Blog Archives

Making Time For Reading

I have a confession to make: I’m a slow reader. 😦

But in contrast, I’m a fast writer. 🙂

relax-on-the-sofa-776289-mInformation and news and technical stuff, I can read fast, but fiction… for some reason I take a lot longer. Maybe I just want to savour what’s happening with the characters and take my time to really feel the setting, or maybe it’s that when I read fiction my mind starts getting ideas for my own books (*note to aspiring writers – once you start writing, you will NEVER read books the same way again!).

There are SO MANY GREAT BOOKS out there right now that I want to read, and I get frustrated when I can’t get through them all. However, five months into 2014 and I have been reading more than usual and making more time for reading. It’s not just about the speed you read when you’re actually reading, but taking opportunities throughout the day to get a few pages in to increase your total reading time and get through more of those wonderful stories.

Here are some of the tips I’ve found helpful to make more time to read (some of these work best when reading ebooks, as digital books can be on your smartphone ready to whip out when needed):

  1. Waiting in a supermarket or post office queue
  2. Waiting for an appointment in a waiting room
  3. Waiting for large documents to download or screens to load on the computer
  4. While on hold with phone companies, etc
  5. Waiting in the car to pick up spouse or children from classes or trains, etc
  6. While eating breakfast, lunch, or on a coffee break
  7. First 5 minutes or so after waking in the morning
  8. At night before bed (the obvious one, this is when most people read)
  9. During commercial breaks on TV. The average one hour show has 10-15 minutes of ads! Watching TV for two hours you can get half an hour of reading done
  10. While stirring/cooking dinner (watch those sticky fingers and don’t drop your eReader or phone into the pot!)
  11. After exercise: if you go for a walk, why not stop half way or towards the end and read for 5 minutes in the great outdoors. Or if working out at home, take a few minutes to lie down afterwards and read while your body recovers (just remember to get back up!)
  12. Try an audio book to listen to while driving, doing housework, cooking, or exercising
  13. Have an allocated ‘nothing but reading’ day once a month, or whenever you can

I also recently heard about an app that increases how many words you read per minute. It’s called Spritz. I tried it. It works! But would this work for fiction or would it take away from the overall relaxing experience? Hmmm…

 

What about you, do you read as often as you would like?

Have you got any more tips to increase your reading time?

~ Juliet

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My To-Be-Read Pile – so many books, so little time

relax-on-the-sofa-776289-mYears ago I would buy a book (or receive one as a gift), read it, then buy another one. Now, I buy (or receive) many in advance. I love having books around me, there is something magical about the beautiful covers, fancy fonts, and promise of secrets within (wow, that was deep, eh?). And because I’m now a writer I’ve become aware of many new authors and books I want to read, so my pile has grown, both physically (on my bookcases) and virtually (on my Kindle).

Today I’m not going to list ALL the books in my pile, just a selection of ones that I’m particularly keen to read soon.

Are any of these on your list too? Or have you read any of these and think there’s one I should read immediately?!

 

I’m currently reading The Returned by Jason Mott… what will I read next?

  • Blood Secret by Jaye Ford
  • Banish by Nicola Marsh
  • Outback Dreams by Rachael Johns
  • The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.
  • Love Anthony by Lisa Genova
  • Chasing Perfect by Susan Mallery
  • Three Sisters by Susan Mallery
  • The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs
  • Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella
  • Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger
  • Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
  • The Secret Ingredient by Dianne Blacklock
  • Beautiful Illusion by Jacquie Underdown
  • The One That I Want by Allison Winn Scotch

SISTERS AT HEART – my short story

Every now and again I get the urge to write a short story. Especially if there’s a competition (Aries competitive nature). Earlier this year Country Style magazine held a short story competition with the theme ‘Cooking from the heart.’ The $5000 prize was a big motivator to enter, but even though I didn’t win I enjoyed writing my story and am proud of the result.

When I heard what the theme was, it was the perfect theme to match to a story idea I’d had for a while, so with enthusiasm I sat down and wrote the story all in one go till the early hours of the morning.

