Tag Archives: chick lit

Giveaway, Amazon UK 99 pence promo and More…

Lot of excitement these past few days.  Cowgirl lorraineBy some miracle – maybe the 10,000 downloads on our KDL free promo wekend – we got into Amazon UK’s 100 books for under 2.99 for June with Looking For La La priced at 99 pence all this month.  Suddenly Pam was calling me every hour – we were #8 on the list, wait… we were #6, then #5, then #4.  Ahead of some big names too.  And our Amazon rating had changed too – from being somewhere in the stratosphere… ranked 30,000 or 300,000… 3,000,000… or whatever it was, we’d jumped into the Top 500, a never before achieved feat for us.  And with a self-published novel.  Doesn’t sound impressive until you realize how many books must be in that list.  Then we were at 312, then in the Top 200, then suddenly we were in the Top 150 at #146.  Will we break into the Top 100 before the promo ends?  It remains to be seen.  The initial rush has slowed down, we’ve slid back to #180 but there is still the rest of the month ahead.  And our Amazon US ratings have improved too.  Oh, if only some of those people who bought La La or downloaded it for free would review!  People always think they need to write an essay or a book report – remembered horrors from school – but even a few words that meet Amazon’s minimum work fine.

We’ve had loads of support too from people who had reviewed or featured us on their blogs and sent out tweets twitter birdand Facebook messages on our behalf.  Thank you, everybody – you know who you are and we love you for it.  And it’s not over yet.  Although Pam has gone to Paris to fry bacon as support for this year’s YMCA cycle challenge and is no longer sending me 15 emails a day.  (I’m sure she has gone into total withdrawal.  I know I have;)

Also wanted to spread the news about our new GIVEAWAY on Facebook, offering both an ebook and a paperback copy of Looking For La La.  It’s so far gone undiscovered – only 10 entries as opposed to 800 on our last Goodreads giveaway.  So anyone who enters has a great chance of winning.  All you have to do is like our Facebook page and sign up.  Of course if you’re a UK kindle owner, you can spend the 99 pence and not wait for the drawing but what fun is that..!

Thinking about reviews and school book reports reminds me… I was always anamber avid reader, finished all the required books for English within a few days of getting the list, devouring four J T Edson westerns in a day (he wrote dozens and the cool handsome heroes rode great horses), sped my way through all of Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers plus the bodice rippers of the time (anyone remember Forever Amber?) and anything else I could get my hands on.  But book reports… hated ’em, loathed doing them with a passion.  The bane of my existence.  (Well, actually all homework came under that category.)  Used to copy from my friend during tutorial.  And what did I end up doing in my publishing career?  Book reports, book reports and more book reports.  For the literary agency I worked in, for Woman magazine reading novels for serialization, for Penguin books as a reader, for the Book of the Month club, also as a reader.   And now when I review a book, I still struggle over what to say… even though, as I said, I’m well aware it doesn’t have to be a work of art or even very clever.  But then again I can never think of what to say on birthday or sympathy cards either.  A problem I share with Cathy O’Farrell in Looking For La La.

Anyway that’s it for now.  Beautiful day in sunny Colorado.  Had what I hope was our last major snowfall about 3 weeks ago and now we are plunged into summer.  And I hope to join our local swimming lake and plunge into that.

Lorraine

Rabid Readers: Chat with “Looking for La La’s” Ellie Campbell.

Yes, we’re in the UK Top 100 novels for under 2.99 and with perfect timing we have this fun interview with Rabid Reader’s Tammy Dewhirst.  Thank you, Tammy.

Looking for La La author Ellie Campbell – also known as sister team Pam Burks and Lorraine Campbell kindly consented to “sit down” for an interview. When coming up with the questions I struggled with what I wanted to know having read the novel with what the reader who hasn’t yet experienced the fun that is Cathy O’Farrell would want to know before diving into the fray. The end result is a little of both.  Stay tuned to the end of the interview for information about how you can win your own copy of Looking for La La by Ellie Cambell.

To read my review of Looking for La La click here.

Question 1: I see that you live halfway across the world from each other. How did you come to the decision to write together? My dad and I live quite a distance from each other and that enables us to get along better on a personal and working level. Do you find this to be the case as well? 

Pam: In many ways yes.  We are less than two years difference in age and we get on extremely well as sisters and friends.  However, professionally we’ve found that working apart actually suits us.  I have been over to Colorado to visit Lorraine, hoping to work on a few things, and we found we did very little.  As soon as I got home we were on email, skype and internet immediately swapping ideas and stories.  It seems to work for us better at a distance.

Lorraine:  Not to mention that if we disagree on anything we put the phone down (I didn’t say slam it, did I?) and cool off.  All sisters argue and it’s easier to be touchy and sensitive if you’re face to face.  As for writing together, we were both writing short stories and found we enjoyed sending our work to each other for comment, criticism, suggestions for improvement… a writer’s group of two, if you like.  It grew out of that.

Question 2: Your writing style is very cohesive. Is one of you the idea person and the other the writer?

No, we’re both into it all, hashing over the story, sitting down to write a section.  Sometimes we can’t wait to tell the other the new idea we had in the night, talking possibilities over and elaborating like a pair of old gossips. As for the ‘writer’s voice’, I think we sound alike even when we talk, it’s quite jarring hearing a story or a joke come out of your sister’s mouth that is exactly what you might have said.  There are times when one of us is doing more writing – usually if we’re in a major rewrite – and the other is editing frantically and there are times when one of us feels more creative and carries the load for a day or two.  But we both go over each scene, paragraph, line, cutting and reworking if necessary. At the end of the day it’s hard to remember who wrote what and who came up with what plot point.

Question 3: I recently heard an interview where a script writer working in a team said that teams enable a writer to keep the best material because the best material is always that of which you’re unsure. Is there a scene in “Looking for La La” you might have cut without having the assurance of the other person?

We actually cut some of our favorite scenes… for length, or because one of us thought the book could survive without it, and because our final rule is if one of us seriously questions or hates something, it’s out.  But yes, we might get cold feet over the day’s work and need the other one to tell us it’s good. As far as specific scenes in Looking For La La, I remember us debating whether having Cathy steal Alec’s glass (for fingerprints) in the office party scene was too outrageous and deciding that given her character (and inebriation) it wasn’t beyond belief.

