Book Review – Production Values

Kat and Bea, best friends forever and business partners. On the brink of the big time after the success of their BBC TV show, 21 Things. The pair are on their way to Hollywood and Kat has her eye on Ian Graham, hot-as-hell star of the show and serial philanderer. He has half an eye on her as well, but is he really just enabling Kat’s dreams, or does he have some other agenda?

Kat and Bea are two very different women, and Stateside, quieter, hardworking Bea begins to see success of her own, whilst all the plates Kat’s been spinning in her pursuit of becoming a Hollywood Darling begin to crash around her, causing a rift between the two.

What lengths will Kat go to in order to get what she wants? Even if her actions call their friendship into question. And will reliable, malleable Bea still be there for her if it all comes tumbling down?

unnamed

Production Values is the story of what can happen when you put ambition before friendship, loyalty and the family you choose, and I loved it. Hooked by the end of the first chapter, I could not put this down. I read it on my lunch break at work, I read it late into the night. I read it whilst my daughter had her swimming lesson, and standing in the queue at the supermarket. The dialogue is witty and real. The story flows well and is nicely researched and always entertaining, laced with metaphor. Funny but also gut-wrenchingly heartbreaking in parts, especially when dealing with the omnipresent mess Ian Graham leaves in his wake. Liv Bartlett captures emotion near perfectly and the juxtaposition of ambitious artist and romantic dreamer Kat next to stoic, level-headed, ever-forgiving Bea is refreshing and constant throughout.

There were a few occasions when characters were introduced, but not quite introduced enough, leaving me feeling a little momentarily lost, like I had to skim back a bit, or stop and think, just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, but on the whole I thoroughly enjoyed this peek into life on set across the world.

Author Bio –

Liv Bartlet is the pseudonym for writing partners Becca McCulloch and Sarah McKnight, who have been building worlds and telling stories together for more than a decade. They’ve logged hours of behind-the-scenes movie and TV footage and challenged each other in a friendly Oscar guessing game every year this millennium. Lifelong Anglophiles, their Monkey & Me world sprang to vivid life on a trip to London that included divine pastries, sublime art, and a spectacular pratfall in the British Museum.

Becca is a professor, a scientist, and a secret romantic who insisted their first order of business in London was a meandering five-mile walk to see Big Ben. She lives with her husband, children, and an ever-expanding roster of pets in Logan, Utah.

Sarah is an Army brat, an Excel geek, and has a lot of opinions on the differences between science fiction and fantasy. She lives with her cat, Sir Jack—who is featured prominently on Liv’s Instagram —just outside Salt Lake City.

You can buy Production Values here if you’re UK based, and here if you’re in the US, and  if you like the sound of it you can enter this giveaway!

Giveaway – Win  Production Values & Off Script e-books & $25 or equivalent Amazon Gift Card (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Advertisements

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY!

Tomorrow Getting Over Jesse Franklin is THREE! My first baby, the story ignited by my love of 90’s boybands, hot bass players and seaside towns in Orange County was published three years ago.

12346065_1018212218242235_1050401282_n

On that day, I watched my sales stats like a hawk (obvs). I paced. I went and got a tattoo (yep), and then I picked up the kids from school. Later in the evening, I drank prosecco, sat on the sofa and did a Twitter Q&A. We may have got a curry. I can’t remember now.

It was so exciting, publishing that book. Nerve wracking, too. What if no one else liked it? What if I’d written a pile of crap? What if Cassie was a bit of a basic bitch? What if Jesse was smarmy and gross, and not at all the amazing, slightly troubled, sexy AF book boyfriend I’d been aiming for? What if the humour fell flat, or the dialogue wasn’t snappy? What if the sex was just cringe?

(Don’t tell me if it is, yeah? It’s terrifying enough writing those scenes. Alcohol is involved every single time.)

After that it was back to it. I’d already started on Jetplanes to Jupiter. Part two. The story carried on because I kinda sorta definitely fell completely in love with this world I’d created, that I’m still creating, that you’ll see a different side to in The Songs We Listened To.

Anyway, it’s a birthday, and birthdays require cake and a celebration, and so, from today until Sunday Kindle readers can download Getting Over Jesse Franklin for the price of free! And if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can read it for free any time you like (and that way I still get paid, so you know, everyone’s a winner!)

And if you have read it, and enjoyed it, I’d appreciate a review. Think of it as a book birthday present!

Seal Beach, CA

Last autumn, my friend Ve and I decided that we deserved a trip away. ‘Fuck it,’ we said, ‘Let’s go to LA. YOLO!’

(and, you guys, this is where collecting air miles comes in very handy. My return flight to Los Angeles on Virgin Atlantic was £290. Taxes only. What an absolute STEAL!)

In any case, whilst we were there I used to opportunity to visit a little beachside town just south of LA. It’s a town I’ve written about pretty extensively, but until last Monday, had never actually been to. Seal Beach, Orange County. It’s the town my books are set in. It’s where Jesse Franklin lives, although it isn’t name checked until close to the end of Jetplanes. And as it turns out it was absolutely perfect and I completely fell in love with the place. Gah. Typical.

2017-03-19 17.56.59
Seal Beach pier. Where my book characters pop off to sulk.