2000 words doesn’t seem like a lot, but with short stories you have to plan the plot and create characters just like in a novel, in fact, sometimes short stories are more challenging because of the restriction in length. You have to focus on a moment in time with only a couple or a few characters and have a satisfying emotional ending to the story. Sometimes the ending is not an ending but the start of something new, but the event that takes place in the story is the driver for that new beginning.

My ‘cooking from the heart’-themed short story, SISTERS AT HEART, is now published on Smashwords. It’s set in the fictional town of Tarrin’s Bay where I am setting a series of novels, the first being THE JANUARY WISH which is completed and the second being FEBRUARY OR FOREVER which is a work in progress. SISTERS AT HEART is women’s fiction with a twist; there’s a little surprise at the end that some people may guess and others may not.

Here’s the blurb…

Grieving the loss of her sister and breakdown of her marriage, Carrie moves to the small seaside town of Tarrin’s Bay for a fresh start with her young son. When she volunteers for the school cake stall, a remarkable coincidence has her realising the incredible power of the human heart.

You can read the first page here, and if you like the sound of it and want to see what the twist is, the full story is only 99 cents 😉

I’d love to hear what you think about it! I might write more ‘Tarrin’s Bay’ short stories.

Do you have any short stories published? If so, let me know in the comments 🙂

I have a gift for you…

I have been busy preparing a special gift for my online friends, and I am pleaseed to say it is now available!

So what is this gift?

It’s a virtual goody bag I’ve called the ‘Triple Treat’, here’s what it contains:

1. A short story entitled ‘The Big Four-O’, about a woman contemplating the funny side of turning forty.

2. Another short story, ‘The Winner’, about successful lawyer Natalie Mirvac whose ambitious and competitive nature is challenged when life throws her a little surprise.

3. And a special e-guide with practical and empowering advice, called, ‘Ten Tips For Living A Life You Love!

All presented in a colourful, downloadable, 20 page pdf with pictures!

You can get your copy at my website, click here to access it (a new window will open).

Enjoy! 🙂

 

A Novella With Heart – Guest Interview with Tahlia Newland

On the blog today I have author Tahlia Newland to talk about her new young adult novella,  You Can’t Shatter Me,  Tahlia writes magical realism and contemporary fantasy for young adults & adults. She has a short story available free on kindle for a limited period – A Hole in the Pavement  from 3rd to 7th July.

Welcome Tahlia, what is the novella about?

It’s about Carly, a sixteen year old girl who wants to write her own life and cast herself as a superhero, but when she stands up to a bully, the story gets out of her control. Dylan, a karate-trained nerd who supports her stand, turns out to be a secret admirer, and Justin, the bully, makes Carly his next victim. While romance blossoms, Dylan faces attacking words, an unreliable movie director, a concrete habit that requires smashing, and an unruly Neanderthal. Meanwhile, the bully’s increasing harassment forces Carly to deal with flying hooks, unflushable cowpats, and deadly dragons. An old hippie shows her an inner magic that’s supposed to make her invincible, but will Carly learn to use it before the bully strikes again and Dylan resorts to violence?

Why should people read it?

It’s a heart-warming story that will inspire and empower teens and adults alike with its solutions for the bullying issue. It’s also written in a unique magical realism style that provides an exciting and unusual fantasy element in the form of extended metaphors for the characters’ inner experiences.

Like attacking words and flying hooks?

Yes. The words are Dylan’s thoughts, and the fishing rod and bait is the bully trying to annoy Carly. She has to try not to end up a fish struggling on the end of his hook.

Where do the dragons fit in?

Carly asks her Auntie exactly this. This is her reply.

The dragons are inside you, and you have to slay them before you can deal with anything outside.”

“So I’m living with an infestation of dragons,” Carly said. The conversation got weirder and weirder.

Aunt Anne chuckled, “I see a doubt dragon, right now. You need to get rid of that one, quick smart, or it’ll sabotage everything.”

Even though Aunt Anne says the dragons are inside, Carly’s battle with the Doubt Dragon is written as if it appears outside.

A huge purple dragon raced out of the bush towards me, snorting fire. I dived out of the way, but the flames licked my arms, searing off layers of skin, leaving it red raw like a lump of meat.

 

What’s the inner magic?

