Category Archives: Everything Else

September Author Interview – L.L McNeil 

This month I’m really excited to host not only a brilliant independent author but someone I feel I am lucky enough to now call a friend. 

Lauren is an independently published author who reached out to me back in the spring to ask me to read and review her debut novel Moroda. You can check out my review here: https://lifehasafunnywayofsneakinguponyou.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/moroda-by-l-l-mcneil-review/

Lauren has kindly agreed to do this month’s interview and I am very excited to host her! 

What was your background and how did you get into writing? 

I’m a Copywriter and have worked in Marketing / Marketing Communications for quite a few years now! I’ve always loved writing, and as a child I was always making up stories! I always wanted to make a living from writing, which is what I do, but there’s something incredible about writing your own novels!

What are your ambitions for your writing? 

My previous ambition was just to get published! Next it’ll be to get the remaining books in the series out, but also to the same standard as book one, if not higher! Five novels to go…

But in truth, I’d like to be an author full time – to have my bills paid with my books. That’d be an epic achievement!
I’m really excited for the next books in the series! Which writers inspire you? 

Many of them! In particular, those who create complex characters, worlds that come to life, even created languages! Right now I have a lot of admiration for Leigh Bardugo and Patrick Rothfuss.
Writing fantasy requires a lot of imagination, particularly high or epic fantasy like Moroda. 

I really need to get into Leigh Bardugo! Where did the idea for Moroda come from? 

I came up with the original concept back when I was sixteen, so quite a while ago, now! I remember handwriting pages and pages of this idea, trying to get it down before I lost the thread of it. It combined a lot of things I enjoyed – dragons and quests, magic stones, a vast world. I remember very clearly seeing the university at Berel, and the ballroom scene in the palace of Taban Yul in particular. I even hand-drew a map of the world!

Moroda herself was actually the weakest character up until almost final draft. She was kind of dwarfed by all these strong side characters and I struggled to find the character and voice of Moroda until very, very late on. She was just kind of swept up in events and didn’t do much for herself – so I hope I’ve brought her back to be a more balanced character, with real motives and understandable behavior!


Are you working on anything new at the moment? 

I’m working on a spin off / collection of short stories which details some of the characters’ lives before the events of book one. These are very short reads, only about 10,000 words. The first one I’m working on is all about Amarah and how she became a sky pirate!

I’ve also written the first draft of book two in the series, which is called Palom. I’m currently working on editing that in the hopes of publishing it later this year.



So that’s due anytime now then! What do you use to do your writing? Pen+paper, computer, typewriter etc. 

I use anything and everything to jot ideas down!! I’ve always got a notepad in my bag, a couple on my desk at work, and loads more floating around at home! It’s nice to be able to write down a bit of dialogue or description of a scene as and when ideas strike! I also keep one by my bed in case my dreams throw up anything worth exploring!

For actual writing I use my laptop and stick with Word. I often have many files of notes – so I have a whole document on the world of Linaria, another on various characters and their arcs, another on currency, another on things I’ve written that I’d like to keep for another book, etc. Plus all my outlining and plotting!



It all sounds very complex! Would you ever consider writing in a different genre or is there a genre you wish you could write? 

I’m a fantasy fan through and through, so I can’t see myself writing another genre. I’m in awe of those who write thrillers and mystery. All that plotting and foreshadowing. It’s very complex!!


How often do you write? Do you set yourself a word target or just go with it when inspiration strikes? 

I try and set aside a couple of hours every night (although that’s gone out the window since publishing!) – I can typically write 2,000 words an hour, so once I’ve completed my plotting, I can sit down and churn out quite a lot. NaNo is very good for helping with accountability, too! 

I do need to get back into a routine, but often when you’ve been at work all day, the last thing you want to do is spend another few hours looking at a laptop screen!


What sort of publishing route did you choose and why? 

I went for self-publishing, though it wasn’t my original plan. I wanted to go traditional, and purchased the Writers and Artists Yearbook, shortlisted agents I wanted to query, etc. But by the time I finished my manuscript, I’d had a change of heart.

I mentioned having a Marketing background, including many connections and colleagues. I could probably do a lot of the things a publisher would do, by myself. Plus I’d keep full creative control, and I could get it out there faster. If I was picked up by a publisher right now, it could be another eighteen months before the book went out on shelves.

There are also stories of wildly successful self-published authors who have later been picked up by a traditional publisher, so something like that could happen if my series takes off! You never know! 



From what I’ve seen so far Moroda is continuing to be very successful How do you market your books? What have been your marketing successes and failures? 

