. Except Sarah knew a good man was hard to find – especially in a tiny town like Ashford. That was until New York journalist, Ridge Warner stepped into her bookshop…

Love could be just around the corner for Sarah, but will she be able to truly believe that happy-ever-after can happen in real-life too!

 

Praise from Mia March, author of The Meryl Streep Movie Club, and Finding Colin Firth.

“How I wish this magical little bookshop was around the corner from my house! Brimming with heart, hope, and wisdom, THE BOOKSHOP ON THE CORNER is a wonderful novel about love, life, friendship, romance, books galore, and finding that happy ending.” –-Mia March.

 

Excerpt

Chapter One

Snuggled in the cozy bay window of the bookshop, I looked up from my novel as the first golden rays of sunshine brightened the sky. Resting my head against the cool glass, I watched the light spill, as though it had leaked, like the yellows of a watercolor painting. Almost dawn, it would soon be time to switch on, and get organized for another day at The Bookshop on the Corner.

Every day I arrived at work a few hours prior to opening to read in the quiet, before customers would trickle in. I loved these magical mornings, time stolen from slumber, where I’d curl up with a book and get lost inside someone else’s world before dog-earing the page and getting lost in mine. Sure, I could have stayed in bed at home and read, but the bookshop had a dream-like quality about it before dawn that was hard to resist.

I turned back to the inside of the shop to watch shards of muted sunlight settle on piles of books, as if it were slowly waking them. The haphazard stacks seemed straighter, as if they’d decided when I wasn’t looking to neaten themselves up, dust their jackets off, and stand to attention. Maybe a customer would stumble across one of them today, run a hand lovingly across their covers, before selecting a book that caught their attention. Though my theory was books chose us, and not the other way around.

The bookshop was silent, bar a faint hum — were the books muttering to each other about what today would bring? Smiling to myself, I went back to my novel, promising myself just one more chapter.

When I looked up again the sun was high in the sky, and I’d read a much bigger chunk than I’d meant to. Some stories consumed you, they made time stop, your worries float into the ether, and when it came to my reading habits I chose romance over any other genre. The appeal of the happy ever after, the winsome heroine being adored for who she was, and the devastatingly handsome hero with more to him than met the eye tugged at my heart. And I’d read about them all: from dashing dukes, to cocksure cowboys, I never met one I didn’t fall for.

The sounds of the street coming alive filtered in, roller shutters retreating upwards, cheery shop owners whistling as they swept their front stoops. Lil, the owner of the Gingerbread Café across the road, arrived, hand in hand with her fiancé, Damon. They stood on the pavement in front of her café, and kissed goodbye, spending an age whispering and canoodling.

I tried to focus on my book, but couldn’t help darting a glance their way every now and then. Each morning they embraced almost as though they’d never see each other again, yet they worked only a few short steps away. It was as if they were magnetically drawn to each other; one step backwards would draw the other person forwards. I bet they couldn’t hear the sound of shops opening or cars tooting hello. They had their own kind of sweet music that swirled around them as if they were in some kind of love bubble.

Feeling as though I was intruding on a private moment, I swiveled away from the window and padded bare foot down to the back of the bookshop to make more coffee. My feet found the familiar groove in the wood; the path was so well trodden it was bowed. The feel of the polished oak underfoot with its labyrinth-type trails exposed around stacks of books was comforting. It’d weathered traffic for so long it was indelibly changed by it.

Taking the pot of coffee to the counter, I poured a cup, and sipped gingerly. Lately, I’d felt a little as though I was at a crossroads. You know that frustrating feeling of losing the page in your book? You didn’t want to go too far forward and spoil the surprise, and you didn’t want to go too far back, so you kind of stagnated and started from a page that didn’t seem quite right, but you read it a few times just to convince yourself…that was how I felt about my life. A little lost, I guess you could say.

Ashford was buzzing with good news recently, love affairs, weddings, babies, but I was still the same old Sarah, nose pressed in a book, living out fictional relationships as if they were my own. I was waiting for something to find me. But what if that something never came?

What did heroines do when they felt like that? Broaden their horizons? I imagined myself swapping Ashford for Paris, because of the bookshops and the rich literary history. But really, I’d never ventured far from my small town, and probably never would. My bookshop was a living, breathing thing to me, and there was no one to look after it even if I did want to do something spontaneous. Should I take up a hobby? I’d be the girl stuck line dancing with the octogenarian. Instead of dreaming of the impossible, I set about opening the shop, and shelved that line of thought for another time.

