2018, Author Love, Blogtober, Book Snippet, Guest Post, Uncategorized

Guest Post: Sweatpants at Tiffanie’s By Pernille Hughes

Thank god its Friday I don’t always get to use this phrase and soon I probably won’t get to but this week I’m off after today. I plan to have as chilled a weekend as I can after doing something to my back earlier in the week. I’ve missed all my classes this week and I’m not happy about it but the hot water bottle is helping loads.

Today I am pleased to share a gorgeous snippet of Sweatpants at Tiffanie’s. I haven’t had the chance to read this yet but it’s definitely on that ever increasing TBR. Over my weekend I hope to get some organisation to my life some reading, TV and some work for my up and coming exercise course.

Not only do I have a bit of the novel to share I also have a brief explanation from Pernille on her inspiration for Sweatpants at Tiffanie’s.

So here is Pernille…..

It took me a while to find where my writing voice lay. I tried children’s novelty books, picture books, Teen books and Young Adult. Randomly I spotted a regular column in a Sunday paper of short holiday romances and spent a little while dissecting it. I thought I’d have a go and sent one off for the fun of it. They actually bought it. And then they bought thirty five more over the next two years. During that time I saw a tweet for a writing competition, which was offering three story slots in an anthology to sit alongside a raft of known romance writers’ holiday-themed short stories. I wrote one, entered and came runner-up. At that point, I realised that perhaps Romance was where my writing voice lay. (Yes, yes I know, I am slow…)

So I started thinking about writing a full length romance novel. But where do you start? I noticed many Women’s Fiction titles are film or song titles, or puns on film or song titles. I happened to see a trailer for Breakfast At Tiffanie’s on the TV and wondered what a pun on that could be. Sweatpants At Tiffanie’s popped into my head and then I sat thinking what that story might be about. After that there was much scribbling of notes and much much later I now have a book. I wanted to write a story with a modern woman, ordinary but eventually strong, who wasn’t clumsy or ditsy. And I wanted her to be in a scenario which wasn’t necessarily what the reader would be expecting given current trends; it’s not about cosy cottages, or baking or Cornish coves (which are all great, by the way, just not what I can write). Of course that meant that some publishers didn’t really know what to do with my story, and weren’t willing to take a chance on it, but Harper Impulse did– Hurrah!

In the book, Tiffanie gets dumped by Gavin her boyfriend on their 10th anniversary, and she finds herself both heartbroken and homeless. She holds onto the fact that she still has her job, bookkeeping at a vintage boxing gym. Only, Blackie, the owner, drops dead the next day. (He’s having a bad week too…) To top it all off, Mike ‘The Assassin’ Fellner, world-champion boxer and Tiff’s previous ex rocks up at the wake and they are sparring from the off, leaving Tiff properly rattled and highly annoyed she didn’t get her roots done, because the last thing you want is to look ropey when your famous first love is in town, looking all smart, successful and bulging biceppy.

To Tiff’s shock Blackie leaves her his gym in his will and Tiff, who is neither fit nor sports-inclined, has to decide whether she can take it on, especially when others are telling her she isn’t capable. She isn’t totally unsupported though, Tiff’s best friend Shelby is a powerhouse of positivity and tough love and merrily kicks her through any self-pity. (God bless sympathetic friends like that…)

As she grapples with the gym, Tiff gets to examine the life she’s been living in a safe but dependant relationship, and learns that she’s the one who decides what she’s capable of and what her limits are.

Here’s the first two chapters. I really hope you enjoy them!

It took balls to dump someone on your anniversary, but that was one of the things Tiffanie had always admired about Gavin: his single-mindedness and determination (not his balls as such, because he’d recently developed a thing for all-over waxing and she’d never been quite sure).

‘So today felt like the right day to draw it to a conclusion, Tiff,’ he said, scoping his eyes over his plate, the steak still steaming from the skillet. Usually she liked the smell of steak, tonight it made her want to hurl. ‘Closure, you know? Neat and tidy. So when you look back on it you’ll know it was ten years exactly.’ Tiff couldn’t quite work out why that would be relevant, but it seemed logical to Gavin.

‘What about when you look back on it?’ she asked, totally dazed and not a little confused. She’d been delighted when he told her they were going to Lorenzo’s; their usual table booked in the bay window. She’d bought herself a new dress to mark the occasion. Ten years. Many marriages didn’t last that long.

Marriage. That was where Tiff thought the night might head, as she’d given him a handmade card that morning and a new watch. He’d simply thanked her, kissed her forehead and deposited the box on the bedside table. She figured he’d wear it later to the restaurant where he’d give her Forever in return. That’s what she’d thought.

‘Me?’ he asked surprised, as if the notion of recalling their relationship after tonight hadn’t occurred to him. ‘I’ll think we had a decent innings. A neat ten-year package.’ He popped a chunk of steak into his mouth, and she watched as his delight at the taste crossed his face.

‘But why?’ she asked, at a loss. Gavin was her Everything. ‘Why does it need to be a package? Why can’t we carry on?’ While he saw some neat package, all she could see was her world unravelling and changing. In Tiff’s experience, change was rarely a good thing.

Gavin sighed deeply. He took his time chewing the meat. Gavin had always been a keen masticator.

‘We’ve been over this, Tiff.’ He’d been talking for some time, calmly and persuasively, but she’d zoned out approximately when, instead of saying ‘I love you and will you do me the stupendous honour of being my wife?’, he’d pronounced the words, ‘Tiff sweetheart, we’ve had a good run, I think we should call it a day.’ Everything thereafter was a foggy haze.

‘We’re going different places, Tiff. You’re happy where you are, but I’ve got ambitions I need to realise, and it’d be unfair to drag you through all the stress I’m going to face. You’ll be happier without all of that.’

‘You’re dumping me, so I can be happier?’ This did not make any sense. Despite a disrupted education, Tiff had always thought herself quite a bright, logical thinker and this sounded bonkers.

‘Not dumping, Tiff,’ he insisted, throwing an eye-roll in for her apparent crassness. ‘More like setting free.’

‘You’re setting me free like some orphaned animal?’ She pinched herself, in case it was a hallucination. Nope. Maybe if she stabbed her thigh with her fork…

‘Hmm, okay, no,’ Gavin conceded, ‘maybe more like protecting you from pain to come.’ He seemed happier with that analogy and took another mouthful of the steak. Tiff looked down at her lasagne. Never had comfort food looked so unappealing.

‘But Gav, I’m willing to support you through any stress. That’s what being a couple is about. Supporting each other, right?’ She needed to understand how he saw this as sensible, before she could suggest how nonsensical it truly was. Breaking this down to basics seemed the logical way to go. She wasn’t used to this, the disagreeing with Gavin. He was a born leader and she’d always considered it a blessed part of their relationship. She didn’t know where she’d be now – in life that is, not this bizarre conversation – if it hadn’t been for that.

‘’Course it is, and we’ve done that, haven’t we? I’ve supported you through all the stuff with your parents, but I couldn’t put you through more. I need to do this alone, for your sake.’

Honestly, Tiff couldn’t make head nor tail of it. She was fighting an awful lump in her throat and her eyes were rather stingy.

‘For my sake?’

‘Definitely,’ he nodded and attacked his food again.

She didn’t want hers anymore. Lorenzo’s lasagne was epic and she always chose it, even though she’d known it wasn’t the smartest idea. The dress she’d splashed out on was a snug fit. Shops had obviously started changing their sizing again.

‘After ten years together, Gav,’ she asked carefully, keen not to offend, ‘are you really choosing tonight and here, where we had our first date, to tell me you want to end it?’ Putting it as plainly as that, surely he’d see how ridiculous it was? And if not ridiculous, then at least appalling. Tiff was confused; he’d never been either of those two things before. In Tiff’s world Gavin was simply the best thing since sliced bread.

‘Start on our new paths,’ he corrected, underlining it with a gesticulation of his knife. Tiff watched the splat of horseradish sauce land on her wine glass.

‘New paths,’ Tiff repeated, ‘which are in opposite directions.’

‘Well, more like mine is moving forward,’ Gav said, giving it due consideration, ‘and you’ve already reached where you want it to be, I think. That’s probably quite lucky, you know. Reaching your point of equilibrium. I’m still searching. I may never find it, Tiff, all I know is I need to try.’ Tiff had never gone looking for her equilibrium before, least of all assessed its status. She looked down at her lap, where she’d twisted her napkin to the point of fully wrung-out. It matched the feeling in her chest. Lorenzo’s choice of melancholy violin music wasn’t helping.

‘Have you been watching those life coaching DVDs again, Gav?’ She didn’t know why he was so addicted to them. He’d brought more home this week, with some cap-toothed tosser in a sharp suit evangelising about ‘finding your path, pursuing it with tenacity and fortitude and casting off the deadwood from your life’. Not for a second had Tiffanie considered that she might be the deadwood.

Gavin abruptly stopped chewing. ‘They talk a lot of sense, Tiffanie,’ he said, affronted and treating her to a rare view of his semi-chewed food, ‘They teach you to focus. If I want to attain a state of contentment like you, then I need to focus, and not get distracted.’

‘You … you think I’m a distraction now?’ How had she gone from partner to distraction in the matter of fifteen minutes? At this rate she’d be rendered a fleeting acquaintance by dessert. The sense of her life evaporating before her made her sway.

