#BlogTour! #Review – Summer in the Orchard by Fay Keenan (@faykeenan) @Aria_fiction

A fab first stop on the blog tour for ‘Summer in the Orchard’ – thanks so much, Kaisha! xxx

The Writing Garnet

I am so excited to be kicking off the blog tour today for ‘Summer in the Orchard’ by Fay Keenan – huge thanks to Aria for the blog tour invite and ARC. Here is my review:

Sophie Hendersonloves her job at Carter’s Cider in the picturesque Somerset village of LittleSomerby, but with summer dawning before yet another picking and pressing season, and her boss David showing no signs of wanting to hang up his cider jug, perhaps it is time to move on.

She’s all set to hand in her notice whenAlex Fraser, an intern from Vancouver, comes to LittleSomerbyto learn everything he canabout the cider business. With Sophie as his mentor, attraction between them starts to grow alongside the apples.

For Alex, however, being in LittleSomerbyis about more than cider, and as the summer grows warmer, and his relationship with…

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2018 review…what I know now.

Well, that’s another year almost in the bag. And what a year it’s been! Starting with the release of my second novel, Springtime at the Cider Kitchen, and ending with the burning anticipation of the release of my third book, Summer in the Orchard on 3rd January 2019, it’s, in one sense, a year bookended by books.

It’s been a year of brilliant highs and some challenging lows; laughter, tears, grief, joy, happiness, frustration, truth, lies, questions and some answers. But one thing it has taught me, both at a writing level and a life level, is that it’s important to keep moving forward; to take the lessons from the past, but to anticipate the future with an open heart and an open mind; to live each day well, and not to fear the darkness; to make the changes that you can, but not concern yourself with the things that are out of your control. In some ways it’s been the most challenging year of my life; but I’ve learned from the challenges and I truly believe things are better for them.

One thing I’m taking with me into 2019 is the idea that I can be the change for some things; I can make a difference to my own life and hopefully the lives of those I love. I learned that I can actually run 5k this year, after years of telling myself I wasn’t that kind of person. I’ve learned that I can do this book writing job alongside the day job, the wife job, the mother job, the million and one other things that make up the mental load of a woman in the twenty first century, and, some of the time, I can do them all well. But I’ve also learned that when the darkness comes, sometimes it’s better to accept it, to acknowledge that there are some things that aren’t in your power to change. You can question, you can advise, but at the end of the day, you cannot change things that are ingrained, are absolute; the best you can do is accept and move forward, with love in your heart and a candle in your hand, ready to light it when the darkness is done. No-one knows what the future holds, but the best thing we can do is greet it with a smile and an open heart. I’ve always tried to do this, but for me 2019 will be even more about that idea. And something tells me that 2019 will be a great year. I can feel it!

So I wish you all a wonderful New Year. Thank you for being with me this year, and I look forward to seeing where life takes us all in 2019 – I just know it’s going to be a brilliant one!

If you want to pre-order a copy of my third novel, Summer in the Orchard, click the pic for the link:

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Peter Rabbit, or, as I like to call it, ‘The Tale of Thomas and Bea’.

A friend lent me the DVD of the 2018 adaptation of Peter Rabbit this week, and, as has become the custom in these colder winter months, I sat down with the family to watch it on Sunday afternoon. Not knowing anything about the style of the film except that it is, obviously based on the cute, mischievous character created by Beatrix Potter, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. And boy, was I surprised by it!

As a piece of cinema, it feels like two different films shoved together to become one. On the one side, it’s a zany, slapstick, slightly vicious comedy about a family of rabbits who employ terror tactics to ensure they can keep eating fruit and veg from Mr McGregor’s garden. On the other, it’s a cute romance between uptight, repressed, affection starved Thomas McGregor and his sweet, compassionate, artistic neighbour Bea. If I was eight years old, I’d probably love the antics of the rabbits (even though pelting someone with blackberries when they’re allergic to them, and electrocuting them out of their own house could barely be described as antics, more a kind of furry terrorism), but as an adult I just had the urge to do a Glenn Close and cook them.

bea and thomasOn the positive side, Domhnall Gleeson and Rose Byrne are utterly adorable as Thomas and Bea, and I found myself getting very invested in the outcome of their relationship. He’s a toy shop manager with abandonment issues and she’s an artist with, well, painting issues, and they discover each other so beautifully. As Thomas starts to unwind, to appreciate this new life that he has inherited, and Bea shows him that there is more to life than order, arrangement and control over his environment, they fall in love. Every scene they were in together, they stole, and the achingly romantic ‘apology’ demonstration in the conservatory had me all a-flutter. I would say, actually, that it’s a more loaded moment than their actual kiss, but then I am a lover of romance!

