Lipstick, Literature and Motherhood: Pretty Honest

If I had to choose one book to sum up my current stage of life, it would be Pretty Honest by Sali Hughes. If you like makeup and beauty products and you’re a stranger to Sali, then you need to get to know her: she is resident beauty columnist for Guardian Weekend magazine and founder of salihughesbeauty.com. Pretty Honest is her first book, and offers honest advice on everything from lipsticks and waxing to choosing makeup for interviews and weddings.

The chapter that sings to me the most is ‘Beauty and Motherhood’. These two things are two of my main priorities in life. Before you click off my blog, thinking I’m shallow enough to place my children and my appearance in equal measures, let’s get one thing straight: I take being a mother very seriously.

I think my daughter is the best at everything; a miracle; the kindest and funniest soul on the planet. So profound is the depth of my love that I have even cooed over, and then shared, pictures of her with a messy face full of chocolate. As I’ve done so, I’ve heard the accusatory screams of pre-child me: ‘What are you doing? You swore you’d never post pictures of a chocolate-smeared child. You cannot deal with people who do that!’

I cry when things go wrong with her, I berate myself about every single decision I make about her and I feel incessantly guilty no matter what I do. I tick most, if not all, of the normal, doting parent boxes. It’s both unexpected and inevitable.

But guilt or no guilt, child or no child, there is one thing I won’t give up:

Makeup.

Fortunately, Sali Hughes tells me that this is okay, and who am I to argue? She defends makeup’s reputation as frivolous and points out that it is actually as much to do with identity and pleasure than it is to do with sheer vanity. Making yourself look nice doesn’t conflict with feminism, it complements it. And whilst we’re at it, wearing makeup doesn’t make a woman shallow or stupid, either. As Sali points out, ‘it’s perfectly normal to love both lipstick and literature’.

Choosing and wearing makeup is described in the brilliant introduction as ‘an act of love, self-care and, crucially, self-expression’. Of course, Pretty Honest points out that mothers, particularly new ones, might have to compromise a little on time, but does not expect or encourage them to dismiss their own needs completely. How refreshing.IMG_3777

I have a three year old and am expecting a new baby in a matter of weeks. A strange, blurred time where my body is unrecognizable and my eyes are swollen from lack of sleep and hormonal tears is looming. I’ve been there before, and although it’s a beautiful time in an abstract sort of way, close up it’s not so pretty. I don’t, therefore, plan on making it worse by binning my mascara until my children are eighteen.

When I’m going out with my daughter, she waits for a few minutes whilst I do my makeup. I don’t spend hours applying false lashes whilst she writhes in the agony of desolate isolation. I don’t say that I hate my face without makeup, or that I think men want me to wear makeup or that I am worthless without it. I just put on a bit of Doublewear, exclaim with my daughter over new products that shimmer or come in beautiful boxes, spritz us with a little Dior J’adore, and then go to a play area.

Everyone’s happy.

Thanks, Pretty Honest, for defending this happiness so beautifully.

Sick, man.

It’s telling that my last post was way back in June. I do feel as though some other Hannah is back in summer 2014, waving at me, telling me it’s been too long. I found out I was pregnant with my second baby in July and began throwing up shortly after. I have hyperemesis gravidarum, or ‘the same as Kate Middleton’, to give it its proper name. Now bear with me, because I know that I want to roll my eyes and let out a low growl as soon as somebody starts rattling on about their oh-so-interesting ‘condition’. So I won’t rattle on for long. Just let me say that this strange, horrible sickness is way more than sickness, and that generally, people do not understand it. I missed 7 weeks of work in the beginning because I couldn’t stand up without being sick. Nausea woke me up in the night. I couldn’t even watch people kissing on Pretty Little Liars because the thought of any kind of contact with others made me, well, sick. There were about three or four months where it was quite unbearable.