‘Sweetheart,’ he smirked, ‘you have always been a distraction…’ Momentarily, Tiff’s heart fluttered. If he still desired her then …, ‘But I need to be stronger now. For both of us.’ He punctuated the sentence by wolfing his last morsel. Breaking up clearly wasn’t affecting his appetite.

‘What makes you think I’ve reached the end of my path?’ she suddenly asked. ‘What makes you think mine isn’t the same as yours?’

‘It isn’t,’ he stated as if it was the most obvious thing in the history of obvious things.

‘It might be,’ she said, hoping he’d reconsider. ‘How would you know?’

‘You’ve settled, Tiff,’ he said, looking at her intently. He came across, she had to admit, as utterly sure. ‘You’re comfortable, and you’ve stopped striving. And that’s great for you. It really is. I’m delighted for you.’ His benevolent smile supported every word he said. ‘But I need to go on. I haven’t found my place yet.’

‘You’re leaving?’ she whispered. Was this really what he was saying? Really really? ‘You don’t mean we have a break while you follow this path?’ Even the thought of a break left a wrecking ball-shaped dent in her lungs, but she was scrabbling around in damage-limitation mode. Everything was coming apart at the seams.

‘No, sweetheart. Never go backwards. You know that. I walk slowly but I never walk backwards, Tiff. Abe Lincoln.’ He took the moment to refill his wine glass. Tiff had hardly touched hers, but was suddenly overcome by the need to neck the entire glass in one. It still left her mouth feeling dry. ‘And,’ he added gently, ‘technically the flat is mine, so…’ It was enough to make her choke.

‘You want me to leave?’ she heard herself squeak. Her head was swimming now. Tiffanie felt she was a reasonable woman. She’d generally been realistic about life since she’d moved out of her mum’s at seventeen. All things considered, she could easily have gone off the rails. But she hadn’t; she’d found herself maths-tutoring jobs to fund herself through college, she’d got her bookkeeping qualifications, and she’d managed to build up her tiny but loyal roster of clients. That said, she’d only ever lived at home and then with Gavin. GQ-handsome estate agent Gavin, who had been her knight-in-shining-armour and saved her. He, their flat and work were her life. With such a focused world, how exactly had she missed it going pear-shaped?

‘I knew you’d understand,’ he nodded, mopping his plate with a tear of bread. ‘But look, I’m on that residential thing next week, so you’ve got time to find somewhere new or Shelby’ll have you, I’m sure.’

‘But Gavin,’ Tiff started, now utterly desperate, ‘I love you. Yes, I’m happy, because I’m where I want to be – with you.’

Gavin nodded gently along. ‘Sure.’

‘Sure what?’

‘Sure, that’s the place where you’re at. Contentment. That’s what I’ve been saying.’

‘But then what’s to change, Gav? Isn’t that what people strive for? Happiness. Contentment. Being with the person they love?’

‘Yes.’

And then it hit her like a frying pan in the face.

‘Oh. So what you’re saying is, you don’t love me. All this stuff about setting me free, is you saying you don’t love me and you want me gone.’ Her voice had gone up a couple of decibels and octaves, as the full horror set in. If he didn’t want her, then where did that leave her? It wasn’t just the rug he was pulling out from under her, but the entire planet. Everything she now was, was down to him.

She was aware other diners were beginning to discuss them, their furtive looks not nearly as subtle as they thought. Lorenzo’s was one of those quiet intimate restaurants, all subdued lighting and discretion. Not the appropriate venue for a heart-wrenching meltdown.

‘Of course not, Tiffanie. Calm down. I’ve loved you for a long time – still do – and that’s why I can see we need to end. I haven’t fulfilled myself yet and I need to. I can’t take you on this journey.’

‘You can’t mean that, Gav,’ she gulped down with a sniffle, the tears now threatening to get the better of her. ‘That can’t be right.’

‘That’s the truth, Tiffanie, and being honest, I’m rather disappointed you aren’t wanting me to be happy and content like you.’

‘I’ve always wanted the best for you, Gav,’ she said, as one fat tear broke over the rim of her eye, rolling morosely down her cheek and into her Béchamel sauce.

He laid his hand on hers and gave it a brisk squeeze. ‘Then I know you’ll agree to do this calmly and rationally. We shouldn’t fight about this, we’re above that, aren’t we?’ It was true, they didn’t fight. Never had. She’d always followed his lead, confident he knew best. Which had her so conflicted now, on top of the abject misery and disappointment.

In the end, what depleted any resistance she might have had was the recognition that when you stripped it all down, he didn’t want to be with her, and given his presence of mind, he’d known this for some time. Essentially, Gavin had been clearing his path for a while, and she’d missed all the signs.

‘Is there someone else?’

‘No, there’s no one else, Tiff,’ he sighed wearily.

‘You simply don’t want me.’ Her shoulders wanted to let her head hang, but fear of being an embarrassment forced her to hold her chin up.

‘I simply know our journey has come to an end.’

Looking at him now across the table, she knew he was decided. After precisely ten years, everything she had depended on, gained security from, was over. And while he thought he was offering her closure, in fact she felt only loss, exposure and pain underlined by one key question; what would she do – what could she do – without Gavin?

The flat felt odd as soon as she walked in. Nothing tangible was different and yet everything had changed. It was no longer their home. Everything would be divvied up as either his or hers. While she currently moved like a shell-shocked automaton, soon they’d be tiptoeing around each other, being cordial. Only it wouldn’t even be that, seeing as he wouldn’t be there. His course started in the morning.

Smoothly sliding off his jacket, Gavin headed straight for the bedroom. Tiffanie stood in the lounge unsure what to do. She urgently needed to bury herself under her duvet, armadillo into a ball and sob her heart out. She figured she’d wait while he got his pillow from their bed. There was a chenille throw over the sofa-arm he could use; surely, as the injured party she got first dibs on the duvet?

‘Look, we’re both grown-ups, we’ll share the bed tonight, won’t we?’ Gavin called from the bedroom. ‘I’m up early tomorrow, so I’ll need the sleep and the sofa won’t cut it.’ He stuck his head back around the door. ‘Unless you want the sofa tonight? The bed’s all yours for the rest of the week.’

Tiffanie eyed the sofa. It was Gavin’s pride and joy; a long black leather monstrosity, all cubey and no comfort. He believed it made the space look like a loft, but it was the pits for curling up and watching telly. Even Newsnight wasn’t meant to be watched sitting bolt upright.

‘One night,’ Tiff told herself. ‘You can do this.’ One night next to the man she loved who apparently didn’t want her anymore. One night holding back the sobs racking around inside her body. She could manage that, she reckoned. Silently she walked into the bedroom, grabbed her PJs and changed in the bathroom.

Normally they’d lie sprawled loosely around each other. She liked it best when he had an arm or a leg thrown over her. It made her feel safe; anchored in life. Until now he’d been her point of stability. Tonight Gavin lay on his back, arms draped easily across his chest, having fallen asleep with insulting ease.

Tiff itched to have some contact with him, but felt she couldn’t when his mind was so made up. She could see the silhouette of his suitcase. He’d obviously packed it knowing when he left the following morning, he’d be walking away from their shared life.

Mind churning in the dark, she suspected she hadn’t put up much of a fight. She’d instinctively recognised his persuasive It’s a done deal frame of mind. She’d seen it so many times; furniture, restaurants, brands, and essentially, if it was important to him, then it was important to her. After all he’d done for her, she valued his happiness above all else, so what did one swanky venue matter over another? One snazzy chair was probably as good as the next. (Except for the sofa. That bloody thing had always been a mistake.) The conclusion she came to, as she lay staring at the ceiling at 02.42, was she hadn’t sufficiently defended their relationship.

Show him what he’ll be missing, she thought, knowing he wouldn’t be budged by any argument. Show him how good we are together.

Slowly, veeery slowly, she began to wiggle her PJ bottoms off. Getting the long-sleeved T over her head wasn’t hard, given how stretched out of shape it was. She froze as Gavin emitted a low snore, but used the next one to cover her rustling as she shimmied down the bed to his feet.

She kissed the ball of his ankle. Feeling emotionally frail already, his toes felt beyond her capabilities tonight. There were limits.

Gavin didn’t flinch as she continued with fairy kisses around his ankle, then up his calf to his knee, where she noted his skin, if not his mind, was beginning to sense something was afoot. Emboldened by this, she continued in an enthusiastic upward projection.

Sex had never been one of the areas in which Tiff felt particularly proficient. She’d met Gavin having only had one partner, which had primarily been teenage fumblings culminating in a highly-orchestrated and disproportionately-brief losing of virginities. At the time, she’d thought this one-off event was a sound base on which to build what could become an epic repertoire. Circumstances had altered that course.

Gavin, in contrast, was experienced; he knew what to do and what he liked. Feeling she wasn’t in any position to critique, Tiff had embraced the positive opinion that by following his lead she’d side-step a lot of awkward experimenting and possible faux pas. Over the last decade, their moves had been firmly cemented. Surely that was a good thing, knowing what worked? ‘Dull routine,’ Shelby called it, but then her best friend had dated, bedded and graded most of Kingsley.

Tonight though, Tiff was going to have to give Gavin something to think about while he was away. She was going to give him the proverbial ride of his life.

God, she wished she’d had more to drink.