These two ideas – militant, delinquent rabbits  and awkwardly adorable humans  aren’t mutually compatible on a number of levels. What should be cute somehow turns vicious, and although I loved Peter’s ‘apology’ scenes to his siblings and then to Bea, I couldn’t quite forgive him for the nastiness of his actions. I understand the motivations – he’s lost both parents and has a vendetta against McGregor senior for putting his dad in a pie, and on some level he can be interpreted as a jealous child, trying to sabotage a parent’s new relationship (he arguably sees Bea as a maternal figure). But there’s something that just doesn’t sit right with a lot of the action scenes (barring the travel montage at the end, which was great fun). I was left thinking that, actually, I’d have watched a whole film about Bea and Thomas, without the rabbits, and I’d probably have liked it more. Of course, as I said, I’m not really the target audience!

Because of this, the elements of character development I really wanted to see were only alluded to, rather than explored fully. Take Thomas, for example. He’s coiled so tightly at the beginning of the film that anything that throws him out of his routine sends him into meltdown. We find out later on, when he’s talking to Bea on the riverbank, that he lost both parents, and was brought up in care. If this had been a different film, we’d have had more exploration, more tension here. There are hints that he’s been starved of affection scattered through the film – his voluptuously ecstatic, cat-like appreciation of Bea towelling his hair dry after they are caught in the rainstorm, when he throws himself down on the riverbank during a picnic with Bea, and, as I’ve mentioned before, the  ‘apology’ moment in the conservatory when Bea brings her forehead to his to demonstrate why rabbits do it better, complete with his awkward, but enthusiastic response, culminating in a half smile.

As some commentators have said, Gleeson walks a tightrope in this film between antagonist and romantic lead, and he does it very well, considering the lack of character development. If this had been a different film, Thomas McGregor would have had even more depth, but as it is, Gleeson executes what he is given perfectly, and beautifully.

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Similarly, Byrne in her role as the gentle and saccharine Bea emits sweetness and light, tinged with the slightest of edges (although if a huge tree had crashed on my house, and my love interest had apparently been responsible for that, I’d have been a whole lot more angry! Again though, different film…). She tries to give Thomas the love and  emotional rehabilitation he so badly craves, even though she is, at the very least, unobservant. I mean, who’s not going to notice being stalked at every turn by a family of clothes wearing bunnies?! And as for the whole the-rabbits-can-talk issue…

So, all in all, there were lots of things to love about this film, although most of them were of the two footed rather than four legged variety. I’m hoping for a sequel, but only because I want to see Thomas and Bea having their happily ever after, and celebrating their wedding with not a cake, but a rabbit pie.

#CoverReveal – SUMMER IN THE ORCHARD by Fay Keenan

Thanks so much for being part of the cover reveal 🙂 xxx

Book Lover in Florida

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The Lake House

A quick repost of my thoughts about this wonderfully romantic film. Gorgeous Canadians are definitely on my radar at the moment (at least in the fictional sense!). Want to know why? pre-order Little Somerby book 3, ‘Summer in the Orchard’, here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07FVT89ZR/ref=series_rw_dp_sw

Fay Keenan

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So. Those of you who know me well must have known this was coming. And those of you who don’t know me well but are regular readers of this blog might have guessed as well! I currently have a mild obsession with this film, after having watched it for the first time on Friday night. I wondered then, and I’m still wondering, why I haven’t seen it before! The silly thing is that I’ve owned the DVD for about ten years, but even then I never watched it. Even accounting for The Husband’s total aversion to any film that doesn’t include a) explosions and guns b) Jason Statham c) Nazis or d) any combination of the first three, it’s still ridiculous. So, I took myself off to the bath and watched it on my Kindle. An hour and half later, the bath water was stone cold and I was blubbing!