I’m quite active on Twitter and Facebook, so I’ve run a few ad campaigns there. I’ve also done some “author takeovers” and interviews like this one (many thanks again for the opportunity!). I’m part of a fantastic writing group called Garage Fiction who do a weekly podcast that I’m now involved with, which is awesome fun! 

I have an author website and blog which I post to at least weekly (including a series on my self-publishing journey and mistakes I made!), and I’m currently working on creating a book trailer. I’ve also commissioned an illustrator to create some beautiful artwork of the eight main characters from the book, which is awesome!

I approached people on Goodreads who typically read my genre and asked if they might like to receive a free copy for review, and I’ve also run a couple of Goodreads Giveaways, which has really helped with visibility and a few reviews have come from it. I’ll be exhibiting at some of the UK film/comic-cons, too!

It’s a constant learning curve. I don’t have an emailing list or newsletter (yet! I’m working on some added content for this), and a lot of my marketing efforts probably would have helped more if they were done before the book was released! But it helps to have this in place for when it comes to book two!

 
It sounds like you know what you’re doing! If you could be the original author of any book what would it have been and why? 


Oh gosh, that’s a tough one! So many! I’m in awe at the scope of A Game of Thrones, so I’d probably have to go with that one! Sorry for choosing the obvious!


What are your views on good and bad reviews? How much do you think the success of books relies on reviews? 


Touch wood, I’ve not received a bad review yet!! I’m still expecting one/several; certainly, as I have critiques about the book and shortcomings I’m not happy with. Good reviews make me giddy and I often cry when I read them, haha!

I am hugely influenced by reviews. If someone I follow on Goodreads leaves a four or five star review for a book and I like the synopsis, I’ll immediately add it to my “to read” list. If that book is part of a series, I add the rest of the series without looking! I love paperbacks too, so tend to rush out and buy those!

I think on a site like Goodreads, reviews will help the success of an unknown book or author. Amazon supplements this, too. 

Overall, reviews are very good, I think – especially when you hit about 50+, so I’m always asking those who’ve read my book if they’d be kind enough to leave a review!

Thank you so much for joining me this month Lauren it’s been a pleasure to have you! 

If you want to see more from Lauren and get the latest updates to can visit the website and social media pages below! 

http://www.llmcneil.com 
https://twitter.com/LLMcNeilAuthor https://www.facebook.com/LaurenAuthor/  http://www.llmcneil.com/blog/  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16468949.L_L_McNeil https://www.amazon.co.uk/L.-L.-McNeil/e/B06VVFY3DC/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0 

 

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How you can Say No to Animal Testing and still use amazing products! 

Quite a while ago now I posted a blog called Boycott the bad guys which was all about how many products we use on a daily basis and don’t realise are tested on animals. 

What many people don’t know is that although animal testing has been banned in the UK, many companies still sell their products to Asian countries where animal testing is still mandatory. It’s unnecessary and cruel. When there are so many fantastic products out there which are made without being tested on animals there’s no excuse for it anymore. 

I was truly shocked at the time by how many products in my house were made by companies like Unilever who test on animals. So I’ve spent the last 12 months making my house animal testing free! I wanted to share with you guys some of the products I now use to give you an idea of what alternatives you can look to while boycotting companies who test. 

So I’ll start with my makeup bag: 

Foundation 

Urban Decay All Nighter £29.99 


Fair enough it’s a little more expensive than my previous L’Oreal infallible brand, however the bottle lasts 3x as long, stays on for much longer, is waterproof and of course is cruelty free! 

Eyeshadow 

Urban Decay Naked Pallettes £39.50 


As you can tell I’m a huge fan of Urban Decay! I have two of their eyeshadow pallettes, Naked 2 and Naked Feel the Heat. They’re both stunning and Last an absolute age. I’ve had the Naked 2 for almost two years now and it’s still got loads left. 

Eyeliner 

Barry M Kohl Pencil £2.99 


Barry M On Point Eyeliner £4.59 


I use Barry M for both my winged eyeliner and my normal eyeliner. They’re cheap but really good products and once again, cruelty free. 

Mascara 

Gosh Boombastic Mascara £8.59 


This is a fantastic mascara and far superior to the Maybelline Falsies I used to use previously. 

Lipstick 

Urban Decay Vice Lipstick £15.50 


I love bright colours so I got with Urban Decay’s Vice lipstick but they do a cheaper range in less vibrant colours as well. 

I don’t use blusher, bronzer, fake tan or anything like that but I would imagine that you could pick these things up from either Urban Decay or Barry M as well. 

Now on to my cleansing products! 

