Reading in Heels August Box

The third and final of my Reading in Heels subscription boxes arrived yesterday – making up slightly (though not totally!) for the fact that a friend had sent me a gift and the envelope had come unstuck in the post, meaning all that came through my letter box was a sad, empty padded envelope. Wah! (The gift was handmade, too, so I was doubly crushed).

Still at least I had some pretties. The new Reading In Heels box wasn’t bad at all, although not enough to convince me to renew my subscription. One of the sweets had nuts in and I don’t drink tea, so the fact that they send teabags every month is wasted on me. The ‘beauty’ element was an overnight masque that looked nice, and the book looks interesting, so while I think the box is decent value for money and would be great for some people, there’s not enough to keep me buying.

Still, was glad I gave it a try.

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Reading in Heels July Box

My second Reading in Heels box arrived when I was away. The book is a Norwegian novel I have heard good things about, and the rest of the goodies were nice enough: candles, a lip gloss, vegan wine gum and some tea. Again, probably not so amazing I’ll renew my subscription after my 3-box purchase runs out – there’s been nothing in either box I’ve received so far that’s made me squeal in delight – but certainly a nice thing to get in the post.

Saltwater Reading at Goldtapped

I moved North to avoid the heat. I’m overweight, pale and Northern, for god’s sake, I don’t do heat. So I was more than a little pissed off when, having spent the morning feeling smug at all the ‘oh god I am melting’ posts from my London and European friends, I stepped outside and realised that, yes, actually, Newcastle was also very hot. (I blame not being used to double glazing: I hadn’t quite twigged it keeps the place cool as well as hot.)

So I admit I wasn’t in the best of moods when I headed into town – which was mobbed, since there was a con on, a university open day and a cruise ship docked – not helped by the fact I managed to get lost on the way to the very event I had dragged my increasingly sweaty arse out of the house for.Still, after a mere handful of wrong turns, I managed to locate Goldtapped Gallery, the place I was supposed to be for a reading (which is actually… um, super easy to find). I admit I was there less because I was interested in the main speaker – author of Saltwater, Jessica Andrews, whose work I wasn’t familiar with – and more to support a fellow theatre bod, reviewer Lauren Vevers, a talented young writer who I have met a few times at various press nights since I moved back. But I’m pleased I went.

Andrews’ book is partially set in the North East, and her descriptions of vintage shops in town and Washington parties felt instantly familiar to me from my college days (I had friends who lived out in Washington, which seemed distant and exotic to me at the time – no, really – despite the fact I spent most of my time there in bus stops). She was joined not just by Vevers, who read a moving essay about her family, but also novelist Carmen Marcus, who read from her novel How Saints Die, and poet Oliver Doe. Despite the venue being a bit crammed – clearly the event was a bit more popular than they anticipated – all the readings were great, the writers all personable, and the space thankfully cooler than I feared. I might even have indulged in a few book purchases… (I know, I know. I’ll stop soon, I promise…)

Vevers will be featured in a forthcoming anthology by 3 of Cups press; you can check out Oliver Doe on his website.

And obviously if you are interested in North East writers feel free to check out MEEEEEEEEE.

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Words Weekend – new festival coming to Gateshead

If you follow this blog, you may remember that I went to the Archive Symposium for Open Clasp recently, a local theatre group dedicated to the stories of marginalised women and girls, whose play don’t forget the birds was one of my theatrical highlights last year. (I was also lucky enough to chat to the company’s Artistic Director Catrina McHugh for an upcoming feature, which made me even more interested in what they do).So I was excited to hear that they will be screening their filmed play Rattle Snake at a new festival coming to the North East this December. Words Weekend is a spoken word festival that’s being held at Sage Gateshead 6-8 December.

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Although, to be honest the phrase ‘spoken word festival’ would normally be enough to have me jumping in the Tyne (don’t @ me – I’ve sat through a LOT of bad poetry by posh boys in my time), this actually looks great. Guests include Grayson Perry, Ben Okri and Kerry Hudson, whose book Lowborn I am currently enjoying, as well as Candice Carty-Williams, whose novel Queenie is on my wishlist (not least because it has one of the best covers I have seen in ages!)

Local talent is represented not just by Open Clasp, who’ll be doing a Q&A with the film, but also by Kema Kay, the charismatic young rapper/actor whose play Shine I enjoyed when it was at Live and who I think is a genuine talent to watch.

