Happy New ‘Me.’

It’s half way through January. Christmas and New Year have been and gone. In our house, all that remains are a couple of yellow, deconstructed sprouts in the bottom tray of the fridge, six (gifted) packs of ‘After Eight Mints’ and various boxes and cartons of chocolates with only the dodgy coffee cream and coconut varieties left that none of us like.

So, how many of you are still hanging in there with your New Year’s resolutions? You’ll be impressed to know I haven’t broken any yet (although mainly because I didn’t make any!) I figured after the year I’d had, health and writing wise in 2016, 2017 could only be better. 2016 could be defined by two words. NO WRITING. Or, perhaps I should say; ‘pain and sleep.’

fullsizerender-1Both RNA parties and various writing events and meet ups fell victim. For the first time since joining the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme, I missed the Conference, usually one of the highlights of my year. My 50th Birthday celebrations were lovely but muted and I was unable to host the sacrosanct Romaniac Sparkle Weekend. The bilateral jaw joint replacements I’d had in 2010 were not working and numerous tests and an exploratory manipulation of my jaws early in the year showed my mouth opening was less than half a centimetre. One side was encased by new bone growth.

All I could eat was soup, shepherds pie, lasagne and soft foods from a small spoon. Eating in public became a no no. As my jaws deteriorated, I became hyper conscious of the pitiful ventriloquist’s dummy act my poor mouth attempted when forced to talk. Those who know me well will understand why I chose to hermit. Morphine patches and top ups of extra morphine and analgesia helped, (or maybe caused) the excessive drowsiness. Whatever; morphine and sleep became my best friends in 2016.

We take for granted the simplest actions of eating, sneezing, yawning and brushing teeth. When these basics became almost unbearable, my Maxillo Facial surgeon asked if he could consult with my original surgeon who had since retired and see whether there was anything they could do. Several weeks later I was advised that my original surgeon had agreed to come out of retirement and together they would try a major and risky operation. There were no guarantees. If the pain improved, that was a bonus, but the main proviso of going ahead was simply to help give me back a quality of life.

13th October was D Day, and, by coincidence, six years to the day since I’d had the bilateral total jaw replacements.

 

It’s been a long and painful recovery. As a result of the surgery I’ve developed hyperacusis and vertigo which has hindered progress but in terms of the work the wonderful surgeons did to free up my jaw prosthetics, it’s still early days, but it seems to have been a huge success. 2016 wasn’t a complete wipe out after all and the highlight of my year was being able to stuff a whole mince pie in my mouth at once! Beat that!

Not being a lover of New Year, I’d planned to go to Northumberland for Twixmas but cancelled at a low point post surgery to give a good friend chance to re hire their cottage out. However, as I improved and both my lads made plans, I got the itch to take off on an adventure, have some space, maybe do some writing. I had no intention of sitting home alone on New Years Eve to enjoy a solitary evening with the BBC and Robbie Williams, toasting Bruno, my Labrador! So guess where I ended up? Charlestown, in St Austell. Yes, I know it’s even further than Northumberland and I must be mad but I paced myself by stopping over in Glastonbury, my spiritual home, to split the journey.

For six days I relaxed, breathed in huge lungfuls of sea air to heal and blow away the past months. In between I secreted myself in the quiet corners of restaurants and pubs, and wrote. Yes, I wrote! I can’t tell you how good it felt to scribble again, to watch the words and scenes flow effortlessly across the various notebooks I’d received for Christmas. By the end of my break I’d added about eight chapters, plotted the main twists and turns and written the ending of Country Strife, my second novel.

So, to 2017 …

When I got the email from Immi inviting me to re-join the NWS this year I replied instantly to take up my place. I missed seeing my RNA friends and the Romaniac girls last year; the support, comparing progress, the banter, the fun. All the Romaniac girls are now published, agented and have book deals. Except me. In 2016 I felt less and less able to contribute to our daily messages and to add anything other than congratulations to peers on social media. There is never any sense of competitiveness within the RNA or with the Romaniacs but seeing so many RNA friends enjoy publication days, book deals and to see their new relationships with publishers and agents etc, I realised I was being left behind.