Question 4: I notice that you’ve quoted Douglas Adams on your Facebook page. I have a number of DNA fans that follow my website. We must know, are you hoopy froods?

Lorraine: Sadly, we can’t claim to be that together.  I rarely know where anything is, let alone remember to bring a towel on my travels or carry it on Towel Day.  But living in England when Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy came out, first as the BBC radio show and then the book, it was a cultural phenomenon as huge as Monty Python, everyone talking about hoopy froods and quoting the funniest bits.  So of course we were part of that and I do remember laughing through the book, though it’s been a while.

Question 5: The story in “Looking for La La” was based on Pam’s personal experience. Did Pam take the Cathy route to solving the mystery? Is Pam the real Cathy?

Pam: Not quite that insane!  And I didn’t try to solve the mystery.   I decided the postcard was a bad joke or stupid prank but it made a great idea for a novel. However, like Cathy, I had an amazing group of close friends when the children were small and I remember when the children went back to school, us all struggling with decisions of what direction our lives should take – go back to the old job, start a new career, have another child? I was lucky in that I was offered an interesting job which I loved by a very good friend of mine.

Question 6: There is a feeling at several points of the story that what Cathy says is written to ring in an ironic sense to the reader, is this the case? In location 328 of the Kindle copy she comments “And this is supposed to be a liberated society” but she is the one who keeps herself as a “prisoner” at home (in her mind).

Yes, the irony is intended.  And, yes, it is Cathy’s fears that keep her prisoner when she obviously misses her former working life and would be a lot happier with more independence, money, stimulation and everything a job could bring.  She’s very much in self-denial, full of self-doubt, sticking her head in the sand when she has to face something she is terrified of – in this case change.  But then her self-esteem is at an all-time low, she’s lost confidence in her ability to function outside the world of motherhood and her stubbornness comes into play.  Because expectations are being made of her and she feels she’s being pushed to action, she’s digging in her heels.  But although Cathy’s extreme, a lot of people are scared by that next big move – be it marriage, kids, a career change…

Question 7: Raz and Cathy do the spit shake which could be considered odd for women of their age until you get to know them. Is that something you, as sisters, do in your life?

Well, probably, we did as kids. Can’t remember the last time but I’m sure our hands were pretty dirty and knees scabby.   But it’s part of the fun of Raz and Cathy’s relationship that they allow each other to be silly and playful, almost like an escape from their stressful adult lives.

Question 7: Your story-lines were pretty well resolved even down to ones that may have seemed minor – the hang up caller. Did you plot the course before writing “Looking for La La” or was it a case of keeping track as you went along.

It’s very organic.  We have certain things plotted and certain things seem to write themselves.  Then we might put “clues” in earlier, to tease the reader.

Question 7: Cathy is written in the spirit of the great British comedy characters. If “Looking for La La” were to be made into a movie, who do you see playing her? I must admit, I pictured the great Welsh actress, Ruth Jones, in the role.

Well, Cathy, of course, would suggest Eva Mendes, and she’d probably hang about the set, making a nuisance of herself. She’d love to be that glamorous and sophisticated. But our choice? Ruth Jones would be great. Are you listening, Ruth??

Question 8: Your cover perfectly conveys the novel. Who created the cover?

Andrew Brown from Design for Writers.  Recommended to us by Kirsty Greenwood, who is a fabulous chick lit author, who runs the site Novelicious.  We felt so lucky to have found someone like him as a designer.  He made the process so easy, that we feel indebted to him, and he came up with the idea of Cathy staring over the fence.

Question 9: I recently compiled a list of 42 novels for Towel Day. If you could list 2 novels you think everyone should read, what novels (or non-fiction works) would they be?

If had to narrow it down to two books, I would perhaps say “Gone With The Wind’ and “Lord Of The Rings”.  They’re both such epic masterpieces.

Question 10: What is coming next for Ellie Campbell?

We just published our two other novels How To Survive Your Sisters and When Good Friends Go bad in the States for the first time.  We haven’t really started to promote them yet so they are very much hidden amongst the millions of other great reads.  Watch this space though.  We also have a fourth novel which is currently with our agent and which hopefully will come out next year.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

They were fun.  Thank you, Tammy, for asking them.

Ellie Campbell is running a fabulous contest on their Facebook Page to win a copy of Looking for La La. Click here for details.

Looking for La La has been selected for the top 100 novels under  £2.99 and has been listed at amazon.co.uk for  £0.99! Perfect time for my UK fans to try this fabulous work.

via Chat with “Looking for La La’s” Ellie Campbell..

Rabid Readers Reviews: “Looking for La La” by Ellie Campbell

A great review post from Rabid Readers.  Thank you again!

When Cathy O’Farrell’s husband, Declan, receives a saucy postcard from the mysterious La La, Cathy is thrilled. Not seriously suspecting that her husband is having an affair, Cathy and her friend Raz start an investigation aided in part by the Tuesday Twice Monthly’s, a tight-knit group of local moms. Soon the notes turn sinister and Cathy notices a red estate car following her.  Is this mystery perhaps more than she bargained for?

“Ellie Campbell” is the pseudonym of sisters Pam Burks and Lorraine Campbell. Looking for La La is their third novel as a writing team.

I received a copy of this novel from the authors in exchange for my review.

Looking for La La was inspired when Pam Burks’ husband received postcards from a mystery admirer and the story that built is astounding.  I certainly hope that poor Pam did not travel Cathy’s path to find the culprit. Campbell’s writing style is seamless with humor reminiscent of “Shirley Valentine.” Cathy is a very real character, warts and all. She is a stay at home mom who feels undervalued and a prisoner in her role, one who is desperately afraid to leave her jail. Her children are in school and she spends the days chasing after something she’s not quite reaching. Cathy fears Declan’s inevitable discussions of a return to work but sees herself as his employee at home rather than his wife. Cathy’s last job interview before pregnancy and marriage to Declan was with the company for which her future husband worked. The interview went horribly and she ran out followed by her would be employer and future husband not to return to the work force again. She reminds at the start of the novel a lot of a woman I once knew who grew tired of going to school and didn’t want to work so decided to get married. It didn’t work well as a plan for the woman I know and it doesn’t seem to work so well for harmony in Cathy’s home.