I swear by Superdrug for all of my cleansing products. My routine involves 6 days a week cleanse and tone twice a day and one day a week exfoliate and tone. On a Sunday I also treat myself to a face mask, and I moisturise twice a day too with day and night creams. A lot of Superdrug’s own brand products are also buy one get free or buy one get one half price. Here are the products I use; 

B. Refined Exfoliating Cleanser £5.49 


B Radiant Day Cream £10.99 

B Confident Night Serum £9.49 


Simply Pure Cleanser £2.99 


Simply Pure Toner £2.99 


Onto showering now, I get a lot of my stuff and my partners stuff from the body shop except my shampoo and conditioner. 

The Body Shop Body Butter starting from £6.00 various scents. 


The Body Shop Ginger Anti Dandruff Shampoo starting from £2.00 


The Body Shop  shower gel starting from £2.00 various scents 


Bedhead Shampoo and Conditioner £14.70 for both 

Natures Ingredients hand soap from M&S various scents available £2.50 


I also get my lip balms and hand creams from the Body Shop as well: 

Strawberry Lip Butter £4.50 The Body Shop various scents available 


Handcream starting at £4.00 The Body Shop 



In terms of The hair products I use like hairspray, leave in conditioner etc. I still have loads of John Freida stuff left, I was using it when it was cruelty free but I’ve since heard it’s no longer so, in future I’ll be getting TIGI Bedhead products instead. 

Here’s a handy list of brands which are currently cruelty free that I have used and can recommend: 

TIGI Bedhead 

Marks and Spencer’s 

Superdrug 

The Body Shop 

Bleach London

Lush 

Urban Decay 

Barry M Cosmetics 




The Addams Family The Musical Review. 

This is my very first review of a theatre performance so it’s probably not of a great standard but I’ll give it my best shot! 

So, tonight we went to see The Addams Family musical at The Lyceum theatre in Sheffield which is the nearest city to where I live. It’s a really beautiful theatre which was built in the late 1800s and is a grade II listed building. 

Photo credit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/southyorkshire/content/image_galleries/places2_gallery.shtml?17

The Addams Family musical is from the West End tour and features Samantha Janus from Eastenders fame as Morticia and Les Dennis as Fester, along with Carrie Hope Fletcher who started out in Vlogging and is now an author as well as an actress and singer. Unfortunately, for this performance both Les and Carrie were unable to perform and were replaced by their understudies. 

The show is a sort of follow on to The Addams Family movie, Wednesday is now grown up and has fallen in love with a college boy. A dinner has been planned to introduce the two families to one another and everyone has very different feelings about how Wednesday’s relationship will affect them personally. 


The musical explores normal human emotions but with the macabre and satirical comedy The Addams Family is known for. Morticia and Gomez find themselves for once of opposing views which puts strain on their own relationship, while Pugsley worries what will happen to his sibling related torture now that Wednesday is grown up, in love and god forbid, happy.


I really enjoyed the show, it’s only the second musical I’ve been to see, the first being East is East at The Northern Theatre when I was in Newcastle earlier this year. It was funny, the characters were played really well and the singing was tremendous. All of the characters came across exactly how I felt they should to have been true Addams’ and the Lyceum is a truly breathtaking theatre with good views even from our seats up in the balcony. 

So what’s up next? We’ve already got tickets to see Jersey Boys next June but hopefully I’ll twist Ged’s arm to go and see something else soon! 

The DNF Debacle 

Up until a few years ago, I read books until the end. Whether I liked them or not. I felt that if I’d started then I needed to finish, when I think of all the books I could have been enjoying while I was wasting time reading ones I didn’t until the end, I make myself mad. 


So around 2 years ago I was pursuing the dreadfully dreary Les Miserables and it was making me so Miserables that my boyfriend made the very fair point of ‘why are you doing this to yourself? Just abandon it and read something you like. At first I was like: 


And then I thought, why didn’t I think of that? There is literally no reason why I need to finish a book I’m not enjoying, if it was a film or a series I’d just turn it off. But I guess the problem with books is; money. I don’t always buy books don’t get me wrong, I use the library, I use kindle sharing library with my family, I buy from charity shops and I get books on kindle daily deal. But when I have actually paid full price or close to full price for a book and I don’t enjoy it, I feel like by not finishing it, I might as well be doing this: 


That’s how I’m feeling at the moment. Based on high recommendations, I bought the Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard. I didn’t feel that I really liked the first book, Red Queen but as I’d bought all three books from Waterstones at close to full price and also was in a funny mood that week I decided to persevere and read Glass Sword which I have just abandoned at 126 pages. I just found them to be extremely boring, flat, novels with no connection to the characters who were all very two dimensional. 