Light conjured up from arousing love and compassion. It’s very powerful but Carly doesn’t trust it.

Is that bit magical or real?

It’s reality written as if it were magic.

A karate-trained nerd sounds like a contradiction. What’s Dylan like?

He’s gorgeous, of course, and full of contradictions, which is what makes him so interesting. He’s very intelligent and preferred math and computers to girls until very recently, but now his naturally protective feelings for Carly threaten to turn him into a Neanderthal. He never wanted to do karate but his mother insisted, hoping it would stop him being bullied as a child. It worked too. A lot of the book is written from his point of view, so we get to know him quite well.

What about Carly?

She’s a very ordinary girl in many ways except that she wants to make a difference in the world. She wants to right what’s wrong, but she struggles to find the courage she needs to do that. She loves dancing, art, movies, chips (fries to the Americans), her cat and by the end of the book (after a few kisses) is entertaining the idea that she just might fall in love with Dylan too.

What kind of solutions for bullying does the book offer?

I use analogies for helpful ways of thinking. For example, when you stir a cowpat it stinks, whereas if you leave it alone, it crusts over and stops stinking. I draw a parallel between this and anger. If you stir up your anger, it’s going to hang around like a bad smell until you stop repeatedly thinking about what caused it. As well as being entertaining, the analogies make the points easy to remember.

Also, the main character, Carly learns to meditate, which helps her to handle the situation more calmly and clearly, and she comes to see her harasser in a compassionate light. This increases her self-esteem and eventually disarms him. Of course, she has a lot of resistance to learning to meditate. My teenage daughter made sure that the characters actions were very realistic.

Do these solutions work?

Yes. I’ve used the analogies and the viewpoints they represent to help my daughter negotiate the trials of the school ground and also various teens at the high schools I’ve worked in as a teacher. I’m constantly amazed by the immediate positive effect they have.

 

>>One of Tahlia’s short stories, A Hole in the Pavement , is free on Kindle until 7th July.

>>You can purchase ‘You Can’t Shatter Me’ on Kindle, or in files for all devices via Smashwords. The paperback will be available via all major book retailers worldwide. If you would like to be notified when it’s released please fill in the form here.

Thanks Tahlia for visiting the blog today!

Tahlia is an avid reader, an extremely casual high school teacher, an occasional mask-maker and has studied philosophy & meditation for many years. After scripting and performing in Visual Theatre shows for 20 years, she is now a bone-fide expatriate of the performing arts. She lives in an Australian rainforest, is married with a teenage daughter and loves cats, but she doesn’t have one because they eat native birds. Connect with Tahlia at her website/blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Rachael Johns Answers Juliet’s Ten Awkward Author Questions!

In this segment, authors will be subjected to a list of awkward questions that may reveal more about themselves than they really wish to share, and they will receive a score on the ‘Braveometer’. If they choose to answer only five questions, they are a ‘Brave Author’, if they answer 6 to 9 questions they are a ‘Mega-Brave Author’, and if they answer all 10 questions they are an ‘Ultra-Brave Author’!

Today I’d like to welcome Rachael Johns, who has a new book out called JILTED! She is also giving away a copy of this book to one lucky commentor (Australia/NZ only).

1. If only one of your books could have been / could be published, which one would you choose? (C’mon, I don’t want to hear ‘Oh, I love them all, there’s no way I could choose.’ Time to be ruthless, these are the Ten Awkward Questions after all!)

JILTED without a doubt. I love ONE PERFECT NIGHT but JILTED is a bigger book and was my fairy dust book in many ways. I can honestly say it almost wrote itself. Wish another one would do that.

2. Okay, now which one of your children/family members would you… nah, just kidding! Which of the following words most accurately describes your best personality trait (you must pick only one!):

Punctual. Good listener. Neat.  Graceful. Generous. Cheerful.

Cheerful! Definitely. I’ve even been told I smile TOO much 🙂

3. Which of the following words most accurately describes your worst most challenging personality trait (even if you’re perfect, you must pick one):

Always late. Blabbermouth. Slob. Complete klutz. Scrooge. Grumpy pants.