There are a lot of catty women in Looking for La La and while I’m not usually a fan of catty women as they always seem to be written as evil without purpose, the women in this story are very real. Not everyone in a group of friends will like each other and they’ll be civil when with the key person in order to jockey for preferred friend position but civil doesn’t mean nice. Raz is being pulled by two worlds. On the one hand she has her professional friend and on the other Cathy. Neither Cathy or the other woman like each other and their byplay is hilarious. The conflicts with each other made these women simply a lot of fun to read. Despite the extensive cast of characters, we get to know the people with whom Cathy associates and others as she gets to know them.

Campbell infuses a sub-plot of mystery in a beloved teacher is struck down in a hit and run accident. There are little mentions in the story-line of her until her ultimate demise and the tie-in, when it comes, is inspired. I did not in any way see the ending coming.

Campbell’s writing style reflects Cathy character perfectly. In flashbacks we see “Old Cathy.” This is a woman who finds grocery lists in shopping carts and purchases items on them to “expand her diet.” She may think she’s changed into a more composed and matronly sort of woman but as we follow her on madcap adventures, Cathy proves to be the free spirit and somewhat airy person she was when she and Declan met. Scattered, neurotic, and loveable. Those of us who are working moms may roll our eyes at Cathy’s insistence on not working and feeling of betrayal when her fellow moms go back to work but there is an undercurrent that shows that not even Cathy believes her own arguments as to why she couldn’t work. As Cathy develops as a character so does our understanding that she doesn’t always quite mean what she says.

I didn’t want to like Cathy when I first met the character. Over the course of the novel which was really she gets the postcard, embarks on the investigation and her daily life, I grew to find her enchanting. She was warm and funny. One of her friends tells her that another friend said that she looks like a mature Eva Mendes and Cathy is flattered for a while but then wonders how mature the person thought she looked. The subsequent conversation with the friend was side splittingly funny. Cathy could have used a headslap a time or two but who couldn’t? Looking for La La is a wonderfully funny chick-lit read.

Readers will want to take note of the wonderful cover which truly conveys the story within. The plotline and smooth flow are perfect for reading by the pool or on the beach. If you like British humor and quirky characters, you will love Looking for La La.

via “Looking for La La” by Ellie Campbell.

WiLoveBooks – 10 Things I've Learned From Being A Writer

Today the authors behind Ellie Campbell are here to tell us what inspired Looking for La La and share what they’ve learned from being a writer. 

Ten Things I’ve Learned from Being a Writer

It happened…well, let’s just say it was a few years back.  My sister, Pam, co-author of our Ellie Campbell novels, was having a peaceful breakfast with her family when a postcard decorated with scarlet lipstick dropped through the letterbox.  Surprisingly, the sender, La La, was proclaiming impassioned love for Pam’s husband.  Below you can read how it appears in our novel, Looking For La La.  (What, us waste a great piece of material like that?  Never!  Particularly when this La La was clearly up to no good.)

“Not a sound is heard as it lands silently on the mat. No drums rolls, crashing thunder, shafts of light. The walls don’t start crumbling, the ground doesn’t vibrate with terrifying tremors and a yawning fissure fails to zigzag across the kitchen floor and separate my husband from his breakfast marmalade.

In short, I’ve no clue as to the impact it’ll have on our lives. Mayhem. Marital breakdown. Murder. It should at least have been written in blood or come in the beak of a dark-winged raven.

It is a postcard. “Love from London” blazoned above a giant pair of pouting lips kissing a cherry-red heart.

At first sight it appears to be one of those “Please Come to Our Rave” flyers which get thrust through my door periodically. Now the chances of me, a world-weary, put-upon mother-of-two, going to a rave are slim to none, but heck it’s nice to be invited.

I turn it over.

Dearest, sweetest Declan – it begins. My eyes widen as I take in the blue spidery handwriting and race to the signature. ‘Love from La La.’”

We never found out who sent the card, Pam’s husband claiming innocence of the whole affair.  (More accurately that there was no affair.)  Knowing her hubbie – and his friends’ questionable sense of humour – she wisely chose to believe him.  It could have been end of story if we hadn’t used it to inspire our third Ellie Campbell novel.  In it bored housewife, Cathy Rogers, goes slightly crazy searching for the identity of La La and discovering everyone around her is concealing secrets… including an alluring romantic admirer and a deadly opponent.

I guess we’ve learned that in life sometimes your gifts come in disguise. Which made me think of other important things I’ve learned from my journey down the author path.  Here are just 10.

1. Writing is cheaper than therapy.  And a lot more productive.

2. You will see countless pairs of reading glasses scattered around your house until the moment you actually need them.

3. Never forward an email chain to your publisher, agent, or person of influence, without checking for rude or personal comments further down the page.

4. Don’t send out anything in writing, be it angry email or lyrical piece of prose, until you’ve had a night to sober up and read it again in the cold harsh light of day.

5. Procrastination is an underappreciated art.  Also known as ‘the creative pause.’

6. Google is specifically designed to suck all the productivity out of a working day.

7. Everything you take in, from childhood on, will leak out someday onto the printed page.

8. Don’t share your friends’ intimate confidences with the world.  Unless you have an endless supply of friends.

9. The instant you’re faced with a computer screen and a deadline, you’ll be filled with an urgent desire to fold laundry and polish that ancient silver teapot you inherited and will never use.

10. Always disguise your sources.  Unless it’s La La and then it’s open season.

via WiLoveBooks.

WiLoveBooks – Author Interview: Ellie Campbell

Thank you to our 10,000 new readers who downloaded Looking For La La this weekend. And thank you to Wilovebooks for this fun interview.