Health is the most important thing in life, next to family and friendships and I have to accept, for me it will always be a challenge. I’ve realised I may never fulfil my full potential. But I have to keep trying. Having made the inroads with Country Strife, I’m going to type up what I scribbled in Cornwall and fill in the gaps. With the jaw surgery behind me and less pain and renewed energy, writing shouldn’t feel such an uphill struggle so I’ll push ahead while the going is good. And as if by magic, this years RNA Conference returns to Harper Adams, just up the road in Telford, so there’s no excuse for not attending.

I welcome 2017 warmly. I wish those of you who choose to get up super early to go jogging or head straight to spin class after work, and my sons who have replaced the selection boxes with boxes of protein shakes and dumb bells all the best. However, as long as I can limit my wine intake and reduce portion sizes, instead of resolutions for 2017, I’ll make three promises to myself:-

1/ I WILL finish Country Strife to send off to NWS – aiming for Easter. You heard it here first.

2/ I WILL go to the RNA conference in July.

3/ I WILL live well and enjoy every day of my 50th year as best I can.

I wish you all a happy, healthy and productive 2017 too. Let me know any promises you’ve made to yourself…

Until next time

Debbie xxfullsizerender

 

Life Cycle of a Writer – Lucie’s big announcement

Oh my goodness, the last 24 hours have been crazy! I have woken up this morning with sore feet, tired eyes and a fuzzy head. Why? Well, for those who did not see my announcement on social media yesterday, here it is…

I have signed a TWO BOOK DEAL with publishing giants Harper Collins under their digital first imprint, Harper Impulse. 

I still can’t believe it. I cannot even begin to describe the feeling when I say those words because I have waited so long to. And I attended the Harper Imprint Christmas party last night which provided the perfect setting to celebrate my announcement, and was made that little bit more special as I had two other Romaniacs, Sue and Catherine, either side of me making sure I celebrated in true Romaniac fashion.

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Pre-drinks with Sue and Catherine

I don’t have your average author story. I didn’t grow up wanting to write books or reading every single childrens book after hours with a torch under my pillow. I haven’t read all of the classics that I thought all people who wanted to be authors had. I haven’t got a degree in English or writing – I didn’t even take English for my a-levels. Yet something inside me changed that first time I attempted to write my first story.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I’d just had my daughter – who is known on social media as LO – and I was incredibly lucky to be able to stay at home with her whilst my husband worked very hard to look after us. But instead of doing what sane people do and ‘nap when baby naps’, I started writing down little stories and characters. By the time she was a few months old, I had some chapters down. It wasn’t in the genre I write in now but I really believed in the story. I remember sitting in the garden with one of my best friends and telling her that I had written it and how much I enjoyed it. I still have that story, although I don’t think it will ever see the light of day. But it is special because it was my first.

However, I wasn’t dreaming of being published, I just enjoyed the writing.

Fast forward four years and I was still dabbling in writing little stories here and there for fun. Then one evening I went along to an event where I saw a clairvoyant. It was the one and only time in my life where I indulged in anything of that kind but as a bit of fun, I decided to give it a try. That lady said one thing to me that stuck in my mind ever since and really changed my life.

‘That thing you are doing right now, you should keep doing it and take it seriously – you’ll be good at it.’

It was a throwaway comment which could be interpreted in whichever way the recipient wanted, I understand that. But to me, at that point in my life, my first thought was, she’s talking about my writing. So the very next day I signed up to do a novel writing course with the London School of Journalism. And this was when I stopped writing just for fun, and started writing with a view to getting published.

Fast forward another six years, and here I am! It has taken me ten years to get to the stage where I can say I’m going to be a published author. And it feels incredible.

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              At the Harper Christmas party: L – R                   Sue Fortin, Charlotte Ledger (one of my editors), me, Jules Wake                  

So, back in June I had a very exciting meeting with a lovely editor, Charlotte, from Harper. It was amazing to talk to someone who loves my writing and genuinely enjoys reading my work. She offered me a book deal there and then and I spent the rest of the day in a haze, super excited to get home and tell my husband and daughter the amazing news. Only problem was, I hadn’t actually written the book yet! Whilst Charlotte and her team had read my previous work, the book deal was for a book that, at that time, was just a concept I had written down. Now I had to write the book and make it good!