She woke to the front door shutting. Nothing dramatic, but hardly closed with any worry of disturbance. A note lay on the other pillow. She smiled dozily. He wasn’t sliding out without a goodbye. Her efforts hadn’t been in vain. The smirk stretched across her face as she recalled snippets of the night; how she’d reached his groin to find that clearly the idea of sex with her was still a point of interest on his supposed path. When she’d felt his fingers threading through her hair encouraging her on, something in her had flipped, sending her into overdrive, as she employed every move she could remember him ever requesting.

On other occasions she’d woken up feeling self-conscious, but not this morning. Emotional rollercoaster as the previous evening had been, with the sun now streaming in through the window onto the mussed bed, Tiffanie felt brave and vindicated, slightly slutty and bloody good about herself.

‘You were a vixen, Tiff, a sex minx,’ she told herself. She’d fought her corner, she’d shown her man what he’d seriously considered passing up. She’d excelled herself. She didn’t quite know where it’d come from, but more importantly, though the whole event had happened without a single word, Tiff knew they’d understood one another implicitly.

Intrigued, she slid her hand up to snag the note with her fingertips. Obviously he wouldn’t be apologising, that wasn’t his style at all – shows weakness, Tiff, weakness gives others opportunity. He’d most likely gloss gracefully over the whole thing, tell her when he’d be home, and she could return to life before dinner last night. Flopping over onto her back, she unfolded it.

Didn’t we go out with a bang?!

That was the perfect closure.

Thanks and all the best.

Gavin.

2

‘He’s an arsehat, Tiff,’ Shelby stormed down the phone when Tiff, through snot-bubbling tears, explained why she wasn’t heading to work. They usually chatted on their respective ways in, insisting it was multi-tasking. But chatting had been dropped this morning, in lieu of Tiff’s keening account of what had occurred at Lorenzo’s, followed by Shelby’s barked orders to get up, get dressed and get moving. Tiff and Shelby were ardent advocates of tough-love. Judging people on reality TV had taught them that. Which was fine when each of them was comfortable in their own lives. Right now though, huddled under the duvet, phone clutched limply in hand, Tiff wasn’t feeling the benefits.

‘I … I can’t,’ Tiff sobbed, proper ugly-crying. She felt like an empty shell. An empty shell covered in lashings of humiliation.

‘You can and you will, babes,’ Shelby insisted, and hung up. Next thing Tiff knew, there was an insistent banging on the front door, which revealed a mission-set Shelby, work-ready in her beautician’s uniform. Brooking no argument, Shelby frog-marched her through the dressing process until Tiff was vaguely presentable and moving along the street. ‘No man, especially that one, is going to bring your life to a halt. It’s a principle thing.’

Shelby had always thought Gavin was a tosser. She had, in fact, been very concise and consistent about this since Tiff had first introduced them. Tiff put it down to an extreme personality clash. Shelby, with her magenta hair, had a fairly extreme personality.

‘I hate to say I told you so, babes…’ Shelby started, as she pulled Tiff along.

‘Then don’t. You’d be one of those mean, small-minded people.’

‘Fair enough,’ Shelby agreed. ‘Some things don’t need actual saying.’

‘That’s just as bad, Shelb,’ she sniffed. Perhaps telling Shelby had been a mistake. Not talking about it at all – bottling it up to fester inside her and make her bitter and twisted until years of expensive therapy finally released it – suddenly held more appeal. ‘Best mates do sympathy.’

‘You don’t need sympathy, Tiff. You can’t see it yet, but this is the best thing that’s happened to you in ages. Since you met me, probably. You need support. That’s what I’m here for.’

‘Gavin was my support,’ Tiff moaned, the tears starting again. ‘He’s been my rock.’

‘Still an arsehat,’ Shelby stated. ‘I don’t know why you can’t see it, Tiff. It’s like you have a blind spot where he’s concerned.’

‘No, Shelby. You just don’t like him. You never have and you refused to try. You see him through mean hole-picky glasses. He loved me. He sorted my life out, made it stable,’ Tiff insisted. ‘He saved me, Shelbs.’

‘Pff, he fancied you and you were a trophy.’

Had she had any spirit left in her, and had they not already been swimming in salty tears, Tiff would have rolled her eyes at that. It was years since she’d felt like any kind of trophy. The local lads had been interested in her looks in Year Eleven, but she’d been devoted to her sixth-former boyfriend at that point, so they didn’t stand a chance. Then, that summer, everything had turned to crap and she’d gone from queen bee to hitting rock bottom. Miraculously, Gavin had swept her off her feet, helped her escape, shaped and nurtured her and the rest was history. Right until now when, as it turned out, it was Tiff who was history.

She couldn’t cope with this. The tough-love was proving too much. ‘Shelby. Shelby, please. Be nice.’ It was a truly pathetic, but heartfelt plea, which nature chose to dramatise by turning on the rain.

That was typical weather for the town though. Kingsley was one of those forgotten towns, wedged between hills, bypassed by newer roads and shielded from the buzz and prosperity of bigger neighbours. Although within visual range of the coast on a fair day, it lay beyond the thrill of the seaside; too far to smell the salty air, but close enough for seagulls to come a-crapping when the sea got choppy. Looking in either direction there was an air of ‘Look what you could have had’ for the residents.

Shelby stopped in her tracks.

‘Oh babes. I’m sorry.’ She enveloped Tiff in a hug. ‘I really am. It kills me to see you like this.’ Tiff realised how in need of a hug she was. Could they spend the whole day like this? ‘You’re like some ghostly, wraithy shadow of your true self.’ That was exactly how she felt. Wraithy. Shelby stepped back but held onto Tiff’s arms to look at her. ‘And now, having totally repressed you, Gavin drops this bullshit on you, to top it off. It sucks. But I promise we’ll get you through it and bring back the real Tiff.’

‘Enough Shelby!’ Tiff snapped, pulling away to start walking again. Why couldn’t Shelby see Gavin had been good for her? Ten years of good.

‘You can stay at mine, obvs,’ Shelb offered, catching her. Tiff pulled her hood over her head so Shelb couldn’t see her almost break down anew. Shelby’s studio flat was the size of a stamp and the thought of living away from Gavin threatened to bring her to her knees.

‘Thanks Shelbs,’ she said, trying to control her emotions and look less deranged to passers-by, ‘but I can’t share a bed with you. You talk dirty in your sleep.’ She wasn’t joking. Humour was way beyond her.

‘The futon?’ Shelby suggested, neither insulted, nor denying it.

‘Yes, if I can’t find somewhere before he’s back.’ Tiff knew that futon. It was a back breaker. Maybe with copious wine to numb her senses…

‘Why didn’t you come straight over last night? Arsehat. Him. Not you. Obvs.’

‘It was late. I thought perhaps I could convince him.’ Tiff cringed at the memory.

‘So long as it was just talking,’ Shelby said. ‘Remember my cousin Simon? Ditches his girlfriend on a regular basis cos he reckons she ups her game in bed to claw him back. Works every time. She’s such a sap.’ Tiff knew cousin Simon, the guy was a douche.

Turning out of Grange Road she saw her destination with relief. If she wasn’t allowed to nurse her devastation in bed, then at least she might be able to hide in her numbers. Numbers were stable. You knew where you stood with them. That’s why she loved her work, which was a good thing, as currently it was all she had.

‘Laters Shelbs.’ Feeling every inch the sap, Tiff kissed her goodbye before Shelby could say more about cousin Simon. She had put it all out there for Gavin and he’d put it firmly back in its box. Argh, thinking about it made her want to curl up and die. She was going to look up ‘humiliated’ and ‘mortified’, to see which best applied. What must he think now? Sweat bloomed at the thought; on her league table of fears, ridicule was securely in the medal spots.

Blackie’s Gym was Tiffanie’s favourite client, by virtue of being her first client and because of Blackie himself. Knocking eighty now, he’d been a friend of her late grandparents. He’d given her a break when she needed one, and she’d always be grateful for that. Plus, they genuinely got on well for the three days a week where she did his books in the office above the gym.

Blackie’s wasn’t your modern kind of gym, with treadmills and MTV on monitors. Blackie’s was a vintage-throwback boxing gymnasium, out on the Eastcote Road. Firmly in the rougher edge of town, the gym sat on a small commercial estate, most of which was rundown and scheduled for development. Not Blackie’s though. Local nostalgic sentiment, underpinned by Blackie’s obstinance, meant the place was as good as listed. The three-storey building, which could only be described as an ugly black block, had been getting scallies off the streets and into the sport for generations. Blackie’s view was if lads were going to fight they might as well do it with rules and dignity. There wasn’t a grandad or dad in town who hadn’t set foot in Blackie’s ring at least once in their youth.

‘Morning B,’ she sighed as she passed his desk, pausing only to drop him a kiss on his bald pate. Crying exhausted her. This marathon of tears had her depleted.

‘Morning love,’ he answered in his rasping voice, the result of shouting at errant youths since his thirties. ‘What’s making you sigh this morning? Weather?’

‘Hardly,’ she mumbled. ‘Takes more than a little rain to get to me.’ She’d hoped she could deflect him, but he was having none of it.

‘That man of yours?’ Blackie wasn’t a fan of Gavin; another one who wasn’t, but then no-one else knew him like she did, knew what he’d done for her. Loyalty aside, she couldn’t help but let her shoulders sag. Her entire body wanted to follow suit.

‘He’s not my man anymore, Blackie. He ended it last night. Said we had different paths in life.’