 

Find The Bookshop on the Corner here:

US Amazon http://amzn.to/1jMmIWA
UK Amazon http://amzn.to/1lGBvED
AUST Amazon http://bit.ly/1fTDwWW

iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/bookshop-on-corner-gingerbread/id850630026?mt=11

Kobo http://goo.gl/PjVtr1

Pinterest http://www.pinterest.com/rebeccaraisin/the-bookshop-on-the-corner-by-rebecca-raisin/

Find Rebecca here: 

https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaRaisinAuthor

http://rebeccaraisin.wordpress.com

www.twitter.com/jaxandwillsmum 

The Bookshop on The Corner blog: http://thecornerbookshop.wordpress.com/

 

 

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My Writing Process- Blog Hop!

Okay, I’m a little behind because everything’s been going mental with the book release, and the Christmas Novel I’m working on, but here is a Blog Hop I’m taking part in! You should check out Henriette Gyland’s Blog to see where it’s come from, this post is travelling about! It’s reached most of the authors I know, so I’m putting the call out to YOU dear readers, do you want to join this blog hop?

 

What Am I Working On?

Until a few weeks ago, I was working on my second novel for Carina, another sarcastic snarky chick lit called The Young and Bitter Club. I’ve since put that on hold to work on a Christmas novel which will be released in November. It’s called Without You To Hold, and involves a young woman who ran away from home at 17 when she got pregnant, returning to her home town ten years later, dealing with her family, her first love and having them all meet her precocious (and excellent) daughter. It’s heartfelt and I love it.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, that’s difficult. It’s very sarcastic, usually very London based, or at least urban. I feel like my work really explores what it’s like to be a twenty something these days, and that it’s not always easy, it isn’t always fixed by the perfect prince in a white ferrari, but it’s made easier with hilarious friends and cheap wine.

Why do I write what I do?

I technically was trained to write Literary Fiction, that’s all my university was interested in, and I do still have a few of those ideas in the pipeline, waiting. I wrote my first women’s fictional novel as a break after writing something heavy. It didn’t feel difficult, it felt freeing and fun. And now i get to do it again!

How does my writing process work?

I used to have a really complex process, but now I just gradually work my way into writing by doing some blog posts etc in the morning, then by afternoon I’m ready to get down to it. I usually write down all the fragments in a book and then type them up in order and flesh them out, but that can get a little difficult when you’re playing with timelines!

 

Don’t forget to check out my novel The Last Word if you want to see what I’ve produced through this process. And stay tuned for the Christmas Book!

 

 

 

 

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A Type Exclusive: An interview with our new reporter Tabitha Riley

 

Tabby is a new writer for our little online paper, and she’ll be continuing her very popular column, Miss Twisted Thinks. Tabby, thanks for joining us today. 

 

How did you get into writing?

Well, I’d always wanted to be a writer. I studied in Brighton, writing for the student newspaper. Then I got an internship, then another, and I ended up at the Guardian…well, since then I’ve been working freelance, working on my blog, and now I’m here.

 

Tell us more about your blog, Miss Twisted Thinks.

Well, it’s a mixture of confusion and rage, really. A mixture of reviews, thoughts on feminism, and, well…cake.

 

How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

Well, I spend a lot of time hanging out with my housemate, Rhi, and my best friend Chandra. Chandra’s into trying out cocktail bars in London, and Rhi’s more about old man pubs. Once a month, we make sure we have a Nothing Day, where we completely disconnect, and just veg out on the sofa, watching boxsets and drinking wine. It’s fabulous.

 

How are you finding the transition from freelance to The Type?

Well, everyone’s been very supportive. My editor is really good at identifying all the problems in my work and seems to enjoy throwing them in my face. (I’m also very good at identifying your excellent work- Ed.) But I’m having a great time.

 

Any big plans over the summer?

Well, I’m heading up to my mother’s wedding in an Essex Manor House over the summer. It should be…quite the affair. Especially seeing as she’s marrying a guy who was two years above me at school. 

 

Sounds interesting! Thanks for answering our questions, Tabby, and welcome to The Type team!

 

If you like the sound of Tabby, why not find out more about her in The Last Word?

