Friday, 16 November 2018

A Gift From Woolworths Book Tour - Q&A with Elaine Everest

Something old, and something new for this blog post - thank you to everyone who has been reading my previous reviews of Elaine Everest's novels. I have really enjoyed reading them, and am currently making my way through the pages of the latest book in the Woolworth's Girls series, A Gift From Woolworths. So Elaine is not a new author to These City Days, but her blog tour is! It's an absolute pleasure to join in the fun, so a big thank you to Elaine and Faye Rogers, along with ED PR for organising this, and here is the Q&A I did as part of the tour.


1)Did you always see the Woolworth's books as a series, or did it evolve into one? How far do you feel you can take the theme?

The Woolworths Girls was originally meant to be a stand-alone book. I had a two-book contract with my publisher, Pan Macmillan, the second book being The Butlins Girls. However, readers took the characters and Woolies to their hearts and it became a series. At the time I did worry as I’d tied up all the plot lines and had to think what else I could throw at my girls. 

Woolworths closed its doors for the final time in 2008 and I do joke that I could write a book to cover every year from 1945… However, my publisher does have a very nice outline for a Woolies story set in 1947 when there is a wedding…

2) Any interesting tales to tell of where you found inspiration this time round, or when it struck?

This book takes us to the end of the war and beyond. I had to decide what would happen to my girls and their families. Would there be more babies or a death - perhaps a romance or two? I was tying up all lose ends for the time being while I focused on my new series of books. Along the way I started to think about Freda and her life and recalled how once, as a shy fifteen year old, I went on a date straight after a Girl Guide meeting trying unsuccessfully not to look as though I was wearing a uniform covered in badges with my hat stuffed in my handbag. It was perfect for poor Freda who also had to endure Scottish country dancing and her experiences with this was very much my own experience.



3) What were your earliest ideas for this book? 

I wrote an earlier saga (Gracie’s War – still available in libraries) set in the same area as the Woolworths books. I enjoyed writing the story so much I started to think about another. I knew it would be set in Erith in the war years, and I decided the house where I once lived would be a good base for my main character, who had moved to the town to live with her nan. I knew she would need a job, so in my head I imagined walking up the High Street and into Pier Road where I spotted good old Woolies. Straight away I recalled my first Saturday job in a nearby Woolworths store in the late sixties/early seventies and the memories came flooding back. It would be the perfect place for Sarah to work and have her romance. I’d not written any words when I was invited to meet my soon to be agent, Caroline Sheldon. Caroline liked the idea and the rest is history…

4) What gifts did you love to buy from Woolworths?

I would visit Erith Woolworths as a child with my pocket money to buy stationery for school as well as presents for my parents at Christmas. Calendars were a favourite purchase for gifts. My first bra came from Woolies, and as a teenager I would purchase Rimmel make up, long playing records from ‘sound alike’ singers, and trendy pale coloured tights. I’ve chatted often with my readers about Woolies memories and so many people can recall their first purchases and how much they miss the iconic store.

5) What are your essentials that you have to hand for a writing session?

Coffee! I need a mug to hand regardless of whether it has turned cold. My notes containing the names of my characters - I’d forget my own name if it wasn’t written down. I have to have noise around me, as I cannot write in silence. However, it cannot be music as I then I have to stop writing to search for the right tunes. My favourite white noise is daytime TV. It is meaningless but fills the room. However, I have to change channel when Jeremy Kyle comes on, or I find myself shouting at him!

6) Apart from Woolworths and Butlins, what other British icons would make a good setting for a novel?

I’ve just written a new series set in the iconic Lyons Teashops. My stories will be set in Kent like my other books, and I really hope my readers enjoy meeting Rose, Lily, Katie and their friends. We revisit WW2 where Ramsgate suffered greatly during air raids and also played a prominent part in the evacuation of Dunkirk. Ramsgate too played s big part in my childhood where I have pleasant memories of childhood holidays. 

7) How do you find social media as a promotional tool to promote your novels and interact with readers, and other authors?