Blackie fixed her across the small office with a long stare, assessing the situation. ‘What a prat,’ he finally pronounced.

Tiff turned away, busying herself at her desk, thankful it faced the wall. Blackie wouldn’t see the wave of panic as she felt the need to weep again.

‘How long’s that been?’

‘Ten years. Exactly.’ She plumped into her seat and with shaky fingertips touched all her things on the desk, checking them, owning them, showing herself some things at least, were constant. Soon this would be the only space she belonged to.

‘Jesus,’ he muttered. ‘That’s longer than my marriages.’

The first Mrs Black had been a decent woman, though a force to be reckoned with. She’d given Blackie the kick up the backside to establish the gym in the first place. Had a bus not felled her, she would have defied any illness life threw at her. His marriage to the second Mrs Black wasn’t a resounding success, but knowing the gym to be a lucrative business, she’d done her utmost to cling on.

‘Still, you’re young,’ he went on, ‘and you’ve no bairns, Tiff. You can move on, find someone who’ll appreciate you. Like I do,’ he added, with a chortle, which became a wheezing fit.

On auto-pilot, Tiff fired up the computer. While it churned itself on, she stared at the screen trying to contain the impending wail in her throat. It was way too early for the ‘plenty more fish in the sea’ speeches. It was also too soon to hear how everyone always considered Gavin a prat, though she’d been unable to prevent that too. For once it made her stand up for herself.

‘Gavin is a brilliant guy, Blackie,’ she said, without turning around. She couldn’t do this face to face. ‘He’s driven, hardworking and focused. He looked after me, gave me a home, loved me, and sorted my life when I needed it. I could depend on him. He helped me grow as a person, he was always suggesting ways I could improve myself. And while he might not believe in flowers, cards or Valentine’s Day,’ Tiff paused only to gain her breath, but it was long enough to catch Blackie’s audible gasp behind her, ‘he’s always remembered my birthday, which was more than Mum’s done for the last decade. So please Blackie, just for this week, could you not say anything about moving on or about how I can do better?’

The room was filled with silence and Tiff knew he’d taken her words on board. She could feel the contriteness behind her. Blackie didn’t offer an apology, but then she loved him and she didn’t require one. She felt better for having said her piece. He might not judge her so harshly for being with Gavin. After all she had Shelby for that.

They spent the next hours in silence, as Tiff stared at the subscription fees, trying to reconcile the figures and sort the tax, but failing in all of it. Nothing seemed to go in and the cogs had ground to a halt. Normally this was child’s play to her. Blackie was a stickler for his tax, insistent he’d pay his dues to the Queen, and never owe a penny. Tiff regularly wished others closer to her had shared the same principles. How different her life might have been…

At eleven o’clock she gave up. She figured the silence between them had gone on for long enough, and it was time for a truce.

‘Cuppa tea, Blackie?’ she asked, turning in her chair.

Blackie was staring at her, but there was no recognition in his eyes.

She was across the room in seconds. Holding his already cold hand as she knelt by his chair, she tried not to think about how long he’d been sat there, lifeless, behind her.

*

‘D’you think sunshine is technically possible at funerals?’ Tiff asked, distracting herself from Shelby’s outfit. It was more of a Friday night clubbing dress, but at least it was black.

‘Dunno. It’s always been this lame drizzle at the ones I’ve been to. How hard can it be to commit one way or the other?’ The dove-grey sky over the church perfectly complemented Tiff’s inner status: ‘bleak with a risk of downpour’.

Kingsley being a small town, Tiff knew the majority of the congregation. Shelby knew at least half of them intimately and enthusiastically greeted them all, even snapping selfies with a few. Everyone, it seemed, had wanted to give Blackie a good send off. Considering he had no blood relatives, Tiff felt Blackie would’ve been chuffed to bits with the turnout, although he wouldn’t have been convinced by Shelby’s Instagram and Twitter coverage.

Despite being barely inclined to pull a brush through her hair that week, Tiff had managed most of the arrangements herself. He’d left clear instructions with his solicitor and oldest mate Eric Leonards, who stood with them at the graveside. Blackie had pre-paid for everything, including the after-do at the Pig & Whistle down the street from the gym.

‘Well, he knew what he wanted and he got it, I think,’ said Leonards. They’d all sat together in the left-hand front pew. The second Mrs Black and her scowling son had taken residence in the front right. To all intents and purposes she’d acted as if there’d never been any divorce, let alone a screaming train-wreck such as theirs.

‘She looks like a mafia widow,’ Shelby had whispered for at least four rows to hear.

‘I doubt those tears are real,’ Tiff said more discretely out the side of her mouth. Personally, she wasn’t sure she herself had any left, such was the near-constant outpouring in the recent days. If she wasn’t weeping as she sorted Blackie’s arrangements, she was sobbing over Gavin. It was tear tag. Fake tears would’ve been handy.

‘Not a chance. Pure crocodile – to match her shoes.’ Tiff sneaked a glance. They looked expensive and spikey. Much like their owner.

Tiff had met her before when she appeared in the office demanding advances on her spousal allowance. Tiff failed to see what Blackie had been thinking getting involved with her, but then as Shelby had noted, he probably wasn’t thinking, at least not with his head. She was, whilst being bereft of any virtuous qualities, in possession of a mind-boggling set of boobs. Well, thought Tiff benevolently, Blackie was only human.

‘You’ve done a sterling job, Miss Trent. He’d have been over the moon with all the people who’ve come,’ Leonards now said to Tiff, rubbing the remnants of grave soil off his hands.

‘Well, by his age he’d met enough,’ Shelby pointed out, ‘He’d had a decent innings.’ Tiff hated that phrase this week; Gavin’s words echoed constantly in her ears. ‘Right, who’s for the pub?’ Shelby said, clapping her hands together. ‘I am gagging for a drink.’ She headed towards the cars.

‘God, I hope there’s enough money behind the bar,’ she muttered. Leonards chuckled behind her.

‘It’s all taken care of. The landlord will pass on the bill if there’s a shortfall.’ He paused, then said gently, ‘You should relax now, Miss Trent. It’s been a difficult few days.’

Tiff nodded. It had indeed, on the grand scale of pants, been a steaming pile of a week. Aside from grieving for Blackie, lamenting Gavin, forcing herself to visit her two remaining clients and overseeing the funeral at super-fast speed under Blackie’s instruction of ‘get me sorted quick as billy-oh’, she’d been trying, unsuccessfully, to find somewhere to live.

All the rental properties she’d had details for looked shocking. Maybe she wasn’t desperate enough yet. A week on Shelby’s futon would sort that no doubt, but for now she allowed herself to procrastinate; crawling into her own bed for the final few nights and blubbing uncontrollably. She’d think about the future tomorrow.

Leonards squeezed her shoulder as they passed through the gate. ‘I need to see you, Miss Trent, regarding the will. Is Monday morning 9 a.m. convenient?’

‘Me?’ Tiff asked, surprised, but then she supposed it made sense; there’d be the financial records to hand over to whoever inherited the gym. Would it be very bad form to offer her continued services to the new owners? What was the etiquette on touting for business at will readings?

‘Miss Trent?’ Leonards interrupted her thinking, making her feel guilty. What sort of a person thought about scoring work out of their dead friend? A bad one, she answered herself. An imminently skint and homeless one, she countered herself back.

‘Yes, of course. I’ll be there,’ she said and tried not to groan. Pulling the paperwork together would easily consume the hours she’d allowed for flat-hunting. But handing over a decent report was the least she could do on Blackie’s behalf, and who knew, they might ask her to stay. She chided herself again for the profligate thoughts. This wasn’t who she was. She hoped she could attribute it to the lack of sleep; she was so tired she could hardly walk straight.

‘Yes,’ Leonards continued, ‘Blackie recognised the support you’ve given him. It shouldn’t be a surprise he’s left some words for you. Just look,’ he gestured at the dispersing crowd, ‘you did that. For him.’

Tiff’s eyes followed his hand. She’d only done what anyone would have done for an old man who didn’t have any family to speak of. Well, maybe not the second Mrs Black, but anyone else. For all her posturing in the church, she’d briskly detached herself from any organising when Tiff had called her, asking only to be informed of where and when. It sent a chill down Tiff’s spine how someone could behave like that. Pulling her jacket closer, her eyes came to rest on a figure standing to the side of the church porch.

Tall and broad-shouldered, the man stood with his hands clasped reverently in front of him. Next to him, on the most gravity-defying heels Tiff had ever seen, stood a younger blonde woman with her hair hanging loose, almost down to the hem of her skirt, which ended just under the curve of her bottom. It was safe to say Blackie was no longer the focus of the crowd’s attention.

But Tiff’s eyes were on the guy. The way his head was cocked slightly to one side, looking at her, appeared deliberate. At first, she hoped he’d remove his sunglasses to give her a better look at his face, work out why he was gazing so intently at her, but as she focused on his features; his shaved dark hair, his tawny brown skin, she realised he wasn’t in fact wearing any. He was simply sporting two shockingly-fresh black eyes. A couple of the other boxers wore a bruise or two from recent bouts, but nothing as severe as this. The way he stood, totally still, made an already exhausted Tiff anxious. It’d been a tough day already and now this.

Realising she was staring, Tiff dropped her gaze and started making her way beside Leonards.

