‘Mr Sandman, bring me a dream..’ Author Helen Cox got her dream as it’s PUBLICATION DAY! *Blog Tour*

You heard right, it’s publication day today for Helen Cox and her debut novel ‘Milkshakes & Heartbreak at the Starlight Diner’! TWG would like to say a HUGE congratulations to Helen as I know how hard she has been working to get to this moment!

I am honoured to be kicking off Helen’s blog tour today, so let’s get started shall we? I don’t know about you, but I fancy a milkshake, in a diner, with a classic jukebox. Where can I find that I wonder…..

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‘Esther Knight is sharp, sarcastic – and hiding something. She waitresses at The Starlight Diner: a retro eatery where Fifties tunes stream out of the jukebox long into the night, and the tastiest milkshakes in New York are served.
Nobody at the diner knows why Esther left London for America – or why she repeatedly resists the charms of their newest regular, actor Jack Faber.
Esther is desperate to start a new life in the land of the free, but despite the warm welcome from the close-knit diner crowd, something from her past is holding her back. Can she ever learn to love and live again?
Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner is a witty, romantic, New York-inspired novel.’

Well that was rather handy wasn’t it? 😉
 To get your own milkshake fix at the Starlight Diner, whenever you want, head over to Amazon UK, and your copy will be with you quicker than a shake of a tail feather!

Helen Cox has written a guest post especially for us here at TWG. I suppose I had better stop rambling and hand you over to the lady herself!

My Book Deal Moment by Helen Cox.

It was mid-December and after six solid months of receiving rejection emails on an almost daily basis, I’d resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to land either an agent or a publishing deal by the close of 2015.
Yes, I’d poured my heart into that first novel and, yes, I’d had the same bright-eyed hope that all aspiring authors have that somebody would recognise what I was trying to ‘do’ with the story, but nobody had. So, it was time to stop moaning about it on my Twitter feed, binge on festive treats and start novel two in January.

Or so I thought.

Whilst I was on the phone to our Mam one December evening however, a life-changing email popped up in my inbox.
‘Mam!’ I interrupted her mid-monologue about the arrangements for Christmas dinner. ‘I’ve just had an email through from HarperCollins. They’re saying… they’re saying they want to publish my novel.’
Though I said the words out loud, something about that sentence didn’t sound right to me. For a moment there was only silence from the other end of the line and then Mam asked: ‘Are you sure it’s not a scam email?’

‘What?’ I shook my head but checked for any scam-like signs before replying: ‘No, Mam. It’s real. It’s definitely from HarperCollins.’
‘I can’t believe it.’ said Mam.
‘Thanks.’ I replied in the flattest of all possible tones. ‘Oh my God, they’re talking about publishing a Starlight Diner series!’
‘Have you got enough in your brain for that?’ Mam asked.
‘Yes Mother,’ I replied. Grateful that even if I did become blindingly famous off the back of my first novel my straight-talking Yorkshire parents would make sure I was kept well and truly down to earth.

‘Hang on,’ said Mam. ‘Your Dad’s just come in from work. Tell ‘im.’
There was a scuffling sound whilst the phone was handed over.
‘Hello? Hello?’ Dad said at last, checking their shilly-shallying hadn’t disconnected the call, a trick they’d managed on more than one occasion.
‘Hi Dad, I’ve just had an email from the publishers, HarperCollins. They’re saying they want to publish my novel.’
‘Are HarperCollins big like?’ Came Dad’s response.
‘Yes,’ I replied, deflated and slipping into full stroppy teenager mode at the age of thirty-four. ‘They’re like, one of the biggest publishers out there.’
‘Oh, well I’m ignorant,’ Dad admitted. ‘But that’s good news. Well done.’ 

How did this oh-so-glamorous moment happen if I didn’t even have an agent? Well, in short, by getting my manuscript in front of people who worked in publishing and believed in my writing. I was lucky enough to know Gigi Woolstencroft who once worked at HarperCollins. She read my manuscript and recommended it to Helena Sheffield at the Avon Books imprint who in turn believed in it enough to share it with commissioning editor Natasha Harding.

I thought, at best, I’d get a polite ‘thanks but no thanks’ email with perhaps some hints as to why my work was being rejected. Instead, I later found out that Helena had been taking my novel around the office saying ‘you have to read this, you just have to.’

Though there was only about a six month wait between finishing my first draft and securing a publishing contract, my experience shouldn’t be looked upon as an over-night success story. Yes, six months after I moved to writing fiction I was fortunate enough to have an offer of publication but those six months were preceded by a decade of working all hours to establish myself as a writer. I wrote for advertising companies, websites, blogs and newspapers. I even established my own film magazine which I edited for five years. I self-published a couple of non-fiction volumes and had a non-fiction book published by The History Press. Much of this was achieved alongside a full-time teaching job.

On top of that, the rejection process was tough, as I believe it is for any writer. Six months of daily rejection emails is still a lot of rejection to deal with. I’d experienced less rejection at school discos, and I was a 14 year-old Star Wars enthusiast who liked her food a bit more than she should.