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Welcome to my happy place…

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Ever since I can remember, writing and reading have been my happy places. They are where I go when, if you’ll excuse the vernacular, Shit Gets Too Real in real life. Now, before everyone gets out their tiny violins, can I just make clear that, actually, for most of the time, my life is exactly where I want it to be, and that I need to take this opportunity to, er, I believe the expression is ‘check my privilege.’ So, all that said, privileges checked, let’s talk about why writing.

Writing has allowed me to make sense of things when I need to. And that’s not to say that, when stuff happens, I write about that stuff. Far from it, in fact. The first long story I can remember writing was a Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon fanfic at around aged 9, and that was pretty far removed from my life as a nine year old. But it did allow me to explore family, relationships, crushes and stuff that I needed to think about in a completely different fantasy setting.

Fast forward a bit, with diaries, love letters, truly terrible poetry, GCSE and A Level English and more fanfiction over the years and you get to me, aged seventeen and a bit, deciding to write 72,000 words of Quantum Leap fanfiction in the eight or so weeks after I finished my A-Levels. Yup…some kids went on holiday. I wrote a novel (albeit a fanfiction one) in my downtime, cried down the phone to my (ex) boyfriend when I’d lost around 5k of it on the floppy disc I’d saved it on (honestly, the bloke deserves a medal for even picking up the phone that night, especially since we’d split up!), and then passing it on to a very understanding ex-editor friend of my Dad’s to read through. Fortunately, Vicky was tolerant and kind about having to read through pages of the stuff, and gave me my first editorial feedback, which really made my summer. In fact, twenty three years on, she gets a copy of my manuscripts to read when they’re at the editing stage, because she’s been such a help and a great friend. And then Dean Stockwell signed the manuscript that summer and I was over the moon!

Writing has always been with me; a silent friend when I needed it, an indulgence, an exploration, and a true, voluptuous pleasure. Up until five years ago, it was nearly exclusively fanfiction and a bit of journalism, and fanfiction was where I learned so much of my craft. For years I wrote alongside my dear friend Lynn in the D&DC and Top Gear universes, and she and I bounced ideas off each other, edited, critiqued, fed back and wrote some Really Good Stuff. Lynn took apart an OK story for me, and with her feedback I turned it into one of the best pieces of writing I’d ever done (‘Drowning’, by fayzalmoonbeam on A03, if you’re interested). I still love the story, and there’s no way it would have been as good as it was if she hadn’t been the ultimate critical friend.

Screen Shot 2018-08-16 at 20.38.07.pngAnd I still go back to fanfiction, even with two novels published, one more on the way and another few more in various stages of writing. Because writing is the way I can make sense of what I see, how I feel, and the effect it has on me. I fell in love with Mulder and Scully for a long time during the 1990s (in retrospect, Scully the most!) and used writing to make sense of that. In fact, I realised only recently that there’s a recurring theme in my novels that I hadn’t even noticed until I got to book 3, which is obviously me trying to make sense of something deep within myself. Parental loss, of one sort or another, is up there as one of my key fears, and it’s worked its way into two (perhaps three) novels before I twigged what was happening. And I’m lucky that I have both my parents very much alive and well!

But it’s about words, really. Reading words, writing words, using words to create pictures in my mind that I want to see, and that readers, hopefully, will want to see, too. And often these pictures come from the way I imagine the stories in my head to look. You see, I love stories, narratives, tales, in whatever form they come. Be it Shakespeare or Statham, film, drama, poetry, novel, short story, I love tales in the telling. And I imagine in very cinematic terms! I see scenes playing out in my head as I’m thinking about the story, and then I’m itching to get to the computer and get them down on the ‘page’. That’s why I write out of sequence, too; I see scenes fairly randomly, and I have to write them as I see them, and stitch them together later. At the moment, I’m listening to a song and imagining a man on a train with a broken heart, being taken far away from the woman he’s disappointed and angered, and wondering just how the hell he’s going to make it up to her. The song? This one…

Words have been my friend in the light and the darkness. In fact, it was writing ‘The Second Chance Tea Shop’ that stopped me from sliding into PND after baby number two. Those wee hours of the night, with a hungry baby feeding, and the endless hours of the day with a three year old and a six month old and me in the house were made more bearable if I told a story to myself. The story became my debut novel. And no, please no tiny violins. As I said, I’m lucky to have a good life and a wonderful network of friends and family around me, so I was not in isolation. But writing was there when I needed refuge from the nth terrible nappy, the lack of sleep and the fact that for a long time I couldn’t actually get off the floor without pushing off with both hands (what can I say, I have no core muscles!). Words helped me, in a very abstract way, to make sense of my own life, to silence that voice in my head that told me how badly I was doing at motherhood and life in general, and also to escape from the trickier bits of it and walk in someone else’s shoes when I needed to. And I hope that’s what my books do for you, as readers, too.

