Tag Archives: chicklit

Rumours by Freya North

Rumours by Freya NorthCandice: After a spell of not reading anything other than the Sunday Times Style magazine, I found an interesting book in the charity book shop in Stratford.

Phil and I had both liked a book called Cat by Freya North, you’ll remember.  So when I saw another by her I thought, I’ll give this a go.

If you remember Cat was a strong female character and her book was as much about the Tour de France, as it was about her finding a man.  Well, Rumours is on similar lines but without the bikes.

The premise of the story is a woman, Stella, who has had a bad break up and is now working in a job she doesn’t want to do to pay for her and her son.  Her job is as an Estate Agent and she gets the biggest sale possible, the local country seat Longbridge Hall.  In the mean time, the Lady of the Hall is trying to assist the help’s son (Xander), as he has also had a bad break up… can you see where this is going?

Well I won’t give the whole game away but with abit of tooing and frooing Stella and Xander end up happily ever after, but certainly without any serious farce type ‘will they won’t they’ stuff.  Thinking about how Cat is written, I can tell the way that Freya’s life must have changed in the last x number of years.  Cat’s character was young, free and single, Stella is nearly 40 and has a child.  I know we all write from our own experience but I expect this is what has been going on for the author.

Like Cat, and Freya’s own description on her website of her writing style, the female character is strong and independent but able to let someone in.  I have to admit if I had read this before meeting my Husband I would have poopooed it a bit but now I am all married up, I can see both sides.

I wouldn’t say this book is as good as Cat, the premise of the tour kept me more hooked than the idea of selling a house, and there are some situations where characters seem to appear and then disappear for no real reason, the Lady’s daughter for one.  But I enjoyed bouncing along with it for a few hours.

Ironically, I have since discovered it is her most recent book, came out in June, so thanks to the bookshop for being so up to date!

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Bradley Wiggins, Thanks to chick-lit, I know what he’s been through

Photo by Marylene Evrard

Phil: Congratualtions to Bradley Wiggins on winning the Tour de France. And congratulations on the Tour for its excellent timing.

I’m not much into sport. Years of being the last person to be picked for any team at school has left me with mental scars and a conviction that anyone who plays football in defense is only there because no one wanted them on the team. Thus, if the news is full of a Great Sporting Event, I’m looking the other way.

Not this time though. OK, so I watched about 20 minutes of the entire coverage, about long enough for Bradley and his sideburns to cover the distance from London to Birmingham, I didn’t switch off every time the subject popped up on the TV or radio.

All this was thanks to my recent very reading of Cat by Freya North. While I suppose I should have been paying attention to the lurve story, I was just as interested in the details of le Tour that provide the backdrop. I know that some the riders in a team are there to support the stars. When the sports pundits talk about team members helping each other, I understand a little what this means. Having ploughed through a big fat book I even have some concept of the length of time the whole thing takes – after all, the main news channels in the UK weren’t interested in some stupid Froggy cycle race until a Brit looked like he was going to be doing well. Then they became as big a fans as the eponymous Cat and her fellow characters in the book, even if the real life journos we probably surprised the riders weren’t all in strippy T-shirts and selling onions along the route.

So – chick-lit has enriched my life. That can’t be right can it ?

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A taste of things to come?

Candice:  Phil and I have been beavering away in the background for the last few weeks working on our next project.  We’ve mentioned that we have been looking for new ideas and have been drafting something different from the usual.

Now Phil’s done all this research into Chick Lit, but no, to be different we haven’t written a Chick Lit story, but a horror story.  As he pointed out it has generated a few comments in our weekly meets in the local near my work.  Especially if the people listening also work there…. Hum that woman in Marketing was talking about murder at work… (well, to be honest, I feel like murdering some of them sometimes).

Anyway, the story is now finished and has been submitted to a writing competition.  It’s with a magazine called Writer’s Forum who publish entries every month and you can pay extra to have a critique of your entry.  Well, we are not expecting to win on our first entry (well, I am, but just trying to be modest) but we both think this is a cracker so are dying to see how we get on.

Writing a short is a different kettle of fish to a full book.  We both got a bit lost into the reasons why our characters would do what they do when I pointed out, “We don’t have to explain, that’s what a short is all about.”  My favourite parts were coming up with a punchy start and crafting the ending that just leaves things hanging.  It was actually quite nice to not have to finish it off and round it up to explain all.

So, I thought you might like a taste of what we have been writing.  I’m not going to give you it all until we’ve got the competition feedback, but tomorrow we’ll give you a taste of Nolan Parker, Horror Writers of repute.

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How to write Chick Lit – Part 3

Phil stared at his Citizen Men’s Skyhawk Eco-Drive Bracelet Watch and sighed. Turning back to the Samsung SyncMaster monitor, he reread the words on the screen through the pair of Paul Smith Green Pironi Spectacles. Try as he might, the WordPress.com blog posting wasn’t going well. Sometimes words would tumble from his thoughts but not tonight.