Still, I kept showing my work to people because I believed in it and, based on the experience I’ve had, I’d encourage other aspiring authors to do the same. Maybe in the short-term all you’ll get is some feedback on your work. But if you act on that feedback, if you keep honing what you’ve written and keep submitting to contests, publishers and agents the likelihood is at some point your story will wind up on the desk of the right person. Dozens of agents read my work before Gigi, Helena and Natasha and if a book deal can happen for me this way, it can happen to anyone else just the same.

Thank you for such a great post! If you’re an aspiring writer or author, then this post is definitely one to keep in your mind.

You can keep up to date with Helen and her ‘Starlight Diner’ series via:
Facebook
Twitter

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TWG is going on an adventure to ‘The Petal Planet’ with Zak & Jen!

‘We’re all going on a, summer holiday, no more working for a…week or two. Fun & laughter on a, summer holiday, no more worries for me & you.’
Today is my stop for on the blog tour! Huge thank you to Natalie and Chris for giving me this opportunity!
TWG is going on an adventure!!!! -bounces up and down like a hyper child-. Not just any old adventure though, no sireeee. This adventure is in space! Now, before you start thinking that I am going barmy (well, you probably think that now after I serenaded you…again), I know it is tricky to go on an adventure to space. But if you’re a child, you can dream to go anywhere you like and be whoever you like, yes?
Last month a lovely lady called Natalie got in contact to see if I would be interested in reviewing her debut children’s book. Of course I said yes. It was such an honour to be asked, and with this book, I knew just the person that was going to be able to help me. My daughter.
Receiving the book in the post felt like Christmas had come early, because it was in a beautiful box which had been painted by the illustrator of the book; Chris Rivers Nuttall. It wasn’t just any box though, it was a sensory box which included some of the items in the story.

‘Jen Lives alone on her solitary sand planet, until one day, a boy named Zak comes to visit. Through a little of Zak’s magic and an unusual umbrella, Jen is transported to a beautiful world, and her new friend helps her learn a valuable lesson along the way. ‘

‘To Jen, her life was a terrible bore.
She wished she had more than the landscape she saw.’

As soon as I began reading the book, I was greeted by the words above. Based on those two lines alone, I knew that it was an ideal book for children because of the rhyming. The book carries that rhyming theme throughout which, in my opinion, is brilliant. Such a catchy way to help children not only learn rhyming, but also might keep them interested. My daughter is too young to read, even though she likes to think that she can. Her opinion was based purely on the pictures, of course, she is two and pictures are an important part of a children’s book!

Natalie & Chris, this is my daughter Eva’s opinion on the book, her own words: ‘I see flowers, and trees and a moon and it’s blue! This a good book mumma.’
She is a book worm like her mumma!

Throughout the book there are wonderful pictures, from an adults point of view, they are incredibly magical. Take a look at a couple:

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How beautiful are they!

As I was nearing the end of the book, I began to realise that the book had something very clever throughout. A hidden message. Jen finds her planet boring after taking a visit to Zak’s planet full of petals. However, when she returns home she realises that she missed her planet and its own kind of beauty. The message that I got from the story was: ‘Learn to appreciate what you have because it’s yours.’ Such an important message.
I had a friend visit who spotted the book and began reading it out loud, so I just sat and watched to see his expression. I noticed that while he was reading it, he had a massive smile on his face and said afterwards how much he enjoyed it. Now I’m not going to name him as he knows who he is and I don’t wish to get my wrists tapped ha ha. It just goes to show that whilst this book is directly aimed at children, it will also make pleasant reading for the adult that gets to read it with the child.
I found ‘Zak and Jen’s Astronomical Adventures – The Petal Planet’ to be such a captivating and fascinating book. Wonderful use of language throughout the book giving the storyline such incredible depth. Not only that, the illustrations are amazing and very detailed. It is very clear to see that a lot of time and effort has gone into creating the illustrations and making them stand out.
To me, this book doesn’t scream out debut. It screams out fantasy, imagination, enjoyment and pure brilliance. Natalie has written such a wonderful children’s book that has captivated and brought out my inner child, and it is definitely a story that I will never tire of reading or looking at with my daughter. You both should be incredibly proud of yourselves for your achievement.

On that note, I have also been given another great honour of giving you an exclusive. There is going to be a book two! Book two will follow Zak and Jen on yet another adventure. Here is a teaser:

‘After their adventure on the petal planet, Zak and Jen become firm friends and Jen is keen to head off on another adventure amongst the stars. This time, the pair find themselves on a jungle planet inhabited by all kinds of creatures including a Lion who is not all he seems.
Once again this second book will aim to combine Chris’s magical illustrations with a thought provoking story as Zak and Jen travel the galaxy with their magical umbrellas.’