It is two-for-one interview day! I am pleased to welcome to the blog Pam Burks and Lorraine Campbell, the sisters behind the writing team of “Ellie Campbell.” They are the authors of How To Survive Your Sisters, When Good Friends Go Bad, and Looking for La La. Be sure to stop back on Thursday for more from this duo as they fill us in on the story that inspired Looking for La La  and share ten things they’ve learned from being a writer.

Q&A with Pam and Lorraine:

Describe your ideal writing space. How does it compare to reality?

Pam: Not that different in actual fact. My reality is an attic, with a window looking out onto fields and trees and the beautiful Surrey countryside. It is quiet and peaceful. I have a convector heater, which keeps the temperature just right. I have lots of windows. It is as I would like it, although ideally I would have a toilet on the same floor. And Lorraine would be sitting behind me, rather than asleep the other side of the world, to answer questions and prompt me when I get stuck. Also she could bring me up cups of tea and cake whenever I desired. And clean the house from top to bottom while my fingers flew across the keyboard.

Lorraine: Hah, fat chance on the sister as slave idea. My dream is a log cabin on the Californian coast, Big Sur, maybe, nestled in the pines but with a view of the cliffs and crashing surf (you did say fantasy, didn’t you?) It would be a beautiful organized space where I could look out the window and see my horses. Everything would be filed, no item marring the immaculate surface of clutter-free desk. The reality is that my office is so messy I can’t stand to go in there so I sit in the family room working at this little restaurant-style booth. It’s got so bad that last night I woke up at 2 a.m. and started tidying. I went to bed again at 4.30 a.m. This year though I’m going to wrestle it under control.

What is the first story you remember writing and what was it about?

Pam: It was about the second world war. My history teacher (a supply teacher by the way) had engaged us in such a way that by the end of his lesson, I couldn’t wait to put pen to paper and do the homework he had requested. It was to be about hiding and dark space. I went home and wrote and wrote. Totally immersed in my tale of the German soldiers walking around, while I was under some trap door. My poor mother injured at my side. I remember writing about their heavy jackboots clomping around.

The next history lesson, the supply teacher was still there and he stood up and read my story aloud. Everyone was silent. I was kind of appalled, amazed, and just really surprised as I began blushing and looking for a place to my hide myself “This story,” he said solemnly, as he came to an end, “Was written by someone in this class” and he read my name out. The class all started clapping, I blushed again and again. But it was at that moment, that I thought, I know what I want to do when I “grow up”.

Lorraine: I can’t compete with that. (I don’t think I did much homework.) Although when I was about five my teacher read aloud a story I wrote about being an elephant in the zoo and I thought she was mocking me, I wanted to hide under the desk. I was pushed into writing my first short story when working for Carol Smith, now a bestselling author but then a very successful literary agent. She always prodded me to write but I was too intimidated and shy about it. It wasn’t until a new secretary was hired and immediately started churning out stories like a fiend that my competitive streak kicked in – or rather the knowledge that cowardice was holding me back. I can’t remember the plot but I sold it to Woman magazine.

sisters kids

Name a memorable book from your childhood. Why is it memorable?

Pam: I loved the Enid Blyton novels, especially the Famous Five adventures, always capturing bands of smugglers or robbers, or chowing down on luscious picnics and lashings of ginger beer. They’re what really got me reading. Then I started to like non-fiction while still very young. I’d ask Mum if the story was true when we picked out library books. If she said no, I wouldn’t borrow it.

Lorraine: My favorite books were probably ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ and also ‘The Hobbit.’ Fantasy worlds, magic – I could escape into them for hours. In my mind I was there, skilfully sword-fighting, using my bravery and cunning against the evil villains. Oh, and there were horse books too. I particularly loved The Punchbowl Farm series and Romney Marsh series by Monica Edwards, I still have most of them. I wanted to live there at Punchbowl Farm and be friends with all those children.

If you could ask any writer (living or dead) a question, who would it be and what would you ask?

Lorraine: I’d ask Bill Bryson – ‘Notes From A Small Planet,’ ‘A Walk In The Woods’, – if he’d take me on his next trip. The man has such wit and observational skills. I think his books are hilarious. I think he’d be the perfect travel companion, especially if you were some place remote and far from civilisation where you could really use a sense of humour and an appreciation of the bizarre.

Pam: I’d ask Frances Mayes who wrote ‘Under The Tuscan Sun’ if she could recommend any cool 16th century rental villas in her village. Preferably with a private lake and a pool. Then I’d hunker in with the family, eating amazing Italian food, taking leisurely bike rides, and drinking gallons of Chianti – now that would be bliss.

If you could pick any of the worlds or characters you have created, which would you want to visit or spend a day with?

Pam: Cathy, the heroine in ‘Looking For La La’. I’d actually like to go down the pub with her, or out for a meal and just chat about life and men, and the woes of women. I’ve a feeling we’d have a lot in common. Particularly discussing postcards.

Lorraine: I’d probably say Cathy too although Hazel in ‘How To Survive Your Sisters’ would be a laugh and we could try and one-up each other with our backpacking stories. Actually I’d like to spend an evening with the Tuesday Twice Monthlies, Cathy’s ‘Mothers Restaurant Research Group’, singing karaoke at Tropicos. Especially if yummy Rupert were there. But since I’m not a mother, I’d have to be included as an honorary guest.

What is one thing you like to do when you are not reading or writing?

Pam: Digging around in my allotment, making paths, planting seeds, collecting manure and making it look good. I share it with my friend, Sheila, and we are always escaping whenever the sun comes out. Men have their sheds but I have my allotment.

Lorraine: I am volunteering at a couple of horse rescues helping to train these often-abused horses and getting them to trust humans after a painful past. I love it but I also enjoy riding my own three horses. There is nothing better than heading out into the Rocky Mountains on a beautiful Colorado day. You never know what you’ll encounter – elk, deer, coyotes, bear, mountain lions… well, actually I’d rather not meet the lions but they are out there. I actually saw two from the bedroom window of my cabin – not a sight you easily forget.

What are you currently working on?