Now, at 34 weeks pregnant, I am still being sick most days, but I basically have it under control. I am so nearly there. And I’ve actually had it pretty easy. I know many HG sufferers are essentially on bedrest for the whole of the 9 months. Some literally cannot endure it, and sadly are left wondering if they can continue with their pregnancies. I’m lucky that I’ve had so much support, and that my daughter, at almost 4, is great at playing independently at those times when I can do nothing but lie on the sofa trying not to think of garlic. I have about six weeks to go until I meet Amazing Daughter #2 – I am beyond excited. As long as she is healthy, I absolutely do not care about the ridiculous amount of sickness. I’ve now finished work and am LOVING maternity leave. Now that I have a little more time, and my epic pregnancy is drawing to a close, I feel as though summer ’14 Hannah (who doesn’t feel sick, and is wearing skinny jeans and thinking of 7pm wine) is closer than she looks…and she has another little BFF. Bring it on.

Writing Process Blog Tour

Thanks to Emily Benet for nominating me to take part in the writing process blog tour…

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What am I working on?

I’m writing my second novel, which has a current working title of The Castle of Dreams. It has similar themes to my first novel: romance, long-buried family secrets, friendship and motherhood. It’s also different in a way because it’s based in a fictional town (my first novel, Secrets in the Shadows, is set in Blackpool). The setting I have created for The Castle of Dreams is Silenshore: a very small town with a rocky beach at its base, a high street that rises uphill and a chateau-style castle at the top. I wasn’t ready to move away from the seaside: I love the sea and the atmosphere that it can create, but I wanted to try something new by bringing in a fictional castle and a coast that was different from Blackpool’s. I do think that I will return to Blackpool for future books – there is so much I haven’t explored yet.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I think my books combine a few different sub-genres (romance, historical, mystery, magic realism etc), but then all of my favourite books do that. I think my books are different because there is only one of me, and my combination of influences is unique and varied: there’s probably a bit of Sweet Valley, Sylvia Plath and all sorts in there: even if you can’t see it, the influence of so many different books is what has brought me to this point.

Why do I write what I do?

Because the kind of thing I’m writing is what I like to read. I adore thinking about the ripples that actions can produce for hundreds of years after, the idea of history repeating itself, and the way that places are like characters themselves, constantly evolving over time.

How does my writing process work?

I make a lot of notes, think a lot about my plots and characters and try to write as much as I can in my spare time. I don’t set myself daily word counts to reach or anything like that because I like writing, and so normally I don’t really need to discipline myself. Having said that, if I’ve had a long day and I don’t feel like writing then I don’t feel guilty for leaving it for a day or two. In fact, watching dramas on television, reading or just having a bit of time to think can sometimes inspire me much more than staring at my laptop screen. I have always written because I have just always wanted to, and I think I always will.

So now I have talked about the writing process, I nominate Margaret James to do the same! Check out Margaret’s blog at margaretjamesblog.blogspot.co.uk  and her latest book, The Creative Writing Student’s Handbook

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Wendy Lou Jones’s Perfect Day

Happy Sunday everyone! I’m so excited to have Wendy Lou Jones here today to chat about her perfect day…

Hi Wendy! Welcome to your perfect life. So, it’s morning. Where have you woken up?

I’m in a beautiful country house, somewhere in the sticks around Vancouver. (Went on a long trip there in my twenties – loved it: friendly people, nice city and not far from the fantastic Rocky Mountains.)

Okay: although it’s a perfect day, a woman’s still got to work! Dream job?

I’m the top forensic pathologist for the city. I get paid so well I have a pilot who brings me in by helicopter each morning. We land on the hospital roof top and I make my way down from there. Every day there’s a new selection of cases to deal with: murders, suicides and discovered bodies, all waiting for me to work out who they are and how they died. I may even be giving evidence in a court case, who knows?

You can choose as many items as you want to have with you at your perfect job. Are you going to surround yourself with luxury, or do you work best without distractions?

This is definitely a minimalist’s job. (Don’t want anything nice taking on the smell! :-/) I think I’ll save all the good stuff for back home. Here is where I get my job satisfaction and feel worthwhile. It’s a cross between anatomy and detective work – my two favourite things.

Who do you work with?