 

 

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A Romance Writer’s Guide to Romance

Sometimes, when you write stories, life starts to seem like this weird symbolic thing, where everything has relevance. That guy you exchanged glances with at the cornershop when he was buying jaffa cakes, and you had a pint of milk, well, clearly, you were destined to see him again. The necklace you found after months of looking for it, signified an emotional change, and the feeling that you were going to get what you wanted. Raining on your birthday? Accidentally hit a guy in the face whilst twerking? Meaningful.

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The fictional world is one full of signs, so that when you look at the real world, you can tend to see where things are going.
And often, things that appear to be problems are really only different archetypes in storytelling. So here are the main things I’ve learnt about relationships from writing romances.

  • Passion matters. Attraction, desire, whatever- it’s important. In a lot of stories, we often find characters who don’t notice this attraction until halfway through the story. I personally think this is bullshit. If you’re attracted to someone, then you’re attracted to them. You can stamp down on it, but you can’t create it out of thin air. Chemistry only happens when you have the right ingredients.
  • Good partners listen. They explore what the other person is about. They have a basic curiosity about who and what this person is. Otherwise, what’s the point?
  • Always freaking ASK- if you think they’re being unfaithful, if you heard a rumour, if you don’t know how they feel. So many terrible story lines could have been avoided if the main character had grown a pair and just asked their partner what the hell was up.
  • The MOST BASIC of memes to avoid- You have an argument with your partner. You think it’s over. You’re heartbroken. You get drunk, fall into the waiting arms of whichever jezebel/boywhore you were originally arguing over. The next day they come around to make up, and you’ve fucked it all up. STOP DOING THIS, IT’S STUPID.
  • If you think you’re attracted to someone else, and you’re going to cheat, choose one of the following options: 1- stay away from said person until the attraction dies (chemistry fizzles when you run out of heat) or 2- break up with your partner. If you step back, you know where this is going way before you do anything.
  • If you overhear a conversation STAY TO THE END. Maybe they were being propositioned, maybe they were kissed but pushed the other person away, maybe they end up saying nice things about how much they love you. People and situations are complicated.
  • If you’ve had to stalk them or change for them, it’s not going to work.

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      Happily ever afters are built, not given. Work at it. Just because the book ends doesn’t mean the drama does!

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Writing London: Romance and Sarcasm in the City

I am a proper Londoner. I don’t make eye contact with people, march through crowds of tourists like it’s a Mario Kart race course, and whilst I will get up on the tube to let someone have my seat, I’ll do some with a terrible English awkwardness, in fear of the older/pregnant person being offended.

 

London is home, and it’s been home for all my novels. There’s nothing quite like the conversations you have on the nightbus, rambling along listening to drunk teenagers talk to tourists, everyone so drunkenly sincere. I love 2am kebab shops, and shabby chic coffee shops where everything is overpriced, but you pay because the environment is so lovely.

 

I love Hampstead Heath on sunny mornings, and the shops in Highgate village. I love the nostalgia of passed out punks in Camden market on Sunday mornings, and having lazy conversations on Primrose Hill as it starts to get dark.

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People set romcoms in London for a reason, but it’s usually peppered with shots of Big Ben and the London Eye, people all somehow affording to live in these flats in the centre of town. It’s the same with New York. People love a city, they love the possibility it affords: today you might meet someone who changes your life. That’s not really how it happens in the countryside, unless an alluring new stranger comes to town.

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But that’s not why I write about London. Sure, I love the prettiness of it, chic fashion and historic architecture, but my characters love London like I do- because it’s home. They don’t talk about wandering down to the Millenium wheel, because that’s not what Londoners do. My characters visit the places that I have been, the little secrets of the city that I’ve made my favourites. In The Last Word, Tabby and Rhi live in Tufnell Park, because that’s what I’d love to do. They alternate between snazzy cocktail bars in Covent Garden, and backstreet old man pubs that just appear out of nowhere, hidden away and perfect in their dim light and beer-drizzled carpets. The Type offices are set just off Regent Street, in the offices where I interned for Vogue. 

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London is this massive sprawling living thing, beating and breathing, and I hope that my books will always give a little of the ‘real’ London, the London of Londoners. At least until I can find an excuse to set a book in Italy, and then I’ll see you later, London!

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On Developing a Thick Skin: The Writer’s Task

 

You’ve slogged away at a book, you’ve received a publishing deal, or have put the effort into self publishing. You’ve written blog posts, updates, tweeted, talked everyone’s ears off about it, and you want people to buy it.