Pam: We’ve just finished our fourth novel, Million Dollar Question, which is about two women, one in England, one in America, whose lives are overturned on the same fateful day, one winning a million pounds, the other losing everything. It’s about how each copes with their respective success and failure. And the things that link them together. It’s currently with our agent, Caroline Hardman at Hardman Swainson.

Lorraine: Also, since we’ve only just published Looking For La La , we’re putting a lot of energy on promoting what we think is one of our most fun books yet. We even created our own website and blog – chicklitsisters.com – because we didn’t care for the one we had before. As for a fifth Ellie Campbell novel – it’s really only a fledgling, far too young to expose. But perhaps there’ll be a sequel to La La one day. Cathy is such a great character and we love the combination of humour and mystery. We try to include both in all our books.

via WiLoveBooks.

10 Things We Loved About Our Mother

Since it’s Mother’s Day here in the States, we wanted to do a tribute to our ‘dear old mum’.    She was a character all right, feisty, funny, unique… Her are just ten of the many attributes we loved about her.

1.  Her Lack Of Prejudice

pam mum croppedShe loved people of all colours, races, ethnicities, backgrounds.  She accepted all, not giving a hoot where people came from or what they did for a living or what others said about them.  (Although she did secretly want us both to marry Sidney Poitier).  She was an army nurse in India during the war, posted to Singapore and Japan just after the surrender. She’d learned enough foreign expressions to be dangerous.  She’d walk in Chinese restaurants and say “Please” and “Thank you” in Japanese, oblivious of the great traditional hatred between those two nations. We were always expecting an enraged Chinese cook to burst from the kitchen and attack her with his cleaver.  But somehow she won them over.

2.  Her Hatred of Housework

She loathed housework so much that she turned the whole thing into a game for us four children. Making beds meant we had to stand opposite each other, yell “One two three” then somersault over the other side before tucking the sheets in.   Repeated until the whole bed was made. She’d wash blankets in the bath, plonking us on top to trample them under water. Polishing wood floors consisted of us all having rags tied to our feet and skating around the room to her favourite pop music – Tom Jones or Elvis.  And like Peggy in How To Survive Your Sisters she’d put aside unpleasant tasks for the maid, Mary, and then when she could procrastinate no longer she’d play-act at being ‘Mary, the maid’ to get them done.

3.  Her Love of Singing

Elvis_Presley_promoting_Jailhouse_RockBoy would she sing!  Every day, all day. Whenever, wherever, and usually at the top of her voice, which was a great source of embarrassment to all of her children.  (Like when we’d pass school friends and she’d be singing some Hawaiian song and waving her arms Hula style). Her voice wasn’t completed tuneless and she knew all the words to all the musicals and made sure we did too. We heard every war song, every music hall number from the 30s and (oddly) all the old negro spirituals and minstrel songs.  Many a long Scottish winter night was spent huddled around the fire with song sheets singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Way Down Upon De Swanee River”.  But she also loved “Elvis the Pelvis,” Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdinck – just as long as they were shaking and grinding those hips.

4.  Her Culinary Skills

She made great chips (French fries) but apart from that…  Her steaks were shoe leather.  Vegetables overcooked and soggy.  Porridge like glue. You could break a tooth on her scones – but then all baked goods were saved for unexpected visitors and given to us when well and truly stale. She’d toast just one side of the bread under the grill and tell us it was “French”. She burned everything, the oven was constantly puffing out black fumes. It wasn’t until we left home we realized fried onions weren’t always black charred cinders.  And the war had made her frugal.  Green mould on the bread or cheese? “It’s penicillin, darling.  It’s good for you.”  Clumps of soured milk floating on top of your cup of tea?  “Perfectly fine, just give it a stir.”    And she had her own way of making us eat things.  “But I made it specially for you, darling.  I knew it was your favourite.’

5.  Her Sense of Humour

There’s a scene in How to Survive your Sisters where a neighbor and friend, heading to the shops, teases Peggy about her lack of gardening skills, suggesting she’ll be lucky to get anything growing in that small dusty patch, and when she walks back, Peggy’s previously bare front yard is a riot of colour – planted with plastic daffodils, roses and tulips, given free in those days with boxes of laundry soap.   That friend laughed about it for years.  That was Mum.  And a true story.  She loved to joke, tell funny stories and find any way to brighten people’s day.  She could put a comic spin on anything, even adversity and personal disasters.    She had quite a hard life in some ways but never looked for sympathy.

6.  Her lack of embarrassment

She once stood behind a young male hippy at a bus stop and said in a loud voice, “You know they grow their hair long so they can be pulled up to heaven”.   She’d boldly walk past “No Entry”, “Keep Out”, “No Trespassing” signs with us timidly behind convinced we were about to get arrested.   She would chat to everybody and anybody. Reveal all our secrets. Tell everyone how her daughters “aren’t interested in boys.  They spend all their time up the tree at the bottom of the garden”. Fine when you’re six but not sixteen!

 7.  Her Love of the Great Outdoors

SP_A0251Life was much too much fun to spend indoors.  “Blow the housework,” she’d say, sticking on her hat, grabbing her bag and running up the road with us in tow to the nearest bus stop.  (She didn’t learn to drive until we’d long grown up).  We’d go off on jaunts, up to the Braid Hills, to the beach at Portobello or her favourite Corstorphine Woods, frequently getting lost because she refused to take the same route back. Once she spotted a rope hanging from a tall tree, grabbed it and swung over a huge bomb crater, forgetting to jump until she was at the highest point. How we laughed when she emerged covered in mud and leaves.

8.  Her Love of Animals

Sylvarr horseShe’d go out of her way to rescue animals.  Be it a bee or an ant.  Spiders would be lifted very carefully under a glass and removed to the garden.  She hated cruelty of any description and all the animals that we grew up with, cats, dogs, rabbits, were all from rescue centres.   She once went down a shallow disused well to save a dog and we two (maybe 8 and 10 years old) had the almost impossible task of pulling her back out.  Another time she walked around for three day with a baby rabbit tucked in her bosom as he had missed his brother and sister rabbits who had found good homes. She encouraged both of us in our love of horses and urged us to go and ask down at the local stables if we could help out. Later, when we were desperate for a horse of our own, she coughed up her hard earned money to help us buy it.