The whole time writing it, I was terrified they would read the finished version and take my deal away. Was I going to live up to their expectation? Did I have the time to write the book as it was the summer holidays and I had a child to entertain? Did I have what it takes to turn that concept into a fully fledged novel?

I am so relieved to say that I wrote the book, I still have my book deal and they loved it! Cue lots of jumping around and whooping!

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My agent, Kate Nash, and I at the RNA Conference this year.

My agent, Kate Nash, has been absolutely amazing every step along the way. They say you should have an agent who loves your work as much as you do and I think Kate is perfect for me and my writing. Her enthusiasm and determination for my work is incredible and she is always on the end of the phone when I need her, rooting for me and fighting my corner and I couldn’t be more grateful to her.

So, what’s in store for the next few months?

Edits, edits…and writing the next book! Alongside university, being a mum, volunteer work, being a housewife, preparing for book events, planning a launch party….

Sleep is overrated anyway!

Thank you SO much to everyone for their amazing support and encouragement throughout my writing journey.

A new door has opened for me and this is just the beginning…

Lucie xx

You can pre-order Lucie’s debut, THE FIRST TIME MUMS CLUB, on Amazon here:

E-book – May 2017

Paperback – July 2017

You can also follow Lucie’s journey via social media:

facebook‘Like’ her Facebook page

twitter‘Follow’ her on Twitter

insta‘Follow’ her on  Instagram

Life cycle of a writer – Lucie’s hectic juggling act

 

Well, what a crazy few months it has been for me. I haven’t done an update for the Life Cycle series for ages and there is a reason for that. I had been waiting to do mine until I was able to share some incredibly exciting news with everyone, however, that time hasn’t come yet and I cannot put it off any longer so I am doing my update now.

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Just be aware that a VERY big announcement is coming up VERY soon… I do love a little tease! (sorry!)

So, what have I been doing with my time recently?

 

As some of you know, I am juggling studying for a degree alongside my wrting journey. Over the summer I completed my first year and passed (hoorah!) and have since begun my second year of study. I am studying Early Childhood Professional Studies at Anglia Ruskin University and totally loving it. Being at university is a lot harder and a million times more stressful than I ever thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, I was aware that I had signed up to a degree course so I knew it would be challenging, but as a mature student (yes, I know, at the ripe age of…30?!) I not only had to study for my degree, but I felt I had to learn how to learn again – how to retain information after being out of education for 11 years and not using that aspect of my brain. It was hard. But in my second year I feel I am slowly getting there. I am loving using my creativity for my projects – although academic writing is SO hard compared to creative writing and I don’t think I will ever get to the stage where that style of writing comes as natural to me as writing a fictional story. I have a great year group too which makes the journey that much more enjoyable.

20161121_173140I also ran for Course Representative for my year group and was elected by my peers which was a huge achievement and a very emotional moment, knowing I had the full support of my classmates – so a huge thank you to them. Throw in some committee meetings etc and I have managed to make my university experience much busier (but ten times more rewarding).

Alongside university, I am also writing my books and attending writing related events and experiences. I have recently enjoyed author events meeting some fab writers and catching up with my writing buddies at things such as the RNA Conference back in July.

 

 

 

I have been spending some time rooting for my fantastically talented friends on their writing achievements and helping to spread the word about their amazing books – although I have had to start trying to allocate time for social media for such tasks as I am very easily distracted and can pop onto  social media for a quick browse and lose two hours of my life in an instant! I know I am not alone in this…

I have also been writing some little notes and drafts of some children’s book ideas that I have been thinking about. Studying within this sector has made me realise that I would also love to write within this genre and I hope that one day I will get the chance to write for children as well as adults. I’ll add it to my ever growing ‘to-do’ list, because I don’t have enough to do…

Lastly, I feel I should acknowledge the fact that I did sign up to NaNoWriMo this year with the view to getting the first draft of my next book idea down.