I have made myself laugh, cry and get a bit hot and bothered with my own writing, and I’ve learned so much from the sheer, joyous process of it over the years. So my advice? Write. Everywhere. All the time. As much as possible. See it as the guilty pleasure that it is for me, and, who knows, you might even like it!

I’ll be running through my dreams…

So, it’s time to come clean. I’ve turned into one of THEM. The ones you see sweating their backsides off on the pavement. The ones who look as though they’re about to die as they pound the street three times a week. The ones who take every opportunity they can to evangelise about the life changing power of putting one foot in front of the other at a speed that’s (mostly) quicker than walking.

I am now a jogger. I hesitate to say runner, since my mile time is pathetic at the moment, but it’s definitely going down. So, I hear no-one ask, how the hell did this happen?

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Well, four months ago I needed something to zone out my brain. For a number of reasons, including an encroaching exam season at work, a novel deadline and lots of stuff I won’t go into here, I needed to be able to switch the f*@k off for a bit, regularly. It was either that or spend my working at home days eating toast and contemplating my navel. Add to that a stone put on since Christmas, and I was in pretty poor physical and mental shape. I was in serious danger of sliding downhill mentally on my arse, if that makes sense, and for half an hour, three times a week, I figured I could crack on and drag that same arse outside, with a view to making said arse smaller, and helping out my head, before that disappeared up my arse, too!

So, I started the ZenLabs Couch to 5K program. Now, I’ve got history with the C25K. I’ve usually got to week 5 or so and either got pregnant or the weather’s got too cold and I’ve wussed out of finishing it. Not this time. No chance of more babies, and the weather’s been pretty good, so I had neither of the usual excuses to stop. But I didn’t go shouting about it here on the blog when I started, as I’m actually the queen of self sabotage, and I knew that if I started writing about it, I’d pack it in quicker than a bottle of Cava on a Saturday night. So, despite extolling the benefits of the C25K in person to any poor sod who happened to ask me about it (and quite a few who didn’t – sorry, lovely friends and family!), I kept schtum on here.

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However, now is the time to start shouting. As of today, I can now actually run/shamble 5k. But surely that was the whole point? I hear no-one ask. Well, of course, but, I knew there was no way I was going to get to that marker in a mere eight weeks. I mean, let’s face it, I’m at least three stone overweight, rather greedy, love my Co-op dry Cava and when I started I was running about an eighteen minute mile, so 5K in the half an hour that the C25K app suggests was never going to happen. But, and here’s the insightful bit…I knew that 5K in eight weeks was never going to be A Thing for me. My goal, like so many others who do the C25K program, was to be able to jog without stopping for the full thirty minutes. For me, it was never about the actual distance; it was about being able to put one foot in front of the other for the full time and achieve it, regardless of the distance. So, by the final week of the program, I was running just over 3k (about two miles), and, you know what? 3K was OK.

So when I ‘graduated’ the C25K, I had two choices; continue to run for 30 minutes for a few weeks and see if I got faster, or, increase the time I was running for, and see if that was enough to increase my mileage. Oh, incidentally, apologies for switching up the units in this post – I tend to think of whole runs in KM in terms of distance, and MPH  in terms of speed (I’m a child of the 80s, what can I tell you?!). Anyway, I decided that I’d soon get bored of keeping up the 5K final run, so I downloaded…you guessed it…the C210K!