  9.  Nothing was Off Limits

We knew that whatever we did wrong, we had her forgiveness and her support. She was unshockable.  Not that we were really terrible kids, but we were given free rein at a young age to wander wherever, come back whenever.  She trusted us and we always knew that we could talk to her about anything.  If there was some sort of infighting between friends, she wouldn’t necessarily jump to our defence, but she’d try and make us see the other person’s point of view, while acknowledging our pain or anger.  She had a real gift for finding the right balance between interfering and just being there.  We always knew she was behind us loving us and backing us in whatever we wanted to do.

 10.  Her laugh

You could hear it a mile off.  A cross between a sealion and a braying donkey.  She loved laughing and would find numerous things in daily life hilariously funny.  If our friends were around to play, we’d be dreading somebody saying something vaguely amusing as it would set her off.  She also loved making people laugh and would think of numerous ways to brighten up all occasions.  Many years ago when she was nursing, there was a dying patient, and she’d tell him all her stories about her bicycle called Mathilda.  “Oh Mathilda and I went off to Chichester this afternoon”, “Mathilda and I are going on a ride along the sea front”, “I bought Mathilda a new bell yesterday”. The patient, a young soldier, seemed fascinated.  So, against all rules and regulations, one day, she put ribbons all over Mathilda and wheeled the bike, all dressed up into the ward to show him.  The patient was thrilled. The Matron was not. Even when she was dying herself, with an inoperable brain tumour, she would have the nurses in hysterics with her mad jokes and silly sayings.  They all came to her funeral.

Oh how we’d love to hear her laughter once more.

We love you, Mum!

Pam and Lorraine  xxxx

FREE – LAST DAY TODAY. This is the last day to get your free Kindle download of Looking For La La from Amazon US or UK.  That book deals with a mother too – and someone is sending love postcards to her husband…  Don’t miss it.

Lots of Winners – in time for Mother's Day

We’re delighted to announce that Nurmawati Djuhawan from Indonesia won our Rafflecopter Giveaway!  She won a free paperback copy of Looking For La La.. Congratulations Nurmawati!   But you can all be winners!  To celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday, Amazon is giving away free kindle copies this weekend of Looking For La La to end on Sunday May 12th, at 11.59 PST.    Order now an help us get to #1 in the Kindle Free Top 100!    If you’re suspecting that you may not be the most ‘together’ mother in the world, if your house is a little messy and your kids won’t eat their vegetables, reading Cathy Roger’s trials is bound to cheer you up.

Want to win a Kindle copy of all three of our novels?  You have 12 days left to enter Reading Renee’s giveaway of How To Survive Your Sisters, When Good Friends Go Bad and Looking For La La.  And, yes, there are some less-than-perfect mothers in those books too…

Loincloths, spankings and 'Sexy Rexys' – 10 classic movies (and actors)to make our Mother swoon.

In honor of the upcoming Mother’s Day (May 12th in the States) Pam and I have compiled a countdown of the old classic movies and stars that won my mother’s heart. And yes, there does seem to be a common thread.

10. Samson and Delilah.

Victor_Mature_-_publicity

Mum had a thing for Victor Mature. He ran around in Biblical epics like ‘the Robe” and ‘Demetrius and the Gladiators’ displaying his shaved bare chest, emanating square-jawed virility. He was what Mum called a ‘sexy rexy’. She wasn’t particularly religious so I don’t think it was the content that thrilled her so much as those muscular thighs.

9. Tarzan.

Tarzan_the_Ape_Man_1932_posterWe had to watch every Tarzan movie that ever came out and it wasn’t just for the elephants and chimpanzees. Nothing thrilled Mum more than a man in a loincloth (see Victor Mature). Especially if he was pounding his chest, yodelling and flying through the air on a dangling vine or diving into a jungle pool and emerging half-naked and dripping wet. Her favorite Tarzan was Johnny Weismuller who was an Olympic gold medallist. She liked the other Tarzans too although we were all somewhat dubious about the one who ran around in slippers. In the jungle? Really?

8. Spartacus.

Another stud in a loincloth (see Tarzan and Victor Mature) although any movie Spartacus_-_1960_-_poster (1)with Kirk Douglas was a fave. He was a bit too intense for us as children but he was the definition of manliness and Mum liked his passion and the dimple on his chin which I convinced Pam was caused by falling on a nail. She liked his son Michael Douglas too until she saw him in Fatal Attraction having sex on the kitchen sink with Glenn Close. We could never persuade her that it wasn’t real and they were merely acting. But then again who knows… After all Mum was right about David Bowie (and all the other stick-thin pop singers) being on drugs in the 70s when we as innocent teenagers hotly denied the possibility.

7. Robin Hood.  Or Captain Blood.

Robin_hood_movieposterErrol Flynn was a real Hollywood bad boy, handsome, dashing, with a womanizing reputation and a flashing blade that dared anyone to suggest his tights were in the tiniest way unmasculine. He laughed with head flung back, hands on hips, his grin was pure devilment and when he swept a woman into his arms…. Well, no wonder Mum swooned. We did too.

6. Top Hat.

astaire_rogers - CopyWe could never miss a Fred Astaire musical, not matter how often it was repeated on TV. Didn’t matter if he looked like a turtle and lacked some of the physical attributes of the loincloth brigade. My mum and grandmother always had the same eternally entertaining conversation as Fred tripped lightly around the ballroom with Ginger in his arms. Nana: “I just don’t understand why he didn’t marry Ginger Rogers.” Mum: “Because she couldn’t stand the man, Mother.” Two minute pause, then… Nana: “It’s such a shame those two never married.” Mum: “Mother, I just told you, she hated him.” And so on until closing credits.

5. Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.

Seven_brides_seven_brothersHoward Keel was big and brash with a fine head of hair, a swagger in his step, and a beautiful deep voice. Mum loved him in buckskins singing “Bless Your Beautiful Hide” and slapping his thigh and she loved him as Fred/Petruchio in Kiss Me Kate, waggling his funny pointed beard and spanking Kathryn Grayson. There was nothing like a good spanking to titillate the older generation. I seem to remember Maureen O’Sullivan was always being bent over John Wayne’s knee in all those old Westerns and given a sound thrashing to show her who was boss.

