Friday 13 November 2015

Name a character in my next book!

It’s now less than a week until the Love Stories Award winners are announced in London UK. I’m thrilled and excited to have been nominated with my novel ‘Castaway in the Caribbean’. I honestly don’t expect to win this esteemed award – although to do so would be a dream come true – as just seeing my name among lots of authors I admire so much is more than I ever hoped.

I would love to do something both meaningful and fun to thank my readers for making 2015 my most successful year as a professional writer – with Castaway in the Caribbean a number one bestseller on Amazon this summer. It’s now fifteen years since I started to write my first published novel and I am so glad I never gave up writing between now and then.

So what I’m proposing is a prize draw for one reader to choose a name for a significant character in my next book. It has to be a female name – as the character is the personal assistant to my main female protagonist (assistant to the heroine of the story!) I’m hoping this new book will be my summer 2016 release but it is still very much at first draft at the moment. Interested? 

The winner can pick a name of their own choosing as the name of a character in my next book. Do you want your name in my book or that of a good friend/sister/mum? The draw will be independently run by rafflecopter and will run until the end of the year.

You can enter from here on my website as many times as stipulated on the entry form until noon on the 31st December 2015 and I’ll make sure there is a draw entry point at the end of any posts I write until then. Good luck to you lovely friends and readers and thank you for all your support, which means so very very much to me. Love, Janice xx

Click the Rafflecopter link to enter

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Well, the excitement is over - and although I did not win an award with Castaway in the Caribbean at the Love Stories Awards it was an amazing honour to have been shortlisted this year. Thanks to everyone who posted photos of the event online and on twitter and to lovely Linn B Halton who texted me the latest news from London on the night when I had no internet connection on this tiny island and was going crazy for news. Huge congratulation to all the nominees and to the winners - many whom are my friends and all of whom are fabulously talented writers!

The winners of the 2015 Love Stories Awards were announced yesterday afternoon (18 November) at a gala party in central London. The winners are:

Best Romantic Read: Where Love Lies by Julie Cohen (Black Swan)
Best Historical Read: Amy Snow by Tracy Rees (Quercus)
Best Short Romance: Pippa’s Cornish Dream by Debbie Johnson (Harper Impulse)
Best Romantic Ebook: Game of Scones by Samantha Tonge (Carina)
Best Author Published Romance: No One Ever Has Sex in the Suburbs by Tracy Bloom
New Talent Award: Against All Odds by Bernadette O’Dwyer Runner up: Beyond the Big House by Louise Hall
Innovation in Romantic Fiction: Bookouture – for achieving big results as a small publisher
Editor of the Year: Manpreet Grewal (Little, Brown)
Literary Agent of the Year: Lizzy Kremer (David Higham Associates)
Blog of the Year: Rea’s Book Reviews
Hall of Fame: Jenny Colgan, author; Matt Bates, bookseller

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Asian island hopping adventures #2 - What to pack..?

How much is too much? Usually, travelling by air in economy/coach, the amount of stuff you can pack is determined by your airline luggage allowance rather than your length of trip. 

Some airlines offer a generous 30kg plus hand luggage in economy while with others it’s a measly 20kg. When you are backpacking however, it’s a different story – it’s how much you are prepared to carry that is the deciding factor – and 20kg is too *blinking* heavy!

So what do we pack for our four-month back-packing trip to S.E. Asia?

For Trav it is easy: He packs - all his dive gear excluding lead weights and air-tank. 3 pair shorts. 3 short-sleeved shirts. 3 vests/t-shirts. 1 x long trousers and a long sleeved shirt. Undies. Swim shorts. A lightweight rain jacket. Toothbrush. Aftershave (Armani, of course). A torch.

Weight of backpack = 15kg.

For me: Well, I gave up high maintenance a while ago, but I do need stuff!

I pack: My full face snorkel mask. Two dresses – 1 knee length cotton day dress and 1 longer length shift dress for evening wear. 3 pair shorts. 2 shorts-style playsuits. 2 cropped linen trousers and 2 ‘nice’ tops. 3 x vest/t-shirts. 4 bikinis. 1 sarong. 2 yoga shorts. Undies - to include 6 bandeau style bra tops in assorted colours (Primark sports section £1 each) A lightweight rain jacket. An umbrella.

That is probably all I need for Asia – but we are travelling back through the USA and to Scotland, where we will stay for 48hrs and plan to do stuff including meeting up with our sons for a meal - and it is the end of October – and it will be cold!

I add: 1 pair of jeans. A fleecy hoodie top. 2 x fleecy patterned leggings. My very favourite 100% cashmere v-neck sweater (an Edinburgh charity shop find). A scarf/shawl/pashmina.