‘Zak and Jen’s Astronomical Adventures – The Petal Planet’ is available to buy right now. You may even see it in your local W H Smith’s! For now, here is the Amazon link for the book where you can buy your own copy of such an enchanted book:
Buy ‘Zak and Jen’s Astronomical Adventures’ from Amazon

An insight into Maya Berger’s ‘Luna Tree – The Baby Project’.

I had seen the cover of ‘Luna Tree’ before whilst browsing Amazon, and it’s one that definitely caught my eye. How could it not? Then one day, I stumbled across the lady herself, Maya Berger on Twitter, where I won myself a copy of the beautiful book. The cover intrigued me, the author intrigued me, I just knew I had to get her onto my blog and find out more, which leads us to now. Maya has kindly written a guest post about why she wrote her book ‘Luna Tree – The Baby Project’. I read the post, and I cried. I cried because it hit home in more ways than one, and I am sure a lot of you will be able to relate to parts of it as well.
Now, I will hand you over to Maya and her heartfelt words…

‘THE STORY BEHIND LUNA TREE

‘Firstly Kaisha, thank you for the chance to tell your readers about my book!

Luna tree is the first book I’ve written. It is about my desire to become a better version of myself, and my dream to have a baby. I was motivated to write a book because I had very big obstacles to overcome to get to where I am today. I start the book with a peek into my childhood and adolescence. Then I describe my early relationships and finally the period of my life when I met my husband. It was important to me that a reader gets to know my background, where I am coming from. Then I got sick with autoimmune illness that almost made me handicapped. It lasted for almost three years and in that period I visited numerous Western and Eastern medicine practitioners and travelled the world to find a cure. The worst part was not knowing what was wrong with me because you don’t know if there is a medicine for it. Not knowing how will I live for the rest of my life without the ability to sit, or walk, or even lie down without the special mattress was something that I was living with every day and it was hard to accept it.

Finally, I got better and conceived a baby. It was an incredible experience, and I felt a need to share it with everyone, especially with people who feel they are in a dead-end street. Today I am healthy and the proud mother of my baby girl Luna.

I don’t think I am the strongest person living. I cried so many times I can’t even count them. The solution is not to give up. I would cry and then find another doctor, then I would cry again and seek another one until I realized that the doctors might not ever diagnose me properly – that’s when I turned to alternative practitioners. There is a solution for every problem, we just have to find it. The worst is to just accept the situation and feel sorry for yourself. It doesn’t really mean you accepted the situation, it just means you gave up.

Through my whole life I had to care for someone: My Mom, my sister, my boyfriend… and finally there was a person who took care of me and I could relax. But then things went downward. You know, like when you work hard and have no time to be ill, and then you finally get some time, and what happens? You get sick, because you spent the last atom of your strength and now you have no energy for anything. My “time off” started on our skiing trip when I suddenly expected my husband to solve all my little problems that never even existed before (because I was to busy solving other people’s problems ).

I started to write Luna Tree when I got my baby girl. I would write when she was asleep. I always had time for writing, because I felt the need to share my story and maybe help someone in a similar situation feel better. Nowadays, I write an hour or two daily in the morning or evening when I don’t have other responsibilities like my work as a presenter, housework or playing with my girl. If you love doing something, you will always make the time to do it.

Today, I am finishing my second book, also a chick-lit memoir, so to say. It is a funny story about two girls invited to a Belgian wedding. There is a twist, too, and I think readers will love it!

As far as the books I like go – I love psychological dramas, chick-lit, sometimes thrillers. I read all books by Lianne Moriarty, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and Rainbow Rowell. Those are my favorite writers, but I’ll read anything if I have the time.

Very honest post, don’t you agree? Many of us battle with life long illnesses, or come up against brick walls when it comes to things in our lives. Everyone us different, everyone’s battle is different. But to see an author put it into one of their books for the world to see, and to make the reality of chronic illnesses/autoimmune diseases widely known, it is empowering. Why? Because we need awareness, we need support, and we need people to understand in their own special way. Just like Maya.

How many of you have read the book? If you haven’t read it yet (I haven’t but it’s bumped up my list so expect a review this week), then I will pop the links below of where you can buy it. It’s currently available in both paperback and e-book format. I don’t think this book is one that you should miss:

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Where to buy:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

About the author – Maya Berger:
Maya Berger is a 41-year-old woman from Croatia. Born in Zagreb where she lives, Maya studied in Dubrovnik and life was rosy until something stopped her – Ankylosing Spondylitis. Maya battled chronic pain for years, and was misdiagnosed for quite some time, so when AS was finally defined, she felt relief. She also found a way to get rid of chronic pain for some 85%, following some alternative medicine options.  As Maya personally dislikes depressing books, she did everything to avoid writing one… regardless of a somewhat heavier topic. Most of the people who read it say it’s an uplifting read. She calls it a humorous guide to recovery and healing.

Maya’s Twitter
Maya’s Facebook
Luna Tree Website.

Big thank you to Maya Berger for taking the time to be with us here today, I really do appreciate it!