Oh dear… I think I’m gonna have to go with SLOB! Not because I want to be this way but between kids, writing and the shop, my house and housework severely suffer.

4. Have you ever had a romantic crush on one of your characters? Who and why?

I LOVE a tortured hero and I think all my heroes have a little bit of torture in them. So, I have to be really naff and say I love them all. I’m jealous of the heroines and hopefully that comes across on the page!

5. When writing an important scene, do you act it out to allow you to better describe what’s happening?

Nope – which is bizarre, cos I’m an English teacher with a minor in DRAMA. I am very guilty of talking to myself though and have been known to talk through scenes or at least the dialogue.

6. Do you talk to yourself when writing or coming up with plot ideas?

Whoops – I think I just answered that above. YES!!!

7. Who would be ideal to play YOU in a movie of your life?

Renee Zellweger but possibly only her character from Bridget Jones 🙂

8. If you could be any book character for one day, who would you be and why?

I’d be Hermione from Harry Potter because a) I’d really impress my sons and b) I could do magic spells!

9. You’re about to be left on a deserted island for a year, and while your basic food and water needs will be met, you can only bring one extra thing from the following. Which would you choose?

a) A pen and notepad that never runs out

b) An unlimited supply of books

c) An unlimited supply of chocolate, coffee, or alcohol (your choice)

d) A gorgeous man/woman depending on your preference

An unlimited supply of Diet Coke (runs for cover from Juliet)!

10. If you had the attention of the whole world for two minutes what would you say?

Live life like there’s no tomorrow and also like you’ve still got forever. Take the time to listen and always smile 🙂

Thanks for participating, Rachael. You have been awarded ‘Ultra Brave Author’ status on the Braveometer!

You can visit Rachael online at her website, blog, facebook, and twitter.

>>To WIN a copy of JILTED, leave a comment below (Australia/NZ only)!

*Winner will be drawn Tues 12th June and has one week to respond to the email notification or another winner will be chosen. Good luck!

Mouthwatering Moment by… Cindy Roesel

Today’s Mouthwatering Moment excerpt is by Cindy Roesel, an Emmy award-winning anchor, reporter, producer, and author of VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED.

“I’ll have the Pasta Telefono with extra mozzarella, along with a glass of the house white, please,” Charley smiled at the cute waiter. His nametag read Alfonso. Not tall, but handsome, with a sexy Italian accent. She thought she recognized the scent of Armani’s Gio for men as he walked by, but couldn’t be sure. All the waiters working at Carpaccio were gorgeous, appeared to have just walked off the pages of GQ, and spoke with yummy accents.

“Sauvignon Blanc or the Chardonnay?” he asked, leaning toward her. His skin was beautiful, not a wrinkle or blemish anywhere, just like most employees and patrons at Carpaccio.

“Is the Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand?” she asked.

He picked up and filled her water glass. “Yes, it is Cloudy Bay.”

“That’d be lovely.”

Charley and Rori were seated in a sea of beautiful, well-chiseled, surgically-enhanced South Americans and Europeans with a few loud, English-speaking New Yorkers scattered about. The restaurant was half indoors but sitting outside was preferable if you wanted to see and be seen. Watching people was the whole point of dining at Carpaccio. While the food was consistently good, the nearby luxury stores attracted an extremely wealthy international clientele. Everyone seemed to be dressed in designer fashions fresh off the runways of Paris, Milan, and New York, and there was a bountiful display of the latest in plastic surgery.

Charley had learned early on that the Shoppes in Bal Harbour were never to be referred to as a mall. She’d been getting her hair cut when she said she was going shopping at the mall in Bal Harbour. Her stylist had ever-so discreetly said, “They’re called the Shops, unless of course, you want to be seen as a tourist.” Being mistaken for a tourist was a fate worse than being seated inside and unseen.

~*~

Cindy’s favorite meal: Stone crabs. A seasonal May 15-Oct 15 South Florida delicasy

Cindy’s favorite drink: Diet peach snapple

Cindy’s favorite treat: M&Ms, plain …. for a SUPER YUMMY, Dairy Queen chocolate ice cream cake OMG!

 

Thanks for sharing your excerpt, Cindy!

To find out more about Cindy, visit her website here.