4. Going My Way.

220px-BingCrosbyTheBellsofSaintMarysTrailerScreenshot1945Yeah, Bing Crosby could always make her cry but put him in a dogcollar standing over a dying priest singing ‘Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra’… You’d need boxes of Kleenex. Maybe a bucket.

3. Singing In The Rain.

Singing_in_the_rain_posterWell, of course. Terrific story, fantastic singing, dancing and comedy and it starred two of mum’s favorites, Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. Gene Kelly could do no wrong, especially dancing in a downpour with his good looks, natural athleticism and unstudied grace. But Donald O’Connor almost elbowed him out of mum’s heart clowning about in the song, ‘Make ‘Em Laugh.’

2. The King and I.

Lawrence_BrynnerNo offence to Rex Harrison who played the role in the dramatic film version, Anna and the King of Siam, but there’s no way he could compete with Yul Brynner. Bald head, exotic accent, open-legged arrogant stance, Yul played the fiercely unpredictable king with colourful costumes and yet another bare chest – what’s not to love! Yes, there’s some great musical numbers. – ‘ Whistle A Happy Tune could be Mum’s theme song – but Yul as the King of Siam, prowling around his palace, barking out orders followed by ‘etcetera, etcetera, etcetera’ to a bemused but feisty schoolteacher, was the showstopper. Not to mention the story of star-crossed lovers was guaranteed to get the tear ducts flowing.

1. Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.

Poitier_croppedBig stars in this one – Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn but most of all…trumpet blast, please… Sidney Poitier. He was Mum’s all-time hero, partly because he was tall, handsome and soft-spoken, partly because he’d done the unthinkable in his era, become a black leading man and box office star, the first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor. And this was such a great movie. Even if Sidney spends all of it wearing a boring old suit.

DON’T MISS OUT. 

To celebrate Mother’s Day USA we’re holding a two day giveaway weekend  for our new novel, Looking for La La.  Free Kindle Downloads on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th at Amazon.Com and Amazon.co.uk.

SHAZ'S BOOK BLOG – AUTHOR INTERVIEW: ELLIE CAMPBELL

Excerpted from SHAZ’S BOOK BLOG.  Thank you Shaz.

Author Interview: Ellie Campbell

Today I’m delighted to be able to welcome Ellie Campbell to talk about her latest book Looking for La La.
Can you tell us a little bit about your new book Looking for La La?
Looking for La La follows the story of Cathy, a bored, unappreciated housewife and mother of two. Her world of school runs, ferrying children here and there, and the occasional nights out with friends is radically transformed by the arrival of a love postcard to her husband. What follows next takes Cathy on a wild ride of suspicion, temptations, marital breakdown and some very dangerous territory.
Where did the inspiration come from for the story?
Pam: Well, the postcard bit was true. It did arrive, addressed to my husband, covered in lipstick kisses. Unlike Cathy, however, I didn’t launch into some wild crazy sleuthing trying to find out the sender. I did tease my husband about his unknown admirer but he ran a health club packed with women and it could have been anyone. It was too good to waste though. I roped in my sister Lorraine to write a funny light-hearted mystery novel using the postcard as inspiration. Some might think that a strange reaction but I think most writers will sympathise. What’s a little infidelity next to a great idea, hah ha? No, seriously, we’d been married for years by then and knowing my husband as I do, I had no doubt it was nonsense.

Which came first, the characters or the plot?

Lorraine: The characters definitely. Cathy pretty much wrote herself and Declan was the perfect foil to go from romantic first meeting to showing the power struggle in marriage and how couples start taking each other for granted. Then there was Cathy’s diverse group of friends, mostly mothers with their own kid-related problems. And Declan and Cathy’s two admirers, providing temptations and creating even greater rifts. With several strong personalities and the unique way they reacted to events, they all conspired to push the plot in directions we didn’t originally plan. It was a very organic way of writing and amazing the way it all came together.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
Lorraine: Pam and I loved reading Enid Blyton books, all the Famous Five adventures. We played imagination games together, where we were pirates or lived in the jungle like Tarzan. And we used to adlib plays into a little cassette recorder. I actually became a total bookworm. I’d go over to friends’ houses and read their books instead of playing with them – no wonder I wasn’t the most popular girl in school. I think we even started a a novel or two as kids. But becoming a writer – no, that was beyond our wildest dreams. I’d write 10-page letters to friends but if I hadn’t started working for Carol Smith, (who was then a literary agent, and has since become a bestselling author), and if she hadn’t encouraged me to write my first short story, I think it might never have happened. For me anyway.
 
Have you ever had writer’s block? And how did you overcome it?
Pam: Yes, but the good thing about working with a writing partner is that with luck they can move the story along when you’re completely stuck. It’s rare that we’re both blocked at the same time. Or just reading what the other has written can suddenly consolidate your half-formed thoughts about the way things should go – not always convenient if they don’t gel with what has been put on the page but we’re always open to hearing fresh ideas and changes. Since I live in England and Lorraine lives in the States, we email each other the latest document at the end of each day and sometimes it’s like waking up to a brand-new novel.
If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
Lorraine: At the moment I’m studying to be a horse trainer and there is a part of me that wishes I’d done so a lot earlier in my life, perhaps worked on an Australian cattle ranch. But I get to play with horses now as well as writing so it’s the best of both worlds. And I’ve had so many life experiences I’d never want to have missed. Including working briefly in the movie industry in Los Angeles – I’d also have liked to make movies or even act if I hadn’t been so shy.

If you could have any of your books made into a film, which one would you choose and why? Who would you cast in the leading roles?