Well that is where I might have a tiny bit of luxury. I work with some great men and women in my team and we get on really well together, and if I’m lucky I might get a visit from the senior detective on the force about one of our cases, and he just happens to resemble Richard Armitage. 😀

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Do your breaks involve coffee and gossip, jogs in the park, cake and a good book, or something else?

No, we get a case under our belt and then all adjourn down to a nearby cozy café and have a big fry-up and a natter.

Time flies when things are perfect…Your working day is over now, but your perfect life hasn’t ended yet! What’s happening when you get home?

When I land back home, it’s a clean house that greets me and a tasty meal almost cooked. My lovely housekeeper greets me and I wave her off and then, at last, I’m on my own. Time for a half hour’s peace and quiet before I freshen up, because my favourite detective just happens to be coming over for the evening and I want to be ready. What can I say? He’s gorgeous and he can’t get enough of me!

Your perfect day is over. You can keep one memento to remember it by. What is it?

Can I have the house? No, the helicopter. No, wait; can I keep the man? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe… the memory of his first kiss as I open the front door and he steps inside and gathers me into his arms. *sighs*

Amazing! Thanks, Wendy!

About By My Side…

Betrayed by her boyfriend and best friend, Lena is left empty; trapped under a weight of guilt and loneliness. Then, at her lowest point and when she needs it most, a mysterious stranger comes into her life with a tale of friendship, family, and finding love in the most unexpected of places…

Katy Heath is definitely not thinking of love when she comes across consultant, Adam Elliott, berating some poor patient on the ward one day. In fact it is Dr Peter Florin who quickly has everyone’s hearts aflutter with his easy smiles and practised charm.

Yet Katy comes to realise that there’s more to Adam than his determination to push everyone away and it’s not long before she finds herself longing to reach out to touch the man within, healing the pain of his past.

As Lena is drawn into Katy’s story, she begins to learn – just as Katy does – that the course of true love never did run smooth.

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About Wendy Lou Jones…

My name is Wendy Lou Jones. I was born and raised in West Sussex, England and moved to Birmingham to study Medicine at University, where I was lucky enough to meet my husband. We now live in a little village in Herefordshire with our two grubby boys. I discovered a love of writing not long after my youngest son started school. And if you were to ask me what it was that made me make the switch, I’d tell you quite simply, that it started with a dream.

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Find out more… 

@WendyLouWriter

Website: http://www.wendyloujones.weebly.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/escapeintolove

http://www.harperimpulseromance.com/books/by-my-side

 

FIVE reasons why I love The Blackpool Tower

The Blackpool Tower is 120 years old! And here’s why I love it…

Its dress sense
It went purple last year to support epilepsy. It was painted gold for its hundredth birthday. It’s had a giant King Kong model attached to it. It’s even worn the Pepsi logo. The Blackpool Tower knows how to accessorize.

Its ballroom
The Wurlitzer organ, the elegance, the dancing, the Strictly thing. Amazing.

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Its endurance
Hitler wanted to save it. Millions of people have travelled to visit it. It has lived through two world wars, affluence and deprivation, popularity and ridicule, and some pretty strong seafront gales.

Its history
The Blackpool Tower’s striking Victorian architecture exudes the town’s history. Go into the iconic Tower Ballroom, look up, and see golden opulence, intricate decadence and a special past.

My history
My daughter adores watching The Blackpool Tower flashing in the darkness. I loved walking through the aquarium and going to parties at Jungle Jims in the 1980s. My mum used to stare up at the Tower and wish that it belonged to her when she was a child in the 1950s.

The Blackpool Tower has watched over Blackpool for 120 years. Here’s to another 120. Happy Birthday!

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Teresa F. Morgan’s Dream Date

I spend a lot of time daydreaming, so I thought I’d invite some others along to daydream with me! Today, Teresa F. Morgan, author of Plus One is a Lucky Number, is on my blog to tell us all about her dream day.

 About Teresa

I live in sunny Weston-super-Mare, trying to hold onto my Surrey accent where I was born and bred.

For years I persevered with boring jobs, until my two boys joined my nest. In an attempt to find something to work around them, and to ensure I never endured full time boredom again, I found writing.