‘Tiff! I’m dying here,’ Shelby shouted from the car, oblivious to the disapproval from other mourners. ‘My mouth’s as dry as a corpse.’

Much as she would’ve preferred to look away and disown Shelby at that precise moment, the alternative was to look back at the man. Something about him was bothering her, but the punched eyes convinced her she didn’t want to know what that was. Local economy being what it was, Kingsley wasn’t without a criminal element and Blackie’s Gym hadn’t always turned out the most upstanding characters. Some had, Blackie was sad to say, been beyond reformation and gone onto careers in less salubrious or legitimate fields. What with everything else, Tiff felt she had enough on her plate and scuttled on.

Thank you Pernille for joining me today I cannot wait to read this in full.

Advertisements
2018, Blog Tour, Blogtober, extract, Guest Post

Blog Tour: The Water and the Wine inspiration By Tamar Hodes

Blogtober hasn’t been too bad for me so far.

I’m pretty chuffed with my efforts with a mixture of reviews, blog tours and a few personal entries which I’m still so bowled over by. I must admit I can’t take all the credit I would like to thank Kelly @ Love Books Groups for the reminder.

Today I am pleased to share with you a gorgeous guest post…

Blurb: It is the 1960s and a group of young writers and artists gather on the Greek island of Hydra. Leonard Cohen is at the start of his career and in love with Marianne, who is also muse to her ex-husband, Axel. Australian authors George Johnston and Charmian Clift write, drink and fight. It is a hedonistic time of love, sex and new ideas. As the island hums with excitement, Jack and Frieda Silver join the community, hoping to mend their broken marriage. However, Greece is overtaken by a military junta and the artistic idyll is threatened.

Buy linkhttps://amzn.to/2OtOgUw

Twitter Handles & Hashtags

@HodesTamar 

@HooklineBooks 

#LoveBooksGroupTours

About the Author

Growing up, Tamar Hodes’ neighbours were Leonard Cohen, his girlfriend Marianne, and other writers and artists on the Greek island of Hydra. Her parents took her to the island to pursue their own art and writing. However, the bohemian nature of Hydra destroyed their marriage. The Water and the Wine is a fictional account of those days.; Tamar Hodes’ first novel Raffy’s Shapes was published in 2006. She has had stories on Radio 4 and others in anthologies including Salt’s The Best British Short Stories 2015, The Pigeonhole, Your One Phone Call, the Ofi Press, MIR online and Fictive Dream. Tamar was born in Israel and lived in Greece and South Africa before settling in the UK. She read English and Education at Homerton College, Cambridge. For the past thirty-three years she has taught English in schools, universities and prisons.

Without further ado I give you Tamar who is sharing with me her inspiration for the novel The Water and the Wine.

The Water and the Wine is a novel which I wanted to write for many years. I lived on the Greek island of Hydra when I was three (I had my fourth birthday there) as my parents were part of the creative community and, later on, they often talked about that time. It sounded fascinating to me, the way the artists and writers met in the taverna in the evenings and discussed their work and ideas and supported each other. I also knew that some of them were volatile and hot-tempered. I was interested in their attitude towards parenting, gender roles, the way they balanced work and leisure, what the locals thought of them. Also, there was the added interest of Leonard Cohen who was part of that community and just about to become famous. I was interested in the religious aspect, too: Cohen and my parents were Jewish; many of the artists were interested in Zen and Eastern traditions, and the locals were Greek Orthodox. Amazingly, they were very tolerant of each other as they were of a gay couple living and loving openly there.

Over the years, I did a lot of reading and research about that time and I came across a comment that Leonard Cohen had made, saying that it would take a novel to understand his and Marianne’s relationship. That felt like a challenge to me! There are many factual books about that period, and biographies of Leonard Cohen, George Johnston and Charmian Clift, but fiction can slip under the characters’ skin.

Sadly, my father passed away in 2013, my mother in 2014, and Leonard and Marianne four months apart in 2016. My father left me his journal about Hydra, my mother left me her first edition of Flowers for Hitler signed by Cohen and all these events made me feel that now was the time to write this novel. I felt that there was a groundswell lifting me there and so I wrote it.

Thank you Kelly for including me in this beautiful blog tour. Be sure to check out the other entries.

2018, Author Love, Author Q&A, Guest Post, Uncategorized

Guest Post: Q&A with Victoria Walters plus Summer at the Kindness Cafe news..

It’s always a pleasure to host this lovely lady on Hayley Reviews.

Victoria Walters should need no introduction she’s featured on here a few times now and I’m literally in awe of her. A beautiful soul inside and out, who has truly inspired me to be kinder especially to myself. Saying that I’m still a work in progress so without further ado I give you Victoria Walters….

This time I’ve asked her some questions I hope you find it as enlightening as I did.

1. Random acts of kindness or as it’s now known Summer at the Kindness cafe. What inspired you to write this? And how does it feel to have inspired many readers like myself.

Kindness is a big trend at the moment and I hadn’t read a women’s fiction novel that dealt with it so I wanted to give it a go. I think being kinder to others and to yourself has a really positive effect on everyone  I really hope that people are inspired by that idea and maybe go and do some acts of kindness as a result, that would be wonderful.

2. Keeping with kindness – are you kind enough to yourself as I know I could be kinder to me.

It’s hard, isn’t it? I am a massive worrier so I definitely need to work on worrying less as it really stresses me out. I try to do some self-care things when I feel worried even if it’s just sitting down with a book or watching a favourite film or buying some chocolate, sometimes the little things can really brighten your day. Treating yourself or having a pamper session is great and I love to light a candle to help me relax. I also think trying not to compare yourself to others is really important – it’s hard sometimes not to feel like you aren’t achieving enough but you need to give yourself a pat on the back for all the good things that you have done, and doing things your own way always the best way.

3. I loved the Summer I Met You and hope to devour The Second Love Of my life although in reading the blurb it made me 😦 would you like to write more novellas?

I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I actually wrote the Summer I Met You after the novel. I prefer writing novels as it’s hard to get to know characters with something shorter but it’s fun to take on a challenge so I wouldn’t say no!

4. What is your average day like?

I usually write in the mornings and then break for lunch then write a bit more in the afternoon but I often end up finishing by 3pm and then do some social media bits or have a break with a book or a film maybe. Two days a week I work in a bookshop so I don’t write on those days.

5. Do you have any rituals with your writing?

Not really. I usually write at home at my desk, I’m not really good at writing in public, I can’t concentrate. I always write to music and my cat is usually there annoying me!

6. Has your reading habits changed and how?

I read a lot and always have done. I read more widely now I work in a bookshop actually – I see so many different titles in there plus I get sent a lot to read so it has made me pick up books I wouldn’t have done in the past I think.

7. Tell us a fun fact about yourself?

I have a bit of an obsession with buying mugs especially if they have a slogan on them. My cupboard is getting almost too full to close oops!

8. What would you tell your younger self?

I would say keep trying – your dreams won’t be easy to make come true but you’ll be much happier trying than if you didn’t!

9. What advice do you have for others inspired to write?

Go for it! It’s hard and you need to be determined and prepared for rejection but if I can do it then so can you.

10. You take the best Instagram pictures advice for people like me?

I love Instagram and I really enjoy taking photos, just have fun with it and follow some accounts that you like and get inspiration from them. If you take pictures of things you love then others will love them too. Also natural lighting is the best and make sure you edit your photos so they look as good as they can.

I also mentioned Summer at the Kindness Cafe news and this beauty is 99p for a limited time. Snap this up you honestly won’t regret it. I devoured this and it’s still with me. Summer at the Kindness Cafe if it doesn’t have you instantly wanting your very own brew then who are you.

2018, Author Love, Guest Post, Uncategorized

Guest Post: Anita Cassidy talks Habits and Change…

So I’ve been saying for a while that I’m going to host more authors on Hayley Reviews and I have some fabulously inspirational beauties to introduce you to.

This lady is a friend of Hayley Reviews and it’s not the first time she’s guested here, Anita is a truly inspirational woman and her book Appetite helped spur a few changes in my life – which I’m hoping to have more news for you on next week. Watch this space.

So without further ado I give you Anita Cassidy.

I’m in awe of this lady and the way she describes exactly how a lot of us feel in one way or another.

Habits and change

Over the summer I thought a lot about change and the different types of change that goes on in our lives. One of the  reasons I wrote Appetite was to identify how change happens and how it is acceptance of self and habits that leads to change, not the beating of the self with “should’s”. This post is about habits, change and how I worked with two habits of my own, one habit that contributed to my life and one that did not.

Habits are shortcuts to where we think we want to be, as well as things we have created (usually unconsciously) based on patterns we observed or which were acted out on our behalf as we were growing up. Habits can be helpful – making the bed, brushing teeth, eating a piece of fruit a day – or they can be less helpful. Under stress, we often revert to patterns of behaviour that are instantly comforting but can be harmful in the long term.

Conversations around sugar and habits all too often focus on weight or use shaming to try and create change but there is a paradigm shift happening as people increasingly realise that the focus needs to be on the unique, individual experience of what feels better for you – how and when do you feel mostly well in yourself and what habits contribute to that.

The tax on sugary drinks went into effect in April 2018 and, while the short-term effect tends to be an immediate reduction in the amount of drinks bought and consumed, long-term the impact is often less profound than hoped for.