Pam: I think they’d all be filmic but I’d probably choose When Good Friends Go Bad because there are so many secrets and twists and a really dramatic finale. Jennifer Aniston would play Jen. Georgina would be Helena Bonham-Carter or Kate Winslett. Meg would be Kristine Wiig from Bridesmaids, Starkey would be Johnny Depp, Ollie would be Ryan Goslin and we can’t cast Rowan because she needs to stay a surprise.
If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?
Lorraine: We both like mystery novels which is why there is nearly always a mystery or a twist in ours. I think it would be fun to write a series like Janet Evanovich does with her Stephanie Bond bounty-hunter. Yes, Stephanie is out there trying to find someone and there is action and drama but it’s really all about the characters, their interrelationships and the humor. Looking For La La was definitely a lighter read than our other two novels, we made it funnier whereas the others were more realistic with funny moments, but we loved getting that sleuthing element in there. We’d also like to write something around horses, our other great passion.

Do you have much spare time to read books? If so, what was the last book you read or what are you currently reading?

Pam: Last book I read was Yours Truly, Kirsty Greenwood. Loved it. Great fun. No wonder it got to No. 1 in Kindle bestsellers. At moment I am too busy writing blog posts and working on the sequel to La La.Lorraine: We really don’t have much spare time except the few pages I read at night before my eyes close. I did manage to devour half of Love The One You’re With by Emily Giffin while travelling to Indiana for the weekend. But don’t tell Pam – she’d have me sitting on the plane editing or updating our blog.
Can you describe Looking for La La in 20 words or less? 
A love postcard brings mystery and turmoil into a mother’s dull routine, jeopardizing her marriage, friendships, and even her life.

 

10 Lows And Highs Of An Author's Life

One of the highs of being an author is being invited to do a guest post.  Thanks to Bookish Whimsy for inviting us on their site.    Click on the banner if you want to see the whole thing.

bookishwhimsy-header
THE LOWS

1. Lorraine: The dire feeling all creative people share that they’re not good enough, that their books aren’t the masterpieces they visualized. The ‘mean blues’ when you read someone else’s brilliant prose and decide it’s time to throw in the towel. Both Pam and I try not to read other people’s fiction when we are deep into writing a novel, in case we start comparing or find ourselves unconsciously imitating their style. (Not so great when you start off sounding like Ellie Campbell and end as a bad Ernest Hemingway). If at all, Pam will dip into various autobiographies, while I manage a couple of pages on horse training before I fall asleep.

2. Pam: The walking into a bookstore and seeing millions of books on the shelves and wondering why you feel impelled to add to the madness. Aren’t there enough books in the world, historical novels, romantic novels, horror novels? Bookstores bulging with authors who have profoundly important things to say as opposed to our inane ramblings.

3. Lorraine: The days when you’re stuck and think you’ve forgotten how to write and will never manage another sentence let alone another book. Or someone hears you’re a writer and expects witty imaginative things written on their birthday cards or signed in their copy of your novel. It’s like going up to a comedian and saying “Go on then, be funny. Go on.” Like our heroine, Cathy, in Looking For La La we usually find ourselves scrawling a lowly ‘best wishes’. And then think of a million brilliant alternatives when the moment has gone.

4. Pam: The marketing of your novel, having to sell yourself, when you’d rather hide away in your warm house behind your PCs. Lorraine and I are both naturally quite shy and there was quite a lot of firsts for us when we published our first and second novels, How to Survive Your Sister and When Good Friends Go Bad. First radio interview, first phone interview, first photo-shoot, first book signing. There were all wonderful in their own way and we will be forever grateful to Laura, our great publicist at the time, but boy did we find it hard putting ourselves forward and “tooting our own trumpets”.

5. Lorraine: The * or ** star reviews. Ugh. The minute you see them, all those **** and ***** stars are obliterated from your mind and you immediately start wondering if it’s too late to train for that alternative career… like sword swallower, tightrope walker, cliff diver, tarantula trainer… Or maybe just give it all up and sail off into the sunset.

THE HIGHS

1. Pam: Doing a job you would rather do more than anything else in the world. I work part time in a college, during term time, which I love doing while Lorraine is busy working with horses which she is totally passionate about, but we both still consider writing novels as our main occupation. When it’s going well, you think, gosh I’m my own boss, I get to do the hours that I want, the days that I want. Total freedom. And if I want a holiday (depending on deadlines of course), I can have one. Great thing is, you can take your laptop with you, lie on a hammock maybe, tropical beach and still be “working”.

2. Lorraine: The fantastic feeling you get when you finish a paragraph, a scene, or a whole chapter and love what you wrote. Some days things go perfectly. Words seem to come out of nowhere, pages write themselves. Even better when there’s two of you writing and you wake up and the other has written all the bits you were struggling over. These days we’ve even started enjoying the editing process. There’s a weird satisfaction in cutting out words and characters and huge chunks of text. Sort of like the joy of cleaning out your closet, recycling unwanted clothes and feeling so virtuous afterwards.

3. Pam: Seeing your book in bookstores and especially in the library. I love picking out our Ellie Campbell novels on the library shelves, and seeing that people have actually borrowed them out of all the fantastic old and new books that they lend there. I’ve also spent afternoons looking them up on the libraries’ online sites. Sad I know, but you can see how many copies they have and how many are out and you can visualise those people sitting there, reading and (hopefully) enjoying them.

4. Lorraine: Imagining how proud our parents (long deceased) would be to know we became published novelists. They died relatively young and poor Mum wanted so badly for us to do something – anything – she could boast about. I swear she used to make things up because aunts, uncles, people she worked with, were always complimenting us on great accomplishments that were total news to Pam and myself. She was ecstatic when I got my first short story in print. The sales of Woman magazine must have rocketed that day – I pity the poor neighbours!

5. Pam: Having your agent ring you up and tell you, you have a two book publishing deal. Fantastic. Then seeing one of your books finally in print, glancing through it and realizing it’s your baby and – huge relief – you love it. Sometimes you find bits you’d totally forgotten and actually laugh aloud. Sometimes you can’t believe those words came out of you and when writing in partnership like Lorraine and I sometimes they didn’t. (We get very confused about who wrote what.) Our latest Ellie Campbell novel, Looking For La La, was inspired by a prank love postcard someone sent to my husband and when I look at that opening scene it still makes me chuckle. Especially imagining what the postcard-sender will think if she ever happens to read it.

Excerpted from Bookish Whimsy.