So I’ve abandoned it as a DNF and all three books will be heading off to the charity shop next time I go. 

So how does everyone else feel about DNF, would you rather lose the money and save the time or do you feel you should follow it through to the end in order to feel a sense of completion? 

Tell me your thoughts! 

The Bookshelf Scavenger Hunt Tag 

I’ve not done a tag for a while and this one looks like so much fun, I found it over at 

https://booklovingnut.com/2014/11/21/bookshelf-scavenger-hunt-tag/

The idea is that you have to hunt for certain books on your shelf, so let’s see how I do! I decided to jazz it up a bit by including photos instead of typing the names! And here is a gratituous photo of my beautiful shelves! 


1. Find an author name or title with a Z in it.  


2. Find a classic.


3. Find a book with a key on it.


4. Find something on your bookshelf that is not a book.


5. Find the oldest book on your shelf.


6. Find a book with a girl on it.


7. Find a book that has an animal in it.


8. Find a book with a male protagonist.


9. Find a book with only words on the cover.


10. Find a book with illustrations in it.


11. Find a book with gold lettering.


12. Find a diary, true or fictional.


13. Find a book written by and author with a common name (like Smith).


14. Find a book with a close up of something on it. 


15. Find a book on your shelf that takes place in the earliest time period.


16. Find a hardcover book without a jacket.


17. Find a teal/turquoise colored book.


18. Find a book with stars on it.


19. Find a non YA book.


August Wrap Up 

It’s been a busy couple of days so I’ve only just had chance to put together my August Wrap Up. It’s been quite a good month this one with 23 books totalling 7,532 pages. 

1. 

Darkling by KM Rice is a haunting tale of ghosts, love, gothic horror and beautiful writing. 

2. 

Her Last Tomorrow by Adam Croft is a thriller novel about a man given the choice of killing his wife in order to get his kidnapped daughter back. 

3. 

Two Hearts by Peter S Beagle is the much anticipated sequel to The Last Unicorn. 

4. 

A Dance for Emelia by Peter S Beagle is a personal story to the author about lost dreams and relationships. 

5. El Regalo by Peter S Beagle is a really interesting story about a 12 year old girl with a witch for a younger brother.

6. 

The Line Between by Peter S Beagle is a collection of short stories by this acclaimed author. 

7. 

Behind Closed Doors by Kathryn Croft is a fantastic thriller about a woman who gets into a disturbing relationship with her neighbour. 

8. 
A Fine and Private Place by Peter S Beagle is the Tale of a man who lives in a graveyard 

9. 

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is the heartbreaking story of a boy dealing with his mother’s terminal illness. 

10. 11. & 12. 

The Arthur Trilogy: The Seeing Stone, At The Crossing Places and King of the Middle March by Kevin Crossley-Holland. A different take on the King Arthur Legends that blends the reality of medieval life with magic. 

13. 

The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory focusing on the curse laid on the Tudor family. 

14. 

The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory focuses on the three Grey sisters and their suffering as the only remaining relations to Queen Elizabeth II 

15. 

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswar is an entertaining and informative story about the Punjabi community. 

16. 

The Nixie’s Song by Holly Black is the first in the Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles stories. 

17. 
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon is the second book in the Outlander series and focuses on what happens to Jamie and Claire after the events of book 1. 

18. 

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard is the first in the dystopian series which focuses on a world where the elite Silver blooded people lord it over the Reds. 

19. 

Edge of Darkness by Karen Rose is the latest in the Cincinnati series and focuses on the love affair of Meredith and Adam alongside a crime. 

20. 

The Little Bakery on Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry is a light and enjoyable read about a fashion high flyer who finds her life changing for the better when she returns to her home village in the Yorkshire countryside. 

21. 

The Crow Garden by Alison Littlewood is a dark and mysterious story of Victorian asylums and the introduction of mesmerism. 

22 & 23. 

Spellslinger and Shadowblack by Sebastien De Castell is my latest favourite series about a trainee Mage who discovers new skills when his magic fails to develop. 

That’s all from me for August I hope you’ve found some good recommendations here! 

August Book Haul! 

Hi all! Quite a short month for book buying this month as I only bought 9 books which isn’t very many compared to what I usually buy, however, I’m trying to save money and also trying to get down the books I’ve got before I buy anymore, so here goes! 


Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell 


These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer 


White Teeth by Zadie Smith 


I Know a Secret by Tess Gerritsen 


Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popović


Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks 


The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter and Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas De Quincey