Social media plays a big part in an author’s life. Fortunately my books can also be found in supermarkets and bookshops, but with online suppliers being so popular I can use my online presence to chat about and link to my books. I do join in with book promotions like the Tuesday campaign by the Romantic Novelist Association, The Saturday Saga campaign by friends in a private group of saga authors and also a Friday campaign on a saga readers group on Facebook. This is where I can chat with readers about everything saga. I also have a Facebook page for my books. ‘Elaine Everest Author’ is where I run competitions and give out news to my followers and readers. Authors also have a healthy relationship with book reviewers and bloggers where we can again chat about books and share news.

8) How did you transition from writing short stories to a full novel?

It is two different hats. I’ve written in excess of eighty short stories, as it was a big part of my working life as a jobbing author before I concentrated more on novels. I find I can switch easily from short to long fiction and also non-fiction as I’ve been doing this for over twenty-one years. However, both forms of fiction need to have conflict and a good ending to keep readers interested. I’ve recently written a short story for My Weekly magazine called The Last Saturday Girl which is set in Woolworths just as they closed in 2008. It will run at the end of November and include a competition to win copies of  A Gift From Woolworths. 

9) If the Woolworths Girls were on Twitter, how would they describe their lives? 

That would be interesting!

Sarah: Loving mother and devoted wife, who dreams of roses round the door and her husband home safe from war.
Freda: Fun loving single girl looking for the right guy!
Maisie: Earth mother who can turn a rag into a couture gown and loves a good laugh.

Thank you for your most interesting questions

Elaine
xx



Thanks again to Elaine for her insight, and do check out the other lovely blogs taking part in the tour, there's some great interviews and reviews out there! 

Monday, 29 October 2018

Spring Fold Card - Make From A Magazine

I had a big clear out of my craft magazine pile recently, and saved a good few projects from magazines, including some concept card ideas to try. I have had mixed success trying out the first few projects, but thought I'd write about my first experience making a spring form card.

The magazine tutorial I followed - this is what I was aiming for.
Spring form cards are scored then folded in a certain way so that the main body of the card, like the name suggests springy, and bouncy. It looked like an easy project to follow, but there were a few stumbling blocks along the way.

With these tutorials I often find that the pictures don't always give a clear indication of exactly what you need to do, and what angle to score at etc. Once you've come back to it with fresh eyes it's a lot easier to work out, but my first impressions were that I didn't know exactly how the card was supposed to sit on a surface when completed, and I wasn't sure which card would give the best result - it just said that thicker card makes it more sturdy. I think a little more guidance and better pictures of the scoring and folding process would have helped here.

The finished result - copyright These City Days 2018
I am pleased to say I do have a made and completed card, that stands up as I think was intended, though it did take a while to work out that I still had some glue to apply to make the card properly stand-up - I thought I'd completed all the processes and gone wrong as my card just flopped over, but no I missed out one part of the instructions that seemed so obvious when I came back to it.

My finished result does look a bit different to the magazine tutorial, so I still have some work to do, to get the main part of the card more of a rotated square than a narrow diamond, and my measurements may have been off, because I'm not sure if the folds are supposed to overlap or not. Apart from that it was a fun card to make and decorate, and I think the finished result looks really cute. I'm also happy to have a finished project, what you don't see here, is my binned attempts at some other concept cards, where the instructions don't make sense -yet.

Copyright These City Days 2018
Have you crafted any concept cards lately? any tutorials to recommend? would love to hear your thoughts below. Thanks for reading everyone.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Alexis Gerred Album Review



A 10 track album that tells the story of a songwriter with a clear identity and strengths, that occasionally veers off course, but always delivers on raw vocal talent, and memorable lyrics. This is what you can expect from West-End star and BBC Let It Shine semi-finalist, but the detail in his self-titled debut reveals even more.

Vocally this album is a powerhouse of raw rock tones, subtle emotion, and a delivery that adapts well to the more pop and country inspired numbers. Alexis has a voice born to deliver a story and capture the attention of an audience, in a genuine and accessible way.

The storytelling this vocal delivers is personal and relatable, slipping with ease through subjects such as mental health, parenthood, grief, and regret - but the lyrics are reflective, at times very uplifting, and the difficult subjects tackled with just the right level of emotion.

The Highlights

Sweet Angel was the song that launched the crowd funding campaign for this album, and it's always resonated with me. It won me over early on, with it's soaring, atmospheric melodies. You can read my review here but my other favourites include:

FACE THE CROWD - What captured my attention was how well this song gathered pace, and built up into an anthemic number that I just want to be singing back to Alexis at a gig. Fast becoming a favourite on the album.