Cost may be a barrier for some – though, as with cigarettes and alcohol, most people make changes to the other things they buy to accommodate a rising cost in items they desire. The main reason why taxes intended to discourage consumption don’t work is because they do not fundamentally change the habits and behaviours that drive that consumption.

The best thing about any habit is that there is only one person who can change it: you. The worst thing about any habit is that there is only one person who can change it: you.

The changing of a habit can be identified in three steps.

1 Identifying there is something you do that you would like to do more, or less often.

2 Fully accepting, without blame or shame or critical self talk, that this is something that you do less of than you would like, or want to do more of

3 Beginning to consciously adapt your behaviour over time.

To illustrate this, I have two stories to share, one about stopping a thing, and one about doing more of a thing.

Diet Coke

When I stopped drinking alcohol in 2014, I started to drink more diet soda. I was drinking usually one or two but often three cans a day. I liked it, it felt like a treat. It felt like a nice thing to have when I was out as well as a reward throughout my day. As I wrote Appetite, I started reading more about sugar and came across evidence about the role that artificial sweeteners play in making you crave sugar later; their role in types of cancer and other diseases was also being made clearer. I felt that anxiety of not wanting to be drinking something like that – but I still liked it. I still wanted and felt like I needed it. And the anxiety made me want to drink even more.

I started to focus more on what it was actually like to drink a Diet Coke: the flat, predictable taste; the fact that unless it was super-cold it tasted kind of chemical; the way that I felt bloated after drinking it. And with the noticing came some new facts about Diet Coke that helped me see it less as a treat and more like something that I THOUGHT was a treat but which actually tasted not so great. I stopped drinking it. And, three years later, have not touched a diet drink since.

Writing

I discovered National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2012 and, that November, I wrote my first ever book. 50,000 words, most of which were garbled nonsense, and the remains of which are still hidden in a yellow plastic bag like the discarded remnants of a long-forgotten crime scene. I wrote another 50,000-word story in 2013. Again, only in November. I was blogging in between at this point but only a few hundred words most weeks and all non-fiction.

I began to see that writing made me feel good and I wanted to do more of it. As I approached January 2014, I resolved to write every day and so, to help me do this, I signed up to the ‘100k in 100 Days’ challenge on Facebook, a group that supports people in writing approximately 1,000 words a day every day for 100 days. Doing that helped me to develop a positive habit of writing every day which I have mostly continued since and which has seen me write and finish one novel, write another as well as a few other shorter drafts, and countless blog posts and other pieces in the last four years. While there were times when it was hard, the positive feedback loop of writing most days and feeling better in myself was a powerful one, and helped sustain the habit over the difficult periods. It took me a while a to allow myself breaks…

What these examples hopefully show is that change can be sudden or gradual but it always begins with ACCEPTANCE of the thing that you are doing.

We shouldn’t say: Oh, I’m drinking three Diet Cokes a day and they might give me cancer but I’m addicted and I can’t stop…  Or, I am not writing more than a few months a year and I am never going to get anywhere. This is where most of us struggle – the story we tell ourselves is that where we are now is fixed state of affairs. We judge and dislike ourselves for the way we are currently behaving, and this self-criticising (hating, even) is what gets in the way of change happening.

So, any change starts with acceptance and can be supported by a few other things. Accountability can help with new habits such as exercise or writing/learning a new skill.  It can be helpful to have someone to share successes, plateaus and frustration with – ‘Yay, this makes a difference’, ‘Meh – I feel kind of in the middle’ or ‘Boo, I am finding this hard this week.’

Understanding the benefits of doing/not doing is key too. Why do you want to do/not do something? Write down the reasons, and revisit them while you build the habit. Be your own cheerleader!

Most of us lead complex and also quite unpredictable lives, so flexibility is important but so is not letting too long pass without fulfilling the new, positive habit. The negative feedback of ‘I’ve missed a week or two of xx and I feel less good…’ can be a helpful reinforcement of the benefits of doing something, but equally it can make getting back into it harder. You will figure out your own benchmarks and guidelines. For me, if I don’t exercise for three weeks I really find it hard to get back to. If I don’t write for a week or so, I do feel it impact on my well-being and ability to cope. These are the guidelines that work for me and you can feel and figure out your own as you go along.

If you want to make conscious changes to any of your own habits and are looking for support, get in touch: connect@anitacassidy.uk

Anita talks change

Anita talks sugar

Appetite review

Blog Tour

2018, Author Love, Author Q&A, Guest Post

Guest Post: Kathryn Freeman talks brooding heroes….

So today I am super excited to be hosting the fabulous Kathryn Freeman Oh Crumbs was one of my favourite reads this summer which got me thinking. I’m a massive tweeter when I’m reading and I told Kathryn she sure does have a thing for brooding heroes.

So without further ado I give you Kathryn….

My fabulous host knows I have a thing for brooding men. So thank you, Hayley, for allowing me onto your blog to write about the appeal, to me, of creating the brooding hero.

Emily and Charlotte Brontë knew a thing or two about creating the brooding male hero. It’s hard to find finer examples than the tortured Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights and the moody Rochester from Jane Eyre. Often described as Byronic, after the romantic poet Lord Byron, brooding heroes can be arrogant, cynical, proud and passionate. Rugged rather than handsome, they’re strong, flawed men who’ve experienced hard times and carry that pain with them. Are they as compelling to write as they are to read?

You bet they are.

As a writer of romantic fiction I’ve created many different heroes; funny, charming, magnetic, but I have to confess, I keep sneaking back to the brooding hero. There is something about getting inside the head of a stubborn, hurting, blunt spoken male that is powerfully addictive.

Why? For me, I think it’s because he can surprise us more, especially when he finds himself in situations that go against his usual type. In my latest book, Oh Crumbs, my hero, Doug, is quiet and reserved; definitely ticks several of the brooding hero boxes. The last place he wants to be caught kissing my heroine, Abby, is on her drive, watched by two of her teenage sisters. Oh boy, did I feel his pain. I could so easily picture him squirming, mortified, as the girls started to giggle.

‘He’s eating her.’

‘Don’t be silly. That’s kissing. It’s what grown-ups do.’

‘Well, I don’t want to be kissed then.’

I relished making Doug suffer, because it was in those moments that the image of him became most vivid, and the words seemed to flow without any conscious thought.

And what about when the arrogant, surly hero shows a rare sensitivity or vulnerability? In Do Opposites Attract? My hero, charity doctor Mitch McBride, has had a really hard life. Tough and abrasive, work in the harsh environment of the refugee camp suits him down to the ground. What definitely doesn’t suit this fiercely proud, independent man is being stuck in a hospital bed. So that’s where I shoved him. Now I could feel his bubbling frustration; an active man, forced to lie in bed. A stubborn man, forced to be reliant on others. The scenes when my heroine visits him were a real treat to write. At first he lashed out, upsetting her so badly she nearly didn’t visit him again. His relief when she did, enabled me to show another side to him.

‘I’ve never had anyone look after me, Brianna,’ he admitted slowly. ‘I’m used to taking care of myself. For me to have to admit I need help is incredibly hard.’ He gave her a rueful smile. ‘But here I am, in plaster casts from head to foot and as helpless as a bloody baby. I don’t have the luxury of being proud. You made a very kind offer and I’m really grateful. Hell, I might not show it, but I’m grateful for everything you’ve done for me.’ His voice was as serious as the look in his deep brown eyes. ‘You saved my life, Brianna. Your visits also saved my sanity. I didn’t realise quite how much until you stopped coming.’

I suspect in the end, the appeal of writing about the brooding hero is less to do with his moody ways, and more to do with being able to show the reader that there’s more to him than first meets the eye. Brooding or not, our romantic hero is much like an onion – stick with me on this one – he needs to have layers. The more layers, the more depth, and thus the more intriguing he is to both write and read about. Also like the onion, when we peel back his layers, he should, if he’s written well, bring tears to our eyes.

Contact details

Website:  http://kathrynfreeman.co.uk

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/kathrynfreeman

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/KathrynFreeman1

Oh Crumbs review

I hoped to have had a post yesterday but I had an extremely busy and productive Monday. I believe this week is going to be a busy one so my posts will either be early or late in the day….there should be a mix of posts this week but if there is anything you would love to see do get in touch.

In regards to reading I have only managed some audio and a magazine but I’m hoping as my week evens out that changes.

2018, Author Love, debut novel, Guest Post, New Author to me, Uncategorized

Author Guest Post: Eliza Scott speaks social media…

Today here at Hayley Reviews I’m pleased to have Eliza taking over for me. I was part of the blog tour for The Letter- Kitty’s story and was overjoyed when she agreed to guest for me. She’s talking about getting to grips with social media – something I love and also hate at times.

Cover Reveal

Blog Tour: The Letter – Kitty’s story

So without further ado….

When I first decided to take my writing seriously and to actually do something about it – i.e. think about getting published – I realised I was probably going to have to get my backside into gear as far as social media was concerned and build myself a platform. At that point, the only thing I knew about this on-line world was the snippets I’d overheard from my daughters’ conversations – I hadn’t been tempted by Facebook, which even my most technophobic friends had. You could say I was a little late to the party.

So, one afternoon, and with a determined look in her eyes, my eldest daughter sat me down and fired-up my laptop with threats to have me social-media savvy by the end of the day. I have to say I was a dreading it; I couldn’t imagine enjoying spending time tweeting about this, that and the other, or posting pictures on Instagram. And I was convinced I’d make a hash of everything! But, with assurances that I’d be absolutely fine, my daughter and I ploughed on and sure enough, by the end of the day I was signed up to more social media than you could shake a stick at! I even had my own blog – heaven only knew what I’d post on that!