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The finished room make over

How I thought I could fit in 50,000 words of novel writing in a month which saw my daughter turn 10 (with two sleepover parties and a bedroom make over to do) and at a time of the year where I had TWO presentation exams to prepare for and present at university. I love a challenge, but I think this was one step too far and I had to admit defeat and say that it was not going to be achievable. In life, it is good to set yourself challenging goals, but sometimes, the best thing to do is to know when to say enough is enough and take it back a step. Saying this, I finish university for Christmas in just a couple of weeks and I have the whole of January off so I have a clear 6 weeks of full time writing to settle down with – with a little writing retreat thrown in too – so I just had to juggle a few tasks to that time instead of running myself into the ground. Sometimes life just needs to have a jiggle round – everyone loves a jiggle from time to time!

 

So there you have it. Whilst it may seem like, at times, I am quiet on the writing front, it is most definitely not the case. And once I can reveal more, all will become clear.

Until then…

Lucie

xx

Roving Romaniac – Lucie’s loose in London!

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Last month when my friend, Leanne, tweeted me  saying ‘this looks good, we can go after uni!’, it was the start of a very exciting conversation. She is fantastic and is sometimes an extra pair of eyes on Twitter for things exactly like this event. Because I spend a lot of my time either writing books, writing university papers or reading textbooks, my time on social media comes about in fits and starts, so I sometimes miss these great announcements of events and by the time I see them, they are sold out! This is where it is handy, as a lover of books and writing, to have a friend like Leanne to scout these events and tweet me about them! She did the same about the Paige Toon event I went to last month which I shall blog about next week as I totally forgot to at the time! (I blame university/book brain!)

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Arriving at the News Building, ready to join the queue!

So fast forward to yesterday, the day had finally come. We were off to London to the offices of Fabulous Magazine for their author event. Not one, not two, but THREE fantastic authors were there to chat to everyone and sign books. A-MAZ-ING, right?

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Lindsey Kelk

So, we had the very lovely and VERY funny Lindsey Kelk, author of the ‘I heart’ series alongside other novels. Her latest book, ‘We Were on a Break’ is OUT NOW and promises to be another incredibly funny and witty read.

 

Next we have the amazing Giovanna Fletcher, super talented author of books such as ‘Billy and Me’, ‘Dream a Little Dream’ and her most recent novel, ‘Always with Love’ is a great read. Mum to Buzz and Buddy and wife to Tom, Giovanna amazes me with how she manages to fit everything in and still manage to meet fans and

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Giovanna Fletcher

enjoy an evening out.

 

And last, but by no means least, the incredibly talented and super friendly Mhairi Mcfarlane. Mhairi is one of the nicest people I have met; easy to chat with, identifiable and  a total word wizard! Mhairi’s latest book ‘Who’s that Girl’ is OUT NOW. I am about a

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Mhairi Mcfarlane

third of the way through it and LOVING IT!

 

So, what do you get if you add three FABULOUS writers and a FABULOUS magazine – you got it, a FABULOUS evening! A free glass of wine – tick – a free book – BIG tick and a stunning view – phenomenal tick! The ladies chatted about their books, how they write, what they write, why they write. The topic went from cats with urine infections (don’t ask) to Tom Mcfly killing off Giovanna’s characters and using the lives of friends to help create the most craziest stories. There was laughter, lots of it, and great questions from audience members. The interview was filmed for a short while on Facebook Live which added a great dimension to the evening and the room in which the event took place was kitted out amazingly with lights, music from a DJ and a wonderful buzz of excitement that flew around and into every nook and cranny of the space. 14708104_517561595109091_4382367823175074922_n

I had the chance to meet all three wonderful ladies and have my books signed. We did have to queue for quite sometime (they are popular women) but when each and every person arrived at the front desk, it didn’t feel rushed or awkward and each person was given adequate time to chat and enjoy the company of their idols. I had some lovely conversations with each of the ladies, I almost wish I could have pulled up a pew and indulged in conversation all evening.