I’m at my happiest baking cakes, putting proper home cooked dinners on the table (whether the kids eat them or not), reading a good romance, or sitting at my PC emptying my thoughts onto the screen.

I love writing contemporary romance, stories with a touch of escapism and creating heroes readers will fall in love with. Men who in reality, let’s face it, just don’t exist.

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About Plus One is a Lucky Number

The wedding favour…

Sophie’s going to a wedding where the invite is strictly plus one… but with her single girl status not exactly fitting in with the bridesmaid dress code, and the best man being none other than the ex she would rather forget, Sophie needs a favour and she needs it fast!

Luckily for Sophie, her dreamy but distant co-worker Adam Reid owes their mutual friend James big time…and his gorgeousness more than fills the role of the ‘Perfect Boyfriend’!

As they take off to the sunny shores of Cornwall for the wedding weekend, it’s not long before pretence leads to passion and Sophie and Adam must decide; is their relationship real or is it all for show?

 

Morning! It’s time for your perfect day. You don’t want to be late so you spring out of bed to get ready. You put on your favourite outfit, which is:

 Skinny black jeans and a nice matching top, and my brown leather, comfy knee-length boots (as it’s only Spring, and not that warm yet).

 Ah – that was the doorbell! Your dream date has arrived to pick you up for your day out. Who is it?

 Currently I am torn between Tom Hiddleston and Henry Cavill. I know Tom can dance, so we would have a great night out dancing. But Henry is so yummy too. You know, I wouldn’t care as long as long as it was either of them.

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 Lovely! So, Tom or Henry asks where you’d like to go for your perfect day out. Your answer is:

 Oh, gosh, sort of answered that above. Well, if Tom turns up, we can go dancing somewhere, learn Salsa or something. If it’s Henry, then wandering a nice city (Bath as I haven’t been there in ages, and as I don’t have a passport – must get that sorted), hand in hand…

No problem! You’re on your way to your dream destination and check that you’ve got all your essentials in your handbag. These are:

 Phone, purse, lipstick, my Bare Minerals foundation (as I may need to top up if out all day), flip flops in case I go dancing and my feet get sore, tissues, hand cream, hair brush and a nail file, possibly even spare contact lenses, or my sunglasses… (I’m so indecisive!)

 Oh, I’m indecisive too – sounds perfect! As well as your essentials, you’ve just found a wad of money that you’d forgotten about in your bag! You decide to spend it on:

 Another outfit, because if Tom or Henry change their mind about where they are taking me, I might not be suitable dressed… Yes, thinking about it actually, I’d buy a new dress for the evening 😉

All this perfect day stuff works up an appetite! Dream Date asks what you’d like for dinner. Home cooked or restaurant? Cocktail or wine?

If it’s a first date, definitely a restaurant, an Italian… I love pasta (but I always avoid spaghetti bolognaise for fear of getting messy). Cocktail or wine!? Can I not have Champagne?

Of course you can – goes without saying! 

When the date comes to an end, Dream Date gives you a gift to remember him by. It’s your perfect gift:

I really, really, really would love a pair of diamond earrings… and Tom or Henry could afford a pair of those. Otherwise, a bottle of perfume, so every time I wore it, the scent would remind me of them.

Great dream date decisions, Teresa! Come back for another dream date anytime you like!

If you’d like to get to know about Teresa or read Plus One is a Lucky Number, check out the links below:

Blog / Website / Twitter / Facebook

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Harper Impulse

Add on Goodreads

Kobo

 

What do you mean, I’m not sixteen?

I love reading about the vibrations that the past causes, webs of family secrets, mysteries and magical spells and love. But there’s another type of book that I’ll always love too: YA.

A few months ago, I read Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. I loved it because it was a bit magical – the premise is a bit like Groundhog Day. But instead of Bill Murray (who I do love), you get a teenage girl. There’s something about YA fiction like this that I just adore. And while we’re on the subject, I might as well admit that I love watching teen boxsets too.

It’s the whole teenage package that appeals to me: the bedroom that’s a haven from the rest of a family who are really there to serve you (instead of you serving them); the intense friendships that focus on boys and parties and clothes (instead of mortgages and managers and nursery fees); the shopping; the drinking; the bitching; the fashion; the schoolwork that is always put to one side because it’s so, like, not important right now.