Never have I been so proud of myself for randomly sticking a pin in a map and committing to it.

We took an Uber there from Venice, and during the drive I sat and looked out of the window and took it all in. I looked at the mountains on the horizon, and at Downtown LA flicking in and out of view as the freeway curved around, and all the neighbourhoods and the long stretches of road, all places I’d navigated extensively on Google maps and had only visited in my head. We pulled up by the pier and it felt so familiar.

After a stint on the beach, we ambled down Main Street, and poked around in boutiques where Cassie would almost certainly buy all her clothes (I picked up a dress and some jewellery. Would have been rude not to, really). We went to a coffee shop and drank iced lattes. We ate chicken wings and chilli cheese fries and drank a vanilla flavoured beer called Cali Creamin’ for lunch, and we strolled down the pier, watched the sun glint off the water and gazed at the outline of Catalina Island far off in the distance. We looked over the side at the ocean slapping against the legs of the pier and we walked right up to the chain link fence at the end.

We walked down the street with the beach houses on, and I tried to figure out which one of them would have been perfect for my book, but I couldn’t decide; they all were.

2017-03-19 17.56.43
One of these fancy houses is Jesse’s house

Honestly, I felt quite emotional walking around. I make zero secret of the fact that my books are one of my most proudest achievements, and going to their home felt really special. I felt connected to Seal Beach in a way I didn’t expect at all.

And I told everyone I met there about my book; a very lovely British expat we met in Bogart’s, who was surprised to hear another British accent in such a small Californian town. The girls in the boutiques we went to, and the guy we saw walking down the beach holding a god damn guitar. Jesus Christ, can you believe it? It was too good an opportunity to pass up.

2017-03-19 19.45.47
Are you kidding me? I write books about a guitarist who lives in this here very town, and then there’s this guy walking down the beach. IS HE JESSE? No. His name was Michael.

We got a taxi back to Venice late in the afternoon, and although I was almost a bit sad to leave my book home, I was so glad to have made the trip out there. It might not be the most glitzy or well known of OC beach towns, but one thing is for absolute certain, I’ll definitely be back.

If, after reading this post, you felt like buying my books, then I’d be delighted! Here, let me point you in the right direction:

Start here: Getting Over Jesse Franklin

And then read the sequel: Jetplanes to Jupiter 

 

Hooray for Betas

Recently I put my Big Girl Pants on and sent my new book off to beta readers.

And now there is feedback. Is there anything more terrifying, though? You’ve spent countless hours getting everything down and semi coherent, and now it’s got to the point where you need someone else to read it. More the just one someone else, if possible. What you really want is a number of different ideas. I like to see if any align.

I sent mine off at peace with the fact that this was not it. Because first drafts are exactly that. A first draft. A vague idea of plots. A rudimentary outline of a story. Find me a book that was perfect at its first draft. I’ll wait.

You won’t.

Because the issue with The Songs We Listened To was that I knew something didn’t sit right with it, but when you spend those countless hours looking at the same words over and over and working with your characters you begin to lose sight of where it needs improvement. You can’t really see the wood for the trees anymore. It takes a village and all that jazz. I knew it wasn’t even close to being perfect, but I couldn’t see where it needed work.

I sent The Songs We Listened To off, and I’ve had some feedback and suddenly I’m really really excited about it again. Not that I wasn’t, and we all know I have a giant crush on Jesse (Be still my heart. This can’t be healthy.) but now it feels like the book has a purpose again. That his story could be something really quite cool. It needs a mammoth rewrite. A complete overhaul. A drastic restructure. But that’s not as daunting as it sounds. A lot of it is written. Bits just need oomphing up. Sections need jiggling around. Chapters need expanding on. One in particular needs to be split up into little interludes and scattered throughout the entire book. It’s work alright, but it’s exciting. Where will this book go? Who knows? Not me, and I’m writing the damn thing.

Like I said, getting feedback is terrifying. There will be bits of your manuscript that you love but that other people will think kind of suck. Likewise there will be bits you weren’t convinced about but someone else might suggest that with a tweak, would sing. You’ll think you got something across, but maybe it wasn’t really as obvious as you thought. After all, you’ve lived and breathed this story for ages. Everything is obvious to you. You might need to think a bit bigger, chuck in some hyperbole, make it funnier, sexier, darker, more thrilling, whatever. It’s your universe. Make it explode. Don’t be mediocre.

This was the third book I have sent to betas, so I’m still relatively new to this, but by no means a manuscript virgin. Let me just say it doesn’t get any easier. There are a few things it would behove you to remember when reading through your feedback.

Betas are there to help you make things better. Think of a beta as a beacon of light when you’re stuck in that forest of story and you can’t see the wood for the trees anymore. They want your story to be the best it can be. Feedback might seem harsh, but perhaps sleep on it. Put it away for a day or so and then revisit. Drink a glass of wine (hell, I got through at least a bottle editing Jetplanes, and between you and me, it’s now my favourite. Initial feedback was, shall we say, constructive. I may have cried.) Take a deep breath. Remember, it’s not a personal attack on you.

Everything awesome needs crafting.

But mainly:

You got this.