 

But what about when people do actually read it? What about when they review it? I hadn’t really thought about this part up until now, so focused on trying to drum up interest, secure reviewers and bloggers, that I didn’t think about what would happen when I get my first (inevitable) bad review.

 

How can you respond to the idea that someone doesn’t like what you’ve made? Well, in an ideal, rational world you understand that not everyone likes the same things, and you try to ignore it and remain proud of your work. But much as the internet has given us so much, reviews are fast and thick and from everyone. You don’t have to wait for the papers to give you a write up, instead you’re almost overhearing the conversations people are having about your work. 

 

Having looked at other author’s responses to bad reviews, seeing how they’ve almost felt personally attacked, and then had to shake it off, and try and continue, is powerful and admirable. I’m really nervous that a bad review will knock me down from what I’m writing now.

 

Writers (like all artists) are a strange mix of ego and self-doubt. We want to forge forward, secure in the knowledge that we’re making something we like, that has had some good response. That we are justified in doing what we’re doing. But half of us knows that we’re terrible, we’re no good, nothing we create will stand up to judgement, and what’s the bloody point anyway?

 

In these times, it’s good to remember two things: 

 

You’re doing this for you. You wrote your book for you. The process, the outcome, all of that was to make you feel something. Or simply because it was something you needed to do.

 

Also, Fifty Shades of Gray and Twilight are bestsellers. So bollocks to all of it, really.

 

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Regardless of my own personal fear, reviews are welcome (and necessary!) if you want to get a review copy from netgalley- click HERE and if you want to pre-order from Amazon.co.uk, then go ahead. It’s released in ONE WEEK!

 

 

 

 

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My Mum Might Read This…and Other Issues With Writing a Sex Scene

In theory, I have no problem writing sex scenes. The first story I wrote that got any recognition was about a girl having sex with a guy she just met, in a disabled toilet, at her aunt’s funeral. I am not squeamish. But that’s literary fiction. That’s when sex serves a purpose, to show the breaking down of walls, or the attempted escape from reality. Sometimes it’s symbolic of trying to feel alive. I can write sex scenes when they’re symbolic.

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But when I first started writing The Last Word, I had to consider what level I wanted to write at, in terms of sexuality. I’ve read a lot of really explicit stuff, and I’ve read things that fade to black. I tried for somewhere in between. The truth is, sex is weird. It’s a lot of strange mechanics and actions that are difficult to write about, because you have to imbue some sort of passion and emotion. If you’re just writing ‘then her hand goes here’, that gets to the point, but doesn’t make the reader care. Some of the best sex scenes I’ve read come from really old novels, where the build up is the most important thing. And I think that’s true of chick lit too- sex is the pay-off for many chapters’ worth of sexual tension. If you write a book where your love interests are at it before they’ve even interacted at all, well, I’m not really interested. 

 

I suppose that’s a female thing, that we want sex to mean something. That’s a generalisation, but in terms of readers of chick lit, I’d say it’s a safe assumption. Sex should be passionate and engaging and emotional. I couldn’t resist it in this book, that it should become symbolic again. All of my female characters seem to have trust issues, and sex is a form of trust. Letting someone in, being vulnerable, all that character development comes from sex scenes. Plus, I think we have a duty as writers to show what sex is really like. I remember as a teenager watching that Britney Spears movie, Crossroads, when they fade to a sunset after she kisses this topless guy, and thinking: this is clearly not what a first time is like. Doesn’t mean there can’t be love or passion, but awkward and uncomfortable are two big contenders there. And it can be funny, and strange and you can sound different to how you do normally.

 

One of my biggest peeves with Fifty Shades of Gray (of which I have bazillions) was that Christian Gray went from being all stiff upper lip, very ‘proper’ dialogue, to all ‘yeah baby’ in the bedroom. Your characters are still your characters in the sack. Don’t revert to stereotypes just because they’re boinking. Which is clearly not the biggest problem with that book, but was something that jumped out at me.

 

So, I did have trouble, writing the first few sex scenes, and as I got more confident in them,  I explored different situations. Some of them worked, and some of them had to go. One in particular involved such an awful play on words and a reference to oral sex that I actually shouted ‘oh gross’ when I read it through in edits, and scratched it through in red pen five times.

 

Who are your favourite writers who deal with sex scenes, what do you expect from them, and how do you find writing them?