RULE THE WORLD - One of the duets on featuring West-End star Danielle Steers. I wasn't sure how they would sound together on record, when I first heard this was happening, but I needn't have worried. The production is on point, the combination of soul and rock vocals work really well together, and the subtle backing vocals/harmonies really add to the beauty of the track.

SAVE ME - "Find it hard to breathe, find it hard to see" - this song is raw emotion, personal
experience, and a beautiful, smooth, and emotive 'moment' on the album. Mental health is an issue that is very close to me, so this song, with it's acoustic base, and slight country leaning was at first quite difficult to hear, but soon became a relatable gift. Be prepared, it's incredibly moving.

NO ORDINARY GIRL - A good example of all the pieces of the jigsaw fitting together in terms of simple but effective backing and lead vocal performances, and instrumentation. Another track that people will respond to live, and one I was soon singing along to.

The Added Sparkle

I decided not to do a track by track with this review, as it would probably end up as an essay and there were other things I wanted to say, but I do want to give credit to Jon Wright for his production, which has really bought the best out of Alexis' songs. It's first class work, and I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for other work he produces in the future.

Also credit to Liv Austin for duetting on 'HOME', a chilled out softer ballad, that I also enjoyed. If you enjoy country rock then you'll love this. Ideal for a chilled out live lounge setting, with a sentiment everyone can relate to.

Room To Grow

It was clear after a first listen that Alexis is displaying some clear strengths and potential, lyrically, and with song style and performance. There is an identity forming, although for me it seemed to veer a little off course, partly with track selection, as Hold You Close and Don't Let It Go seemed like they'd be more at home on a different type of album.

I think there is room to grow and improve with some of the backing vocals and ad libs as well. The La La La's on 'Don't Let It Go' were a bit repetitive, and while the Bon Jovi-esque 'Road To Redemption', was overall a strong song, the vocal lines "How Long, How Long, How Will You Ride" didn't quite work.

The Journey

I was part of the crowd funding campaign for this album, and really enjoyed getting an insight into how the album came together. As someone with a big passion for music, helping to make this happen has been a highlight this year. So the only other thing I would say is: be proud, enjoy it, and I look forward to hearing what comes next.

Alexis the debut album is available to download from October 26th. Please do check out all the social links below and if you like what you hear, say hello.
Alexis:
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram

Danielle Steers
Liv Austin
Jon Wright

Friday, 21 September 2018

Flash - A Tribute To Queen


Anyone that knows me will know how much I love music. It's my happy place, my therapy, the thing that makes me feel alive, and something that I can still enjoy as much as I can despite suffering from anxiety. Which means when I come across something new that I like, my enthusiasm is probably all too obvious, as it was this summer when I went to see Flash - A Tribute To Queen perform at Chelmsford's Fake Festival.

I grew up on many of the Queen songs they perform, so nostalgia was always going to be a factor, although for me, with a tribute, that can only take you so far. Beyond this I could see and hear musical skill, vocal ability, and charisma. This is why you go and see a good tribute act, this is why a good tribute act works, and this is why I hope to be able to see lots more of Flash in the future.

I can only judge on what I have seen and heard so far, but these guys come across as absolute pro's, and a strong unit that work together well on-stage. They respect the songs they are performing, but you can hear little touches of them in there too. They interact with the crowd, and they make a lot of them smile.



I've heard some of the classic Queen songs live before, sung by covers artists, but hearing them performed by a pro tribute act is a whole different level of good. I even felt a tiny bit emotive at watching a Youtube video of 'These Are The Days Of Our Lives' live.

Claudio is the frontman who entertains, bursting on stage with energy and charisma, sneaking a go on the other's instruments like an excited kid entering a music shop for the first time, doing it all without the cocky attitude of some performers I have seen on TV recently.

Someone described them on social media as just a sing-along with Freddie style show - well yes, if you are there, and you have a frontman adept at working the crowd, how are you not going to respond to that! You can't please everyone, but those that listen to the detail know why Flash work, and many smiling faces this year lay testament to that.

If you're a fan of Queen, British Rock, or just want to experience a new tribute act for yourself, then check out Flash - A Tribute To Queen. Normal service will be resumed shortly, I just wanted to end the summer getting something musical out of my system.