Perhaps some refreshment would help. Strolling over to the Maharani Drinks Cabinet, a recent addition to the room from John Lewis, he contemplated filling the Villeroy & Boch Scotch Whiskey  tumbler with another measure of Fabulous Grouse but thought better of it when he saw the level in the bottle was already below the birds foot.

No. A clear head called for something less alcoholic. Heading to the kitchen, he leaned on the worktop of the Ikea Factum units to think what would turn the creative taps back on. Perhaps a Le Creuset Stoneware Mug full of Yorkshire tea would be enough. It was too late to consider firing up the Krups Nescafé Dolce Gusto KP 2106 coffee machine for a dose of concentrated caffeine. Anyway, that was the wrong sort of stimulation. Chemically induced hammering at the Logitech Wireless Touch K400 keyboard might produce lots of words but most of them would only be suitable for filling the Rexel bamboo waste bin that lived under the Alphason San Diego desk.

Opening the Ramsjo cabinet, he spotted the solution. Nothing soothes the fevered writers brown like a steaming Mr Men mug filled to the brim with Green And Blacks Organic Hot Chocolate heated up in a Sharp Compact Touch microwave oven.

The pastel green Smeg fridge illumiated the kitchen as he opened the door and and grasped a bottle of Waitrose semi-skimmed organic milk. Staring at a tin of John West Grilled Sardines on the shelf, Phil paused to ponder the next line of the blog post. As he watched the mug rotating through the tinted window of the microwave oven, he knew that this had better do the job.

It was his turn to post to the nolanparker.co.uk website and if he didn’t produce the goods, Candice would be pulling her Blackberry curve mobile phone from the depths of the Gabor  Modena Handbag and speaking very sharply in his direction. He could imagine the conversation,

“Parker, you haven’t posed anything today you hopeless…”, PING – the microwave finished it’s work and interrupted his train of thought.

Settling back down into the Berlin Leather Franklin Office Chair cradling his drink, Phil pondered the chick-lit he had recently read. The contents of Flawless by Tilly Bagshawe floated across his mind. Words and chocolaty aromas mingled in his thoughts.

Suddenly, the room lit up. His wife had returned in her Audi A6 and the beam from the Osram bulbs briefly illuminated the walls, freshly painted in colours chosen from the Dulux 50 shades of grey range. The sudden brightness crystallised his ideas. Not pausing to welcome Nikita, who he had met through the goodrussionbrideforsadgentlemen.co.ru website, his fingers flew across the keys.

He typed like a man possessed. Possessed with the spirit of chick-lit. Possessed with the sure and certain knowledge that if you copy the Google shopping search results, drizzle with a perfunctory plot and wrap it all in a pink cover, every woman will want to read your work.

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How to write Chick Lit – Part 2

Candice:  Ok, so Phil’s done his research.  Probably abit arse about face as we have already written the book, but its a good way to shape this group of 80,000 words into something that a nice publisher might like, based on his reading experience.  However, there is something fundamental missing in his experience, he’s not a girl.  I suspect that’s why ‘Cat’ went down better than ‘Flawless’, but that was part of the test.

I also liked ‘Cat’ more than ‘Flawless’, and I’m the audience I think we are aiming this book at.  Not someone who wants soppy rubbish, but a woman with a brain who wants escapism but realism.  As Neil has commented, people have real experience of the Tour de France, unlike the high flying world of gems and castles.  None of us can understand that so its chance at grabbing us might fade.  I suppose it’s also a bit like the programs I like to watch. Give me ‘Buffy’, ‘Lost Girl’ or ‘Fringe’, set in reality but with escapist moments, rather than ‘Star Trek’ which I have no interest in at all.

So where to now?  Does Phil need to put on a dress and feel some relationship angst.  Um, no, that’s why he’s part of this writing partnership because he brings the Male to FeMale.  He’s the comedy buffer to my comments on shoes and handbags.  Though he does like a good Peplum….

I feel that more research is never enough in this case.  As you followers know I am always reading books, and each one helps to shape how I might approach our writing.  But I still think we need to tackle the other two areas we have set ourselves: submission of short stories (one written and just needing final tweaks), and attending a writing group (mainly for research as I not sure it is our thing, too much navel gazing).

Now I have surfaced from under a few weeks madness at work its time to do the final polish on our horror short and get it sent.  And maybe, if you guys are lucky, we might let you read it too…

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Chick-lit for beginners: Cat by Freya North

Phil: CatMy gentle introduction to chick-lit was “Cat” by Freya North. Of the two books I’d been supplied with, it was bound in the cover least likely to attract adverse attention during the train journey I planned to read it.