Even better, the festival has a strong focus on accessibility: of more than 50 events, 25% are free, and all are accessible and BSL interpreted. See you there?

Details here:

Reading in Heels Subscription Box

As I mentioned in my earlier post about trying Birchbox, as few weeks ago an insomnia-fuelled shopping spree led me to sign up to a couple of subscription boxes. I love the idea of subscription boxes – a present to yourself in the post every month – even if the reality of them tends to pall quickly (a lot of useless tat included, excessive packaging, money that could be better spent on things I actually choose). So as a result I have a habit of signing up for them for a few months then getting bored and cancelling. It’s a trend which, if I am honest, I don’t see changing anytime soon, but at least I am committed to enjoying those I have bought while I am paying for them.

I admit I was slightly disinclined towards Reading in Heels. Their earlier ‘strictly no chicklit’ tagline felt a bit sniffy to me (maybe I’m over sensitive, being, y’know, a chicklit author, but genre snobbery is a real turn off) And, I dunno, the whole thing felt a bit ‘middle-class-white-lady idea of sophistication’ to my tastes. But, hey, it came up on my Instagram at 3am when I couldn’t sleep, so I thought what the hell and signed up to a three month package.

My first box arrived this week, and I was (mostly) pleasantly surprised. The contents included a book I didn’t own and hadn’t even heard of (given how many books I buy, duplication is always a concern when I sign up to book boxes), Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton, which looks interesting. A herbal tea sample was given away quickly (as I detest tea, but that’s hardly their fault), and some bookmarks went onto my ever-increasing pile of bookmarks, but the cookies were tasty, if somewhat crumbled in delivery.

The surprise treat for me was a cuticle oil pen which I would have said was something I would never, ever use but actually smells divine and makes my nails feel great and I have become mildly addicted to.

So, the overall verdict: pretty good value, and a nice way to try an author and a product I wasn’t familiar with. Win!

Biscuit Factory Summer Launch

Last night was The Biscuit Factory’s Summer Launch, and I was delighted to be able to go, having missed their autumn one due to other commitments. I’m a big fan of The Biscuit Factory – they stock an interesting range of artists at a range of price points, with the idea that art shouldn’t just be a luxury purchase (they even do a financing scheme if you want to buy a piece), the staff always seem friendly, and the cafe is great (entry to the galleries is free).

Last night showcased their new exhibitions, which include Simon M Smith’s floral patterened work – a hit with my companion, S – and pieces from the Open Contemporary Young Artist Award (both of which run till August 25). With such an eclectic mix of work on display, you’re likely to find plenty to like – as well as plenty that makes you shake your head and go ‘so that’s what they are calling art these days?’, which is all part of the fun. (I admit I spend a LOT of time going, ‘I can see it’s good, but I wouldn’t want it in my house…’) Of the current artists on display, probably my two favourites were the almost photo-real paintings by Cherylene Dyer and Basia Roszek’s vibrant portraits. Both are Glasgow-based women artists whose subjects tend to be women, so clearly I like a theme…

My favourite part of the evening was discovering that The Biscuit Factory now has a bookshop! Forum Books now has a dedicated space, a cute little cubby papered with pages of books, and of course after a couple of glasses of fizz I abandoned my ‘I must not buy any books!’ and splurged on some hardbacks. But you have to support indie bookstores, right? Our purchases came with a literary fortune cookie, to up the cuteness factor.

There’s lots to check out over the summer at The Biscuit Factory. Unfortunately inclement weather made their outdoor barbeque space a bit of a wash out, but on sunnier days their Artisan Socials (Wednesdays, 4-8pm) look like a good destination: outdoor drinks and a different foodie pop up every week. The Factory Kitchen (the less posh, more cafe space upstairs) is also getting in on the act with Sloe Sundays, where from 16 June you can enjoy a terrace gin bar (there is a covered space, so less dependent on the weather) DJ sets and botanical cocktails with your all-day brunch.

See you there?

Like how I write about Newcastle? Why don’t you check out my book.

You can also support my writing by buying me a Kofi. Or hiring me to write stuff. Either’s good.

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Happy book anniversary to me!