And remember, all comments will go into the draw for prizes at the end of the month, just make sure you also subscribe to the blog posts 😉

Mouthwatering Moment by… Juanita Kees

Today’s Mouthwatering Moment excerpt is from Juanita Kees’ soon to be released book, FLY AWAY PETA.

FLY AWAY PETA:

The time has come to face her worst fear and the clock is ticking…

Peta Johnson will go to extreme lengths to protect her daughter Bella. When Bella is kidnapped, the search for her takes Peta back to the small country town of Williams, a place she’d vowed never to return to. The town where her dreams were shattered and her nightmare began. Back to the place she’d been destined to meet two very powerful, yet very different men. One would break her heart, the other would destroy her soul. Both would change her life forever.

Back story: Bella is missing, and Peta and Jaime have spent an uncomfortable night together, under guard, in a hotel room as they wait for demands from the kidnapper….

In the outer room of the suite, Jaime stretched his cramped muscles. A knock at the front door made him start and almost spill his coffee.

“It’s me!” He heard Mark call out and crossed over to open it.

“Special delivery! Your shaving gear,” Mark said, patting the stubble on Jaime’s jaw, “And boy do you need it!  Some clean clothes and breakfast.” Triumphantly, Mark held up first the gym bag and then the brown paper bag.

Jaime shook his head. “Why the hell are you so chirpy so early in the morning?” he asked, rubbing his head. It had developed a dull thud. Probably from too much excitement the night before. He wasn’t used to being shot at, or being confronted by a past he’d been working hard to bury. Either way he was going to bleed, he thought grimly.

Mark laughed as he popped muffins into the microwave. “Go and shower. You’ll feel better.”

Jaime picked up his kit and headed in the direction of the shower. Whistling, he soaped himself and washed his hair. He allowed the warm water to rinse his body, enjoying the invigorating spray as it battered away the numbness of sleep.  Turning the water off, he reached around the curtain for a towel and realized there wasn’t one.

“Damn!” he said and then yelled, “Oi Mark, bring me a towel, mate!”

He heard the door open a few seconds later and swept the curtain aside. Peta stood there, the towel slipping from her hands as she stared at Jaime, her mouth rounded in an ‘Oh!’

Quickly she looked away. “Why are you still here?” she asked abruptly. Picking up the towel with nerveless fingers she muttered, “Mark and Jones went out to get some more milk. Here’s your towel.” She thrust the towel at him. God, she remembered that body well. From the glimpse she’d gotten, he was more muscular than before, bigger even than she remembered.

Quickly, he wrapped it round his waist. “Thanks.”

~*~

Juanita’s favourite meal: A nice, juicy Prime Rib, medium rare, topped with prawns and garlic and served with creamy mashed potato and herbs

Juanita’s favourite Drink: Nespresso Coffee – preferably served by George Clooney

Juanita’s favourite Treat: Bailey’s (hold the ice), sprinkled with chocolate mint flakes

Thanks for sharing your excerpt, Juanita!

To find out more about Juanita and her book, check out her website here. You can also find her on twitter and facebook.

Remember, comment below to be in the draw for prizes at the end of the month, just make sure you also subscribe to the blog posts 😉

Novels with a Food-Theme: Part 2

Nothing beats a good book, or a great meal, or an irresistable treat…  so it’s even better when these are combined! Here is a selection of some novels with a food-theme. This is part two, so if you missed part one, you can see it here.

Sugar and Spice – Jules Stanbridge

A rich, indulgent treat of a novel – love, life… and chocolate cake

When Maddy loses her high-paying city job, her instant reaction is blind panic.

But after the ‘drowning her sorrows’ hangover has cleared, she realises that this is an opportunity to change her life and do what she loves best: baking cakes. And so she sets up her own cake company, embracing the highs and lows of getting a new business off the ground, while looking for love along the way.