I have to say that, being a bit of a chatter-box, I took to Twitter pretty quickly, and was happily tweeting away in no time.  And it was this platform that introduced me to friendliest, most supportive bunch of people I know: the book community. From book bloggers taking the time to post detailed reviews of books they’d read, authors promoting other authors’ work and readers tweeting about how much they loved a book, it was a real eye-opener. The kindness and generosity of spirit was heart-warming, especially after hearing so much about what my daughter referred to as ‘trolling’. This very definitely changed my opinion of Twitter.

For me, social media was a Narnia-like doorway to another world. One that introduced me to a whole host of fabulous new authors, such as Caroline Roberts, Jules Wake, Linn B Halton, Helen J Rolfe and Sam Tonge to name just a few (the full list is rather lengthy!). I had no idea that such great writers were either signed to digital first imprints of the big publishing houses or were successful indie authors. At the time I was a strictly physical-copy only reader and wouldn’t entertain a Kindle. I quickly changed my mind and bought one, and boy am I glad I did! Since getting my hands on one I’ve read some fantastic ebooks.

Twitter also introduced me to York’s Festival of Writing, run by the Writers’ Workshop. I booked myself a place on the course and came away inspired. Indeed, it was here that the first seeds of self-publishing were sown in my mind.

Once I’d got my manuscript finished – or once I’d convinced myself I had to stop tweaking it to within an inch of its life! – I submitted it to a couple of the imprint publishers (I decided on only two as I still felt compelled to self-publish) and received one rejection and no response from the other (a flicker of self-doubt made me wonder if my writing was so bad, it didn’t warrant a response!) This made me take a long, hard look at my manuscript, which at over 150,000 was a bit of a hefty brute, and I decided a serious pruning session was in order. This I did and managed to discard over 20,000 words. Phew! My next step – and here’s where the internet and good old Twitter come in again – was to find an editor and book cover designer. After a good sniff around, I decided I liked what freelance editor, Alison Williams, offered and sent my manuscript off to her.

As far as a book cover was concerned, I’d decided early on that it had to be professionally designed, and I had the very designer in mind: Berni Stevens, whose book covers are just delicious! I’m thrilled with the one she designed for my novel; it captures the essence of the story’s location perfectly – in fact, I think I fall a little bit more in love with it every time I look at it!

Next up was marketing! Again, I knew who I wanted for this: the fab Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources. First off, I enlisted her help with a cover reveal followed by a whirlwind of a blogtour – it took my feet a while to touch the ground after that, I can tell you! I’m eternally grateful to Rachel for her slick organisational skills and for helping to launch my novel into the marketplace and introducing my book to the generous book bloggers who offered an unknown author a spot on their blogs.

I owe Twitter a big ‘thank you’, for helping me find all of these awesome people!

So, you see, after being sniffy about Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and co, I’m a fully-fledged convert, fan and user – though I’m still a little behind on some forums, but I’m doing my best to catch up!

My first novel, The Letter – Kitty’s Story, which wouldn’t have been published without my introduction to social media, is available on Amazon in digital form and pretty soon it will be available in paperback. If you fancy a read, the links are:

UK:  www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07DMKKM89

US: www.amazon.com/dp/B07DMKKM89

You can also catch me on:

Twitter: @ElizaJScott1

Facebook: @elizajscottauthor

Instagram: @elizajscott

Blog: www.elizajscott.com

You can find me on Goodreads, too.

Please feel free to get in touch – I always love to hear from fellow readers, authors and bloggers. Oh, and before I go, if you read The Letter – Kitty’s Story and like it, I’d be so grateful if you could pop a little review on Amazon. Thank you so much.

Eliza xxx

Thank you Eliza for taking the time to talk to me. I am hoping to do a Q&A with Eliza soon so if you have any burning questions then please leave them below. I must admit I haven’t read this yet but it’s on that ever increasing pile.

2018, Author Love, Guest Post, Uncategorized

Guest Post: Samantha Tonge – A kind of magic

Today I am pleased to have Samantha Tonge guesting on Hayley Reviews. I have loved her Monday motivation for a while and I was extremely grateful when she agreed to write something for me.

What I have read of Samantha’s I have loved and I will be reading her newest book Forgive Me Not soon as I’m part of the blog tour next week I believe. So without further ado I hand over to Sam.

Self-kindness is very important as an author. There are too many opportunities to doubt and criticise ourselves as we progress along our publishing journey. I’ve recently undergone counselling and one of the most important consequences is that I don’t beat myself up anymore about mistakes I might make or things I perceive as failures.

As if by magic this has made all the difference to how I view myself and my career.

And it’s a challenging career for anyone who has a tendency to judge themselves. From your very first publication date you are propelled into a world where you are continually ranked. On Amazon. In bookshops. By being shortlisted – or not – for awards. By the number of stars readers give you when they review. By the number of followers you might gain on your social media platforms. And that’s after years of struggling to find an agent or publisher.

It’s hard for self-esteem not to plummet if a one-star review comes in or a rejection from an agent. It’s easy to start the blame game and to tell yourself you should have done better.

So here are my tips on how ditch that negative inner soundtrack and replace it with a much kinder one.

It is what it is – and this applies to anything in life. If you can’t alter a situation then there is absolutely no point in stressing about it. That one star review is on Amazon for all and sundry to see? No matter. Every reader is entitled to their opinion. If you love your book, your agent loves it and your editor too then that is all that matters. Accept the things you can’t change – it’s extremely liberating.

One day at a time – I took a mindfulness course as part of my treatment and it’s really taught me to live in the day and focus on the present. Yesterday I got a rejection? That was then. Forget it. Today offers new hope. What if my book launch tomorrow is a flop? Whoa, hold on! We aren’t there yet and you haven’t got a crystal ball so can’t predict a thing. Forget the what ifs – they are utterly pointless. What will be will be.

Don’t construct a story around your thoughts – the following example comes from a talk I attended at my local Buddhist centre. A woman takes a dog out for walk. They step out of the building. The dog thinks “we are going for a walk.” The woman, however, thinks, “we are going for a walk. It is cold. The weatherman got it wrong. It might rain. Perhaps I should get my brolly. We’d better hurry. Clouds are coming. What if we get wet? My new shoes will get ruined. They cost a lot of money. I shouldn’t have really bought them. What if…”

You get the idea. Be more dog-like if possible! So if, say, you book hasn’t jumped up to the top of the Kindle chart or an agent has rejected your submission, don’t overthink the situation. Don’t catastrophise. Don’t entertain such thoughts as “this must be a bad book, I will never achieve the success I want.’ All in good time. Any writer’s career is full of ups and downs whilst they learn along the way. Put it down to experience and focus on the positive. Getting your work out there or getting published is a massive achievement in itself. It took me eight years to get my first deal and sometimes I need to remind myself of how far I have come.

So be a little kinder to YOU. You deserve it. You are worth it. Be on your own side. Be your own best friend. Your own cheerleader.

It’s not about ego, it’s about self-belief and self-love.

As if by magic you’ll be so much happier.

Author Bio

Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK and her passion, second to spending time with her husband and children, is writing. She studied German and French at university and has worked abroad, including a stint at Disneyland Paris. She has travelled widely.

When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines.

In 2013, she landed a publishing deal for romantic comedy fiction with HQDigital at HarperCollins and in 2014, her bestselling debut novel, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category.

Her latest contemporary romance novel, One Summer in Rome, was published May 2018 by HQDigital, HarperCollins.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/One-Summer-Rome-deliciously-uplifting-ebook/dp/B073TS2JDX/ref=la_B00FB6KDNC_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1529503699&sr=1-1

Her debut women’s fiction novel, Forgive Me Not will be released by Canelo on 23rd July 2018. Which can be pre-ordered Here.

Forgive Me Not Cover Reveal Post

One Summer in Rome Review

Author Post: The New Beginnings Coffee Club

The New Beginnings Coffee Club Review

Thank you Samantha for joining me here at Hayley Reviews I honestly cannot wait to read your women’s fiction offering and the rest of your back catalogue.

2018, Author Love, Guest Post, Publication Day, Uncategorized

Guest Post: The Power Of Kindness By Victoria Walters

Today sees the publication of part four of Victoria Walters Random Acts Of Kindness and I truly cannot wait to devour it. Although I will miss Littlewood and it’s residents.

So in honour of publication day I have the lovely lady herself here at Hayley Reviews without further ado I give you Victoria…

The Power Of Kindness

When I started writing my four-part serial, Random Acts Of Kindness, I was sceptical at how much kindness there really was in every-day life. The story is set in a small surrey (fictional) town called Littlewood and follows three women over one summer who discover that kindness can change your life. There is an act of kindness in the very first chapter, which starts a butterfly effect of acts of kindness through the story, and inspires the three women to make a pact to be kinder to both other people, and to themselves.