Catriona McCabe (28) is a sports journalist who gets a gig covering the Tour de France for the Guardian. The race forms the background and provides the structure for everything. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a book about cycling though. Despite the (apparently) well researched detail and extensive coverage of the imaginary version for the worlds most famous two-wheeled race, this is a story about one woman trying to get over the failure of a long relationship by escaping into another world, that of the salle de presse that follow the riders around.

Along the way she meets (and shags in surprisingly graphic detail) hunky Dr Ben,  teams up with fellow British journalists Josh and Alex and befriends Rachael, the soigneur for one of the teams. Somewhere in the mix are her sisters Fen (who has her own book from the same author) and Pip as well as uncle Django. There are also too many muscley cycle racers to mention, most with names that my brain refused to remember properly (I had the same problem with War and Peace) but this didn’t seem to affect my enjoyment of the plot.

The first question has to be, did I enjoy it ? Yes I did. The story bounces along at a decent pace. The idea of using each stage of the race as a segment worked very well. Because of the time pressure – the race is three weeks long – a conclusion was always on the horizon. By the final page, all the loose ends had been tied and you could close the cover with a warm glow of satisfaction.

I liked the idea that our protagonist wasn’t just moping about looking for a man, something I was dreading, but actually knew her stuff. It’s woman in a man’s world time but she is written as a true enthusiast armed with a grasp of facts and figures that would probably be more appropriate for one of the statistic-obssessed blokes that sporting endeavors seem to attract. The journalists are often described as being the luckiest fans in the world being paid to write about the sport they would happily pay to watch. The athletes aren’t treated as objects of desire but in a pleasantly objective way. Cat appreciates them as athletes rather than fancying any of them. She wants her favourites to succeed but in a well written manner that will resonate with real-life fans.

One oddity is that you never get the chance to build a mental picture of Cat. The book cover is adorned with a photo of a pretty lady who, in my mind, fits the bill perfectly. I guess that’s the idea but I wonder how that works with the companion volume Fen, the reader might have the wrong image in their head !

While much of the writing is conventional, there is an awful lot of internal dialogue in Cat’s head. I guess this is pure chick-lit. Women want to read about emotions and feelings as much as a straight description of whatever (especially the sex) is going on. Those feelings are in fact the main thrust of the story with the Tour simply taking its place as the stage upon which emotional tale is played out. At some points, the dialogue read almost as though the reader was a character asking Cat how she was feeling. I think this worked for me but it took a little getting used to.

What have I learned ?

Well, comparing Cat and Kate and the dirtboffins I am relieved that it is possible to handle lots of characters without the reader’s mind exploding. We’ve wondered about this in the pub a few times. The two stories adopt a very similar approach with the protagonists internal dilemmas being played out against a background of external events she is involved in. Perhaps we need more of a view into our characters heads and now I have of the female psyche (I’m a bloke and I’ve now read one instruction manual – is there more to learn ?), this is going to be a doddle.

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How to write Chick Lit – Part 1

Chick-lit and L PlatesCandice:  Apparently Phil and I have written a chick lit book.  Well, this the genre we have decided to put ourselves in to as nobody seems to understand the style we have actually written.  So, a few weeks ago Phil informed me that he needed to do some research into our genre.  It’s a good job we hadn’t written “Mommy Porn” else I would have been worried what his research involved!

Anyway, he looked to me to supply the chick lit.  Don’t know why it was assumed I would have some….  but actually I happen to have a few hanging around at home.

I do read quite alot, in fact I’m about to finish another book and need to pop to the second hand book shop in Stratford for something new.  However, I don’t keep my books, I am recycler. They either go to members of the family or back to the book shop.  In fact, one of my main forms of book exchange is with my sister, who has now said she’s buying a Kindle!  Argh!

Anyway, I have a few hanging around that were only 50p each.  So I rifled through the collection and picked two that were different styles and authors for him to try out.  As you can already see he’s read ‘Cat’ and given that the thumbs up.  That was my ‘It’s chick lit but it’s got a bit more meat to it’ book.  The other one he is due to review soon.

But, sit me down in a book store and ask me to pick examples of Chick lit and you would be drowning.  I’ve read a few over the years and that is what inspired my aspiration to have a female lead in my book who is a stronger person, as some of the characters I want to kill.  I hated the ‘Shopaholic’ series as she’s so ditsy, though I thought the film was good. Cecelia Ahern is one of my favourites as she does chick lit with a twist.  Her latest book ‘Time of my Life’ is on my list – though ‘A Place called here‘ was my favourite.

Anyway, where does one start with such a breadth of ideas.  I suppose with the pile of discarded books at home, those that I have whipped through so fast and the left ready for the next lunch break trip into town.

So, Phil, how did the second book go down?

Oh yes, and you can borrow Fifty Shades when you’ve finished that one……..

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