But unfortunately, as all good things, the evening had to come to an end. My friend and I left – with another friend of mine from back in high school who I recently have started to bump into at these book events (Hi Hannah!) – and we strolled back to London Liverpool Street station ready to embark on our journey back home.

But not before a quick snap on London Bridge to add to our souvenirs from another very enjoyable event.

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Selfie on London Bridge!

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Bumping into school friend, Hannah

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Fabulous Magazine for hosting a great event.

 

Thanks to Lindsey, Giovanna and Mhairi for providing many laughs and incredible books.

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And thanks to my friend, Leanne, for finding the event, accompanying me and providing yet more laughs on the journey home at the expense of her jacket!

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The Life Cycle of a Writer: Cobwebs

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I’m just back from a major spring cleaning of the brain. Sometimes a writing retreat in the wilds of Northumberland is just the thing to blow the cobwebs away and recharge your creative bits and bobs, but this time it was more of an escape from reality that was needed. Or maybe a step into an ideal world? One where phones don’t ring much because the signal’s pants, and the sun shines, and the tide always seems to be out. Where breakfast appears every day as if by magic bursting with calories and yummyness and you get to read whenever you like.

It sounds perfect, doesn’t it? And so it was, but now real life has kicked in. I’ve just given up the day job but instead of the wide expanse of writing time, swimming, walking, pilates, the odd bit of housework and loads of wine/cake/both, there seems to have been a big dollop of worry lurking in the wings. You can’t predict when the people you love will be taking a nose-dive and needing propping up, can you?

So, on to Plan B. I’m hoping to map out every day to have writing hours in it as well as doling-out-TLC-and-nourishing-soup time. The next chapter is going to be one where every hour counts. And that means ditching the panster tag and being…organised? Well, let’s just see how it goes…

Celia

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Life Cycle of a Writer: Debbie

It’s been a while since I last blogged. (Ooer, that sounds a bit like a confession.) Unlike most of my fellow Romaniacs, I’ve had little to shout about. In fact, NOTHING to shout about.

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A bad case of the January blues ran into February, then March and before I knew it Easter had been and gone and I was no further on with progressing, ‘Living in the Past,’ the novel I (finally) finished last summer. Why?

Well, once again I have any number of reasons, although a critical NWS review comes high up the list. After I’d digested the five page report which, in a nutshell suggested I might be better off to put what I’d learned so far down to experience and move on to the next novel, I lost all motivation to respond to the 5.30am alarm clock set on dark, damp mornings to get up and write. The pain of my arthritis and news that I need to have two lots of major surgery to replace my existing prosthetic jaw joints consumed me. Morphine patches meant I spent up to four hours asleep in the daytime. Deranged blood results, yet more building work, the garden, domestic chores, not enough hours in the day; these things individually may not seem much but all together they threatened to overwhelm me. 3

For months, I returned to deriding myself. ‘You’ll never be a writer … You’ll never get that book published … What if the reader is right and the agent who was waiting to see it (three years ago!) also thinks it’s a pile of poo? And what if, after reading it, they won’t entertain the idea of ever receiving anything from me again?’

‘Man up, mom!’ said my eldest son. ‘So the reader didn’t like it? It’s one person’s opinion. Not everyone will like it. But the question is; do you like it? You’ve been working on it long enough. Or if not, do as they say and stop talking about it!’

He was right. It has taken four years to write this novel so far and all I’ve ever really done is talk about it, except when the opening chapter got runner up in the inaugural Festival of Romance in 2011. However every time I’ve almost condemned it to the waste paper bin ‘something’ has stopped me. I still believe. I still believe it has legs.

So, I HAVE A PLAN and writing it down here will make me do it. I’ve made a start, re-read the whole thing and also re-read (several times) the NWS critique. Interestingly, because I’ve let the MS rest a while, I’ve returned to it with fresh eyes and concede the reader raised several points that are fair comment. I don’t feel anywhere near so gloomy about it. Using two different coloured highlighter pens I’ve gone through and highlighted, a) the areas I need to change and, b) all other points I’m still unsure about which I must ponder on. With any luck if I work through systematically, I’ll find the holes, make my heroine more appealing, nail the research, expand the characters, dig deeper for more conflict etc because one thing’s for sure; I’ll never be a writer or get a book published if I give in.