Then….. of course there are the products I simply cannot live without:

My Kindle. Walkman. Noise reducing earphones. Small boombox/speaker. Notebook computer. Camera. GHD hair straighteners (yes, really, I have to have these in case I go somewhere and don’t want to look like a frizzy head!) All the cables for the above. Power battery back-up pack. Power-Surge adapter. Plug adapter. Actual paper notebook. Pen. Hair conditioners. Shampoo. Soap. Face cream. Body cream. Nail polish and remover. Scissors/nail-clippers/tweezers/nail-files. Hair removal cream. Sunlotion. Aftersun. Cottonwool. Makeup bag. Makeup remover (yes, sometimes – although hardly ever – I wear a bit of eyeliner and mascara and then I’ll certainly need something to remove it!) Coconut oil (works when everything else fails/runs out). Deodorant. Perfume (Chanel, of course). Anti-frizz hair products. Toothbrush. Toothpaste. Tooth polish. Tooth floss. Hairbrushes. Hair ties. Hair clips and accessories. Bug spray. Bug bite treatments. First-aid kit including painkillers and every kind of discomfort tablets, band-aid plasters, and anti-biotics (you never know!)

Weight of backpack: too heavy.

I need to downscale, I know, but I neeeeeed all that stuff! Wail!!!!

Trav’s response. ‘That’s fine. But you have to carry it…’

And that is from the man who cleverly bought me my first Kindle ereader as a direct response to my luggage being overweight on an Emirates flight. My allowance on that trip was a generous 30kg but my case weighed in at 36kg. I refused to dump anything, saying I needed everything I had packed for our two week holiday. As it was our wedding anniversary, Trav took pity on me and agreed to pay out the $240 in overweight charges. He wasn’t so impressed however, when we reached our destination, and I opened my case to reveal a dozen or so hardback books in among my stuff. Hence the gift of a Kindle – on which I now have stored over a thousand books! Yay!!

So come on lovely peeps, tell me, what do you pack for your trips away? Are you a lightweight or do you, like me, need your stuff?

All comments gratefully received and I promise to reply as soon as I have an internet connection.

Love, Janice xx

Monday 2 November 2015

Asian island hopping adventures #1 - The logistics

Suitcases: Two years ago, when Trav and I decided to sell up everything we owned and travel the world, I threw out our flimsy supermarket bought suitcases in favour of investing in luggage that could withstand lots of adventurous travel over an extended period of time.

I did my research online and saw that one particular type of suitcase had come out top in a ‘suitcase survival’ survey in which ten types of suitcase were put through the kind of stresses associated with travel. In this particular trial the suitcases were even thrown off an aeroplane and crushed by a car to see if they might burst open!

I was also impressed that these roughy-toughy cases had two sections inside (ideal for keeping Trav’s dive gear separate from his clothes – although to be fair aside from a wetsuit he doesn’t actually have many clothes!) that they were easy to roll about on their four wheels and were secured with TSA approved locks. So  I bought Trav and I one each and for the past two years of our travels these cases have faithfully held and transported all our possessions – except for going AWOL a couple of times in the USA – and have performed brilliantly. I have particularly enjoyed decorating mine with stickers from all the places we have been!

Our roughy-toughy suitcases

While planning our Asian trip however, from the outset, I realised that our big hard-cased Delsey suitcases weren’t going to cut island hopping in Asia - where most of the travelling would be by boat – and by boat I don’t mean ferry.

Many of the small islands we wanted to visit in Asia are only accessible by traditional-style boats and passengers are expected to wade through thigh-high waves with their luggage before clambering on board. The same being true in reverse once you reached your destination.

Traditional long-tail boats are often used to island hop in Thailand

Most of the planning for our Asian adventure was done while we were still on the Caribbean island of Utila and although I had access to the internet I did not have any way of buying our new backpacks there. I also had the problem of what to do with our much-loved suitcases. The problem was solved when our lovely landlady on Utila offered to store our suitcases for us until we returned from our Asian trip. I was also able to buy two inexpensive, albeit rather fragile holdalls, to carry our stuff back to the UK where I had two backpacks, ordered online, awaiting our pick up.

A 'Black and Grey' backpack for Trav and a girly 'Wine-coloured' one for me!

Fully adjustable straps are important for backpack comfort and fit

The Highlander Ruckcase comes in different sizes and colours and has a detachable daypack. I found these perfect companions for our Asian Adventure

Backpacking: As with the suitcases, I did lots of research to find the right backpacks for us. When all your worldly goods are travelling with you, you need reliability and security. Trav’s dive gear doesn’t easily lend itself to the top loading style of pack so I needed ones that unzipped like a suitcase. With backpacks, I was told, you also need comfort and comfort comes from a good fit and good padding. With this in mind I soon found the right backpacks for us – they are called 'ruckcases' – and they are strong, side zip opening, fully adjustable, made in different sizes, have detachable daypacks, and are made by a company in Scotland called Highlander with a stockist very close to our hotel in Edinburgh. Yay!!

Ready to travel!

Waiting with backpacks our for our boat trip over to Krabi Thailand

In my next post I'll be choosing (agonising over!) what to pack for our four month trip to Asia!

Love, Janice xx