This is the sister app from Zenlabs, and you can actually start on week 9, as a ‘graduate’ of the 5K program, so that’s what I did. And guess what? It was just the psychological kick I needed. The intervals are back (for example, the first couple of week 9 runs are 10 minutes running, one minute walking, repeated four times), as a way of increasing endurance. And it works. Completely. I ran for forty minutes, with four one minute walk intervals. And I’ve done it twice so far. I mean, f@!k me…forty minutes! Me…

Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 18.07.14And today I ran 5K. Now, did I mention that I am SLOW? My 5K time was forty five minutes, which is about 3.5MPH, I think. But you know what? That doesn’t matter. I did it. For the first time. And I’m not dead. Not even remotely. It’s taken about fourteen weeks, but I’ve actually got there. And while I’m pretty sure, to date, I’ve lost no weight (did I mention…greedy), I feel SO MUCH BETTER. When I started this jogging malarkey, I had to come back and have a little lie down after each session (not kidding). Now, I can come home, dash around the house and then engage properly with my children. In fourteen weeks. I call that an effing miracle, myself.

I know that I will never be a ‘runner’ – one of those lycra clad lovelies who bounces along the pavement at a speed that would put a March Hare to shame, but I’m a proud shambler, and I have the C25K to thank. Oh, and Bryony Gordon, of course, whose brilliant book Eat, Drink Run kept me on track as I was making the transition between ‘OMG I’m going to DIE’ and ‘Ooh, this feels GOOD!’. Well worth a read, whether you’re a runner or not, and not just because she loves a Star Wars t-shirt, like me.

So, what I have I learned? What are my top tips?

  1. If you’re ample of bosom, like me, get a VERY GOOD sports bra. Not only will it stop your boobs from bouncing around and distracting the motorists who pass you, but you can put your phone in your cleavage while you’re running. Saves using one of those silly arm band things.
  2. A good C25K app is your friend. The Zenlabs one literally just talks to you to tell you whether to run or walk, which suited me as I couldn’t be doing with someone chatting to me all the way round (headspace, and all that). But if you like the company, there are plenty out there who will have natter while you run.
  3. Listen to music only when you’ve found your pace. I couldn’t run and listen for the first six weeks of the program as, quelle surprise, I sped up and slowed down, depending on what I was listening to. Put it back on when you’re confident you won’t do this (the Zenlabs  C25K app runs in the background and breaks in over your music so you know when to run/walk, but only if you keep it up on your phone’s screen, so be careful. The 10K app is lockable, and works better for this).
  4. Don’t worry if you can’t breathe properly for four weeks. I only really learned to breathe in week 5. Before that, I felt like I was on sixty a day. Which I wasn’t. It hurts, but you’ll get through it.
  5. Trainers are good, but don’t get too hung up on which pair at this stage. I’m only now thinking I should get some decent ones, and I’ve run in all three manky pairs.
  6. Try not to carry anything except your housekey in a pocket. Honestly, it’ll mess with your elbows.
  7. Ibuprofen gel is your friend. Buy lots for your knees. Apply before and after.
  8. STRETCH. Before and after. Or your knees will kill you.
  9. Don’t worry about what anyone thinks when they see you. I was once put off, many years ago, by some twat shouting ‘I can see your cellulite!’ as I panted past him. Had I been able to speak at the time, I’d have shouted back about not being able to even see his tiny c*ck, but as it was I was struggling to breathe. And I didn’t think about it until WAY afterwards, as with all the best comebacks.
  10. Realise that, by taking this on, it’s a reward, not a punishment. You might even find yourself looking forward to the next run. This mindset is particularly useful in the early stages when you think you’re going to have a heart attack.

So there you go. I’m out of the running closet and proud. Here’s to reaching that 10K marker, however long it takes me!

I’m off to drink some Cava now…

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My new psychological thriller, THE FAKE DATE…!!

This is a glorious cover for Lynda Stacey’s fourth novel – looking forward to seeing it on my Kindle in September!

Lynda Stacey Author

It really doesn’t feel that long since I announced that I’d won the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition, and now here I am announcing BOOK 4…. I have no idea how that happened, except for the fact that I love writing, I love it when readers enjoy my books and leave the most amazing reviews. So today, I’m absolutely delighted to reveal the cover of it, my new psychological thriller, THE FAKE DATE..!

The Fake Date

And of course, it’s now available for pre-order on https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FM915Q2/

Release date: 18th September 2018

THE FAKE DATE

Nine hours and eleven minutes…

That’s how long it’s been since Ella Hope was beaten to within an inch of life and left for dead.

She lies, unable to move and praying for somebody to find her, as she counts down the minutes and wonders who could have hated her so much to have hurt her so…

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