You know, this writing malarkey really is a battle of wills. Is it a pile of poo? It may be. It may not. The only way for me to find out is to try. I haven’t spent four years on this to give up now. Don’t get me wrong; if the agent agrees I may need to re-think the plan but until then I have to give it my best shot.

You heard it here first; by the time I next post, it will be done. Polished. Finished. No more twiddling. And by then I’ll have contacted the agent to see if they are still interested!

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Wish me luck. I’ll be in the summerhouse.

Until another day

Debbie xx

Guest Post ~ Welcome, Gabrielle Mullarkey

Gabrielle Mullarkey is a novelist, short story writer and journalist, who has worked on women’s magazines for over 20 years. Since gaining her MSc in creative writing for therapeutic purposes in 2014, she works with writing groups for mental health charity Mind, and writes with and for patients at local hospices.

 

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A Tale of Two Sisters, her second novel, takes the reader to the heart of a simmering sibling rivalry that explodes into all-out war!

Having pondered sisterhood while writing the book, she has more question than answers on the bond that can seem like a bind…

Can your sister be your best friend, too?

The art of being a good sister is, to coin a friend’s term, ‘a slippery rabbit’. Anyone who’s tried to cuddle a bunny will know just how mercurial and evasive the fluffy critter is. But even if you do consider yourself close to your sister, is she also your best friend? And if so, is that friendship fostered by shared interests – or is sibling rivalry intensified when sisters follow the same career path or share a passion? Serena and Venus Williams seem to get on OK, despite an intense professional rivalry – but actresses Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine, A-lister sisters from Hollywood’s golden age, reputedly fell out over who won the race for an Oscar (Joan beat big sis Olivia in the Best Actress category at the 1942 awards, Olivia bagging the statuette five years later). Joan is even supposed to have said, ‘I married first, won the Oscar before Olivia did, and if I die first, she’ll undoubtedly be livid because I beat her to it.’

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Blimey, when you get competitive with your sister about who’ll die first, that takes sibling rivalry to a whole new level!

I’m not sure how I’d feel if either of my sisters wanted to be writers. As they’re both teachers, they may be keeping a competitive eye on each other’s league tables, but I’m happy to let them get on with it, never having felt the urge to scale the north face of OFSTED paperwork. And growing up, I didn’t turn to either of them for advice on school, boys, accessories or anything else – I had my best friend for that.

In fact, one of my BFF’s key roles was to let me moan about my sisters, since we all went to the same school – and this is probably why Nikki in a A Tale of Two Sisters gets some of the best lines in the book as the ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ best bud to Katie, disgruntled sister-at-large. Keeping it real, Nikki listens, commiserates and – while she doesn’t hesitate to point out Katie’s contributory culpability for her all-out war with sister Flick – makes helpful suggestions on resolving the schism, such as offering to go halves on a hitman to take out Flick. To Katie, this confirms the blind loyalty you expect (possibly demand) of a best friend precisely because siblings withhold it.

I don’t know about your family, but in my mine, you could only rally followers to your righteous cause (convincing Mum or Dad the other sister did it and ran away) by excelling at the sort of ‘what’s it worth to side with you?’ horse trading that characterises every episode of House of Cards. In fact, if Kevin Spacey ever gets tired of delivering thousand yard stares and gnomic utterances straight to camera, some of my siblings would welcome an audition…

I’m pretty good at that game myself. But what about my own BFF credentials? Well, I may flatter myself, but I was pretty good at that game as well, because my BFF at school had more brother than sister trouble – and I’ve got four of those blighters!

A Tale of Two Sisters by Gabrielle Mullarkey cover

 

Find A Tale of Two Sisters at:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tale-Two-Sisters-sisters-boyfriend-ebook/dp/B01CBUPHR2

www.gabriellemullarkey.co.uk

Connect with Gabrielle on Twitter ~ @authorgabrielle