It doesn’t matter that the idea of being a teenager is better than the reality, because escapism isn’t about that. I love having my own home, I love having my own family and I would probably fall out of a single bed. I never did let drama get in the way of schoolwork anyway (I wasn’t that cool). My friendships now aren’t intense but are more meaningful than they were when I was sixteen. Everything is.

But it’s all so meaningful, in fact, that sometimes it’s nice to curl up with a YA novel, or an episode of 90210 (yes, really), and pretend that the days of forgetting what being a teenager is actually like are a million miles away.

#bestdayever

Last Thursday, my book Secrets in the Shadows was released. It was, in an ‘I’ve always wanted to have a book published’ kind of way, the best day EVER. Here’s what I did.

I woke up at 4.30am feeling a little bit sick. I made myself go back to sleep.

I had to work in the morning, but had booked the afternoon off. At 12pm, I raced out of the office, but not before taking a sneaky ‘I’ve had a book published’ selfie. Shameless: yes.

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I drove straight to the local radio station, where I did a very exciting interview about my book.

Image You can listen to my interview here: http://www.wave965.com/news/local/local-author-secures-two-book-deal/

After my amazing foray into the world of radio, I decided I should pay the setting of Secrets in the Shadows a visit, and made my way into Blackpool town centre.

Image I love the Winter Gardens building, and it features in my book, so even though I was being pelted with rain, I stopped to take a photo. By this point, I was in need of coffee. The best day ever should always involve coffee.

Image Once I was suitably caffeinated, I picked up Little J from nursery and we celebrated my book’s release in the best possible way: reading.

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When Little J went to bed, I celebrated in the other best possible way: champagne.

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You can buy Secrets in the Shadows here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00IHS9JHC

 

Beware the spring breezes…

I moved house a couple of months ago and I’ve recently completed the epic task of sorting through my books.  Amongst them were a couple of forgotten coffee table books that i have left out to dip into now and again.  One of them is Love Letters of Great Men.

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I love this book, partly because this is the name of the book Carrie Bradshaw reads in the first SATC film.  When the film was made, there was no such book (though there was a similar one).  But because the letters were real, it was thankfully easy enough to recreate it.

The book includes the letter written by Beethoven to his unknown ‘immortal beloved’ which ends with those lines whispered by Big into Carrie’s ear at the end of the film:

Ever thine.

Ever mine.

Ever ours.

One of my favourite letters, though, has to be one from Mozart to his wife, Constanze.  He gives his ‘dear little wife’ some requests, and below are my favourites:

Not to be melancholy 

To take care of your health and to beware of the spring breezes

Not to go out walking alone – and preferably not to go out walking at all

This letter was written on 16 April, 1789.  The changes that time has brought about astound me, particularly as I read this letter just having had a text conversation with my husband about taking the car for a flat tyre to be fixed.  No mention of spring breezes whatsoever, although we did both put some kisses, and I think I even used an emoticon.

But as much as language and attitudes have changed, the ultimate flavour of the book is one we can all relate to: missing someone who isn’t there; worrying about somebody you love; loving somebody who might hurt you; loving somebody you might hurt.

All of the letters say things that we talk about every day.  Minus the emoticons.

A special kind of double

The Brontes, the Bennets, the Boleyns, the Blythes, the Wakefields.

It seems that without sisters, there would be no books (well, no good ones, anyway). In fact, most of my favourite books have sisters at the core of their stories.

In books, sisters offer another intriguing perspective; a different version of the same story.  In life, they offer the same, plus if you’re lucky, some fabulous times and a friendship that will never break.

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As you can see from the top of my pile of sister books, I couldn’t resist including a Sweet Valley High book.  These books show, simply and effectively, sisterhood: the twins are the same, but different.  These used to be my favourite books and still are in a strange, ‘I’m not doing very well at growing up’ kind of way.  They were the books that made me love reading and writing.  And who introduced me to them?

Yes, it was my sister.

Thanks sis! x