Chocolat – Joanne Harris

In tiny Lansquenet, where nothing much has changed in a hundred years, beautiful newcomer Vianne Rocher and her exquisite chocolate shop arrive and instantly begin to play havoc with Lenten vows. Each box of luscious bonbons comes with a free gift: Vianne’s uncanny perception of its buyer’s private discontents and a clever, caring cure for them. Is she a witch? Soon the parish no longer cares, as it abandons itself to temptation, happiness, and a dramatic face-off between Easter solemnity and the pagan gaiety of a chocolate festival. Chocolat’s every page offers a description of chocolate to melt in the mouths of chocoholics, francophiles, armchair gourmets, cookbook readers, and lovers of passion everywhere. It’s a must for anyone who craves an escapist read, and is a bewitching gift for any holiday.

Chocolat was also made into a movie with Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche.

The Saturday Supper Club – Amy Bratley

Wanted: four amateur cooks to compete in a supper club contest Rules: four strangers, four weeks, four houses, four dinner parties

You might win: a cash prize You might lose: your heart.

Eve had her world torn apart three years ago, when the love of her life Ethan disappeared, and she never found out why. But now, her life is rosy. With a lovely new boyfriend, Joe, and a café opening on the cards, things finally seem to be falling into place. … until she agrees to take part in a supper club competition for a local newspaper. Eve is cooking the first dinner and who should turn up on her doorstep expecting a three-course meal, but her long lost love Ethan?

Eat. Pray. Love. – Elizabeth Gilbert

This beautifully written, heartfelt memoir touched a nerve among both readers and reviewers.

Elizabeth Gilbert tells how she made the difficult choice to leave behind all the trappings of modern American success (marriage, house in the country, career) and find, instead, what she truly wanted from life. Setting out for a year to study three different aspects of her nature amid three different cultures, Gilbert explored the art of pleasure in Italy and the art of devotion in India, and then a balance between the two on the Indonesian island of Bali.

By turns rapturous and rueful, this wise and funny author (whom Booklist calls “Anne Lamott’s hip, yoga- practicing, footloose younger sister”) is poised to garner yet more adoring fans.

This was also made into a movie with Julia Roberts.

Have you read any of the books I’ve featured today? What do you like about books with a food-theme?

Mouthwatering Moment… by Me (#2)

Today I thought I’d share an excerpt from my current work in progress, FAST FORWARD. Hope you enjoy!

“You’ve got to be kidding?” I stood, rooted to the ground as Ryan tried without success to usher me towards the ‘Ben’s Bungy Jumping’ sign. What did he expect me to say, “Oh yippee, just what I’ve always wanted!”?

“I’ve booked us both in for a jump, it’s gonna be awesome!”

“You can’t be serious? There’s no way I’m going to let someone tie rope to my feet and throw me off that thing!” I pinned him with a determined stare.

“Mum, remember at your birthday dinner last year you said you wanted to do something adventurous for your next birthday?” Ryan enquired. “You said you wanted to do something different, to feel alive again.”

I shook my head at him.

“Well, you did say it, and I listened, and I’ve had this planned for ages and it’s non-refundable so you can’t back out. Mum – you’ll thank me for this, it’s going to be something you’ll never forget.” He clamped his hands together as though in prayer.

“Never forget? This is THE thing I’d want to forget! I can’t do this. Besides, I’m f…f…fifty,” I stuttered, still in shock of my situation. “Surely they wouldn’t let seniors like me go bungy jumping?” I planted my hands defiantly on my hips and jutted out my jaw.

“Of course they do, it’s perfectly safe, and you’ve been given a clean bill of health by the doc, so there’s no reason you can’t do it. They can even jump people who are in wheelchairs, you know.”

Yeah. Probably adrenalin addicts who are in wheelchairs because of bungy jumping.

“What if the rope breaks? They could forget to tie it on properly, and only realise once I’ve plunged to my death!”

“They won’t forget. I know Ben, he’s a professional,” Ryan assured.

Professional what? Professional Idiot?

I looked at the huge purpose-built structure, completely out of place in the lush natural rainforest, and imagined myself launching off the edge to the water below. I shuddered as I saw all my saggy bits sagging upside down, my loose turkey-neck skin falling over my face, covering my mouth and nose and cutting off my air supply.

This could be fatal in more ways than one.

 

You can read more about this story here.

So, have you ever been bungy jumping? What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

And remember, every comment left on this post and all others during May will go into a prize draw at the end of the month. 🙂