After I had written the first part, I experienced an eerily similar act of kindness to one of main characters. I was in a shop and suddenly realised that my handbag was no longer hung on my shoulder. I immediately panicked and frantically tried to retrace my steps in the store. There was no sign of it so I assumed it had been taken by someone. It’s a shame that was my first feeling but I thought it had gone. Then I turned around and saw a woman coming up the escalator carrying my bag. She worked for the shop and had seen it fall off my shoulder (note to self-do not wear a leather jacket with a gold chain strap in future – it slips right off!) and had picked it up and tried to find me in the shop. I was so grateful, I gave her a big hug! I think she was surprised but no more than me that someone had found my bag, and reunited me with it.

What was so crazy about this act of kindness was the mirror to my book. In the first chapter, Abbie has arrived in Littlewood from London and she drops her bag at the train station. Later, she is stunned to have it handed back to her by a stranger who followed her to a local café called Brew. Brew has a kindness board where customers write up acts of kindness that others have done for them, and it inspires Abbie, the stranger Eszter, and Abbie’s sister Louise to do their own acts of kindness. I love the idea of kindness having a pay-it-forward effect on people.

As I wrote Random Acts Of Kindness, I have noticed kindness so much more than before. If you look for it you do see so much of it that my faith in human nature has been restored. Even if it’s just someone giving you a compliment or holding the door open for you, all these small things can really make someone feel special, and turn their day around. I really hope my story inspires readers to make kindness more of a priority in their lives, and I’m definitely trying to make it more of one myself.

Thank you Victoria for joining me here at Hayley Reviews. I also would like to make kindness more of a priority in my life too. Sometimes the smallest things can mean the most to others and we should also all be kinder to ourselves, I am getting better at that but I can be my own worst enemy.

If you haven’t devoured this gorgeous series then be sure to do so part one is free and the others are 99p each what a bargain.

Random Acts Of Kindness

Before I go here are my reviews from the first three parts.

Part one

Part two

Part three

Keep your eyes peeled for my thoughts on finishing the series this week. I’m getting the bus into work instead of my usual walk so I can start devouring this beauty. Saying goodbye to Littlewood will be hard but being kind should be part of our everyday existence.

2018, Author Love, Guest Post, Uncategorized

Guest Post: Anita Cassidy talks Change

Happy Tuesday all, today I am pleased to welcome back Anita Cassidy to Hayley Reviews. Anita joined me recently to discuss Sugar if you somehow missed that post you can read it Here.

As I mentioned before I really enjoyed Appetite and it made me think I more about me and my relationships with myself and with food. I also stated before my situation is nothing like David, Naomi or Matthew but it sure did give me food for thought.

I’m not usually this open online having suffered at the cruel hand of trolls in the past. I have been meaning to post this piece from Anita on Change for a while now but having recently started Slimming World I thought I would have a little milestone to report so I changed it. Ha more fool me my body wasn’t liking deadlines. So today is a brand new day a new start and I’m not letting this beat me. I have changed a lot in a short space of time and I’m loving the fact I’m giving more a go and also making much better choices. My moods and my skin having improved for the better and that for me is a small step in the right direction. Right I’m going to stop babbling just in case you haven’t read Appetite here’s my Review to tempt you.

Snap Out of It

It was on reading yet another piece of exceptional but bleak journalism about the impact of chocolate production on the environment that I realised just how little these types of articles actually effect the change that they seek to inspire.

No one needs skinny, white middle-class journalists telling them what they should and should not be eating, or doing. Few people ever made a permanent positive change based on being hectored or made to feel bad by someone they have never met, and will never meet. And, all too often, our response to these articles is to feel guilty and ashamed but helpless, and then to retreat into exactly the kind of actions and behaviours that the article was trying to stop.

As a skinny, white, very aware of her privilege and privileges writer myself, I realised that what I had to do was write a story with no telling, only showing. Just a showing of how I see certain things and my own experiences of these feelings and issues.

What I hope my novel Appetite does is show us how we all too often are, while offering no judgment. But, more than that, through David I tried to show how we could be, if only we were able to see ourselves clearly. If we are able to look unflinchingly at who and where we are: to accept that and then to see that acceptance is the key mechanism that creates permanent change.

I never meant the portrayal of Snap Out of It (a name very much inspired by the Arctic Monkeys album AM that I listened to while writing the novel) to be funny or dismissive of the efforts of community groups and activism. It was meant to highlight that some activism can be misguided, and that the assumptions of all groups and individuals need to be examined and questioned before action is taken… The key concept of ‘first do no harm’ is surely a fine place to start.

It was also meant to highlight that, ultimately, we have to wake up for, and by, ourselves. There really is no genuine will on behalf of the structures around us – big food, big pharma, big media, big and local government – to truly address the issues. They control our environment but, as Frank Gerbode says, ‘the mind is the first environment’, and we are in control of that more than we know, more than it suits anyone for us to know. We can become aware of the influences that have played a part in shaping us, our view of the world and ourselves, and we can make different choices.

The damage caused by processed food and drink production pollution (from the plastics found in our seas to the damage done to land by chemical run-off and transportation) can be undone from the bottom up with a change in how each of us acts and chooses. Rather than ask what we can do about the pollution, we could ask ourselves, and each other, what need does that can, bottle, bar or packet serve; what felt pain does it temporarily assuage?

For me, what changed my habits (and you can read more about my complex and difficult relationship with sugar and chocolate when I post it next month) was fully witnessing my past, truly seeing the dark and beautiful truth of my self as I am now and learning, slowly and gradually, to feel rather than feed my feelings.

It is hard. David, Naomi and Matthew show us just how hard and, in truth, it is never going to stop being hard. But we can do it together. Together we can snap out of it.

Further Reading

Frank Gerbode: http://tira.info/research_pub/art/first-environment.html

Susan Nieman, Why Grow Up?

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/sep/27/obesity-childhood-trauma-sugar-tax

2018, Author Love, Guest Post, Uncategorized

Guest Post: Anita Cassidy talks Sugar….

I’m super excited to share this guest post from the fabulous Anita Cassidy. I truly loved Appetite and a lot of the messages within this novel hit a nerve for me. Not that I’m as bad as these characters but there certainly are little aspects that I share with them. If you remember back in January I spoke wholeheartedly about David as David’s story in Appetite was one that made me stop and truly think. I was part of the blog tour and I shared this from David Here

Here is my Appetite Review.Sugar and You…

Clear your plate? Don’t be so greedy! This will make you feel better… Enjoy… You deserve it… Don’t get fat… We are all taught how to eat by the messages and actions we see around us. Maybe our mother dieted, or ate a lot of low-fat but high-sugar foods and so we associate those chemical-laden horrors with health? Maybe we were taught to eat up, and so we never learnt to hear our body’s signals of hunger and satiety? Maybe we were rewarded with sweets: pudding is all too often an easy way to show a love that it can be hard to say.

We use sugar to celebrate and commiserate. It’s certainly what I do. Good day: chocolate. Bad day: chocolate. And it is, quite frankly, unhelpful. Especially when the reality is that we just eat and eat, hoping that the food will fulfil the promise we have been sold – that it will make us feel better – and then blame ourselves when we just feel worse…

For me, it was the comfort that the sweets provided, the sense that I had chocolate to hand and that meant I would be okay. The chocolate became a way to soothe feelings that I had not been taught to handle by myself or to sit with. And yet all the sweets ever did was distract me from the hurting for a while. After the binge (how do you stop? Once the third biscuit has been eaten, isn’t the seventh just inevitable?), I was always left feeling guilty and queasy.

The breakthrough came when I was writing Appetite. Through David’s story in particular, I began to unpack the story of my relationship with sugar, how I used food and sugar as a comfort, and the extent to which that was a habit from childhood. I realised that, even at six years old, I was hiding food, storing it away as a secret support for myself.

And now, despite the fact that I see the truth of it, I still find myself picking up ‘treats’ and ‘rewards’ for myself as well as for my young family. And I want to break that connection.

The change cannot come from outside: no sugar tax will effect a real shift. It all begins with thinking about how you interact with food and sugar. It begins with observing. What do you eat and when? What is your family story when it comes to food? What memories or feelings come to mind when you think about your childhood and food? About yourself and food? It is about seeing the stories we tell ourselves about food and time, to see where they have come from, and begin to think about which parts are helpful, and which are narratives we need to let go of.

For me, one practical solution has been to limit sweets and desserts to Friday-to-Sunday, and to only two items a day. This still often feels like too much, but it is the best I can do right now. It is about honestly seeing where you are right now and then making one change at a time: whole-nut peanut butter not jam, brown toast not sugary cereal, water not juice at lunch… Small changes made one at a time (and not making more changes until that one has mostly stuck) do make a difference.

And, to help unpack the emotional associations, it is about pausing when there is upset with the young, and not so young, ones and saying: You feel bad and part of me wants to give you sweets to make you feel better but how about we just sit together and have a cuddle? How about we do a drawing? Read a book? Go for a walk?

Work on my own habits and awareness is very much a work in progress. I am still watching how I interact with food. I see myself hiding a bar of chocolate (or three) in my drawer still – I did it this week… I have to learn to let go and trust that I will change more permanently when I am ready.

This work is the work of learning to soothe ourselves, learning to sit with some discomfort and pain and not instantly trying to push it away, make it disappear. It is a personal journey, and not an easy one. But it is one that we can take together and, by talking and sharing these stories, we can begin to make the changes we need to for ourselves, our families, and each other…

Thank you Anita. I truly am inspired by your words and I am about to embark on my own fitness journey. I haven’t decided how much of that I’m to share here but it could happen. Anita has kindly written another piece for me which I will share with you next week…