Nudged by my Facebook timeline, I realise it’s a year since I relaunched my Newcastle-set romcom, The Bridesmaid Blues. It’s a story that’s very close to my heart, not least because the heroine bears plenty of similarities to me, at various times of my life: I’ve been lonely, unhappy and stuck in a job that’s going nowhere. Hell, the book’s central plot – where heroine Luce has to be bridesmaid at a wedding where the ex who dumped her is best man – was literally something that happened to me!

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So I’ve always been slightly disappointed that the book never did quite as well as I wanted it to. Most people who read it seemed to really love it – hell, I even got a cover quote from award-winning author Caroline Green – but it never found the traction I think it deserved.

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In part, this was because launching the book was a bit of a steep learning curve for me. The initial cover was pretty, but it was designed when both me and my designer Caroline Goldsmith were starting out on our freelancing journeys, so both just feeling our way. I’d made some useful contacts in the blogging world, but mostly they were bloggers who focused on paranormal and urban fantasy, who’d liked my book Dark Dates. So while I managed to sell some copies and get some nice reviews, I felt stalled.

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Last year, then, I decided to be proactive. I contacted Newcastle-based designer Britt Coxon, whose work I have long admired (she created a Wonder Woman card for me a while back, which my friends loved, and I own a couple of her pictures). She agreed to do a new design for me, delivering a beautiful paper cut cover that was simple and striking and captured the lighter, contemporary tone of the novel – while also looking gloriously almost like 3D.

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Caroline Green had gone from being an award-winning children’s author to Cass Green, best-selling thriller writer, and was gracious enough to let me still use her quote, changed to reflect her status. The other Caroline helped me create a new cover and update the internal contents, and I relaunched the book with the help of book blogging maven Anne Cater, who I had met briefly then connected with through the Book Connectors Facebook page, and whose Random Things company organised a blog tour for the book.

Did I suddenly become an overnight best-seller? Alas, no. But I got a slew of great reviews, some increased sales, and I felt I reached a new audience with a book that I feared had run out of steam. (I was particularly proud that I gained new fans in the US – where I introduced a reader to the meaning of the word Geordie, so I can die happy – and, slightly randomly, Nigeria, where a book blogger pronounced Luce one of her heroines of the year!) Best of all, several of my family – who never read my stuff – actually read it, and loved it (one then went on to read the whole Dark Dates series – in just over a week!) and it’s nice that after all this time, they have a bit more understanding of what I do.

Of course the one thing I hadn’t anticipated was that my life would become even more like Luce’s – that, like my heroine, I would tire of life down south and find myself back home, for many of the same reasons she did. Did revisiting Luce and her life here make me miss the things I’d left behind? Or was it just a coincidence, a quirk of timing? Or maybe a pinch of both.

One thing’s for certain: moving back to Newcastle has made me love the book even more. Yes, I recognise Luce can be frustrating and annoying (as… um, so can I?), but I’ve always been more drawn to flawed people, and writing someone working through and owning up to her fears and insecurities – and still getting her happily ever after – made me think maybe I could too. And if I do so back in the city I can’t but adore – well, so much the better.

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Some of the lovely praise I received (bold mine, for bragging purposes):

“After a couple of pages, I knew that Bridesmaid Blues was one of the funniest books I would ever read. I was laughing 98.9% of the time… here are the reasons why Luce totally rocks. a). She’s funny. Sorry, huge understatement. She’s downright so-funny-I-laughed-so-hard-while-reading-this-book-thereby-earning-me-looks-that-were-laden-with-concerns-about-my-sanity-from-strangers funny” – Up Close and Literal

I absolutely adored it.  A perfect read for fans of Bridget Jones and Lindsey Kelk.  A smart, sassy, funny romcom with lots of northern charm.” – Kraftireader

a quick and fantastic read that leaves you feeling good and optimistic about love and finding Mr. Right. Tracey Sinclair’s writing flows perfectly

“I’ve read so many wedding, wedding planning or proposal books lately that I did not expect to enjoy this novel as much as I did. “The Bridesmaid Blues” completely surprised me with the light, romantic comedy and the great characters.” 

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“I enjoyed this read and felt like I was having chat with a friend…would recommend it for a fun and enjoyable summer read”  – Books and Lovely Things

An absolute must read, it made me laugh and I would have no problem in reading it again!” – Lacy Ace

a hilarious, honest, relatable read” – Katie’s Book Cave

Wanna see what the fuss is about? You can buy it here.