Today I will be sharing an extract for my spot on the blog tour for Pink Ice Creams by Jo Woolaston.
Intent on fixing her broken marriage and the alcohol-fuelled catastrophe that is her life, Kay Harris arrives at her grim and grey holiday let, ready to lay to rest the tragedy that has governed her entire adulthood – the disappearance of her little brother, Adam.
But the road to recovery is pitted with the pot-holes of her own poor choices, and it isn’t long before Kay is forced to accept that maybe she doesn’t deserve the retribution she seeks. Will the intervention of strangers help her find the answers she needs to move on from her past, or will she always be stuck on the hard shoulder with no clear view ahead and a glove box full of empties?
Pink Ice Creams is a tale of loss, self-destruction, and clinging on to the scraps of the long-lost when everyone else has given up hope.
As the mistakes mount during her solo venture, Kay soon realises that leaving her husband Martin, in particular the vein in which she left – embittered and vengeful – was her biggest mistake of all. Their marriage was less than perfect but she should be more grateful to him. He married her – despite her lower social standing, her lack of life experience, her baggage. And so she defends his actions, his cruelty, as she doesn’t deserve any better than this… does she?
‘What is it?’
Martin has returned from work earlier than anticipated. I have hastily shoved half a bottle of Chardonnay into the tumble dryer and am failing to shield the concave glass with my knees. Please don’t look, please don’t look. He stands in front of me, his eyes over-bright and excited, a ten year old in a grown man’s body, the calm before the storm.
‘I don’t like surprises Martin.’
‘You’ll like this one.’
I hold my breath for fear of exhaling a cloud of wine-stink, whilst my hand fervently stumbles around in my jeans pocket searching for a mint, a chewy. I am nervous, of what could be in the box, whether I have pushed the bottle far enough into the dryer, and why he has come home early, unexpectedly.
‘Come on Kay, you’re spoiling it.’
‘Sorry, pass it over then.’
‘No, you’ll drop it. I’ll hold it, you lift the lid.’
Mint located, nerves controlled. Deep breath in, slow release out. Come on, step forward. One… Two… nearly there… and lift.
‘Well? Do you like it?’
‘It’s a kitten.’
‘I know that, I bought it. Well?’
‘Say something then. Why aren’t you saying anything?’
He knows why. My eyes are already starting to feel hot, the corners watery and ticklish, willing to be closed tight to fight the oncoming itch, the uncontrollable sneeze.
‘I’m allergic to cat hair.’
‘Does it always have to be a negative with you?’
I need to make light, avoid the inevitable.
‘So has it got a name?’
‘You name it.’
‘Okay, erm… Paddy?’
‘What sort of a stupid name is that?’
‘Well, it has big paws.’
‘It was just an idea, Martin. I don’t mind. What do you think?’
I pick the kitten up out of the box and hold it up. It is tiny and shivering and completely terrified, snatched from its mother too early. It has defecated in the box and the fur on its back legs is matted with piss and shit.
‘Wait, look what I bought for him!’
Martin rifles around in a carrier bag that I hadn’t seen him bring in. He places objects onto the table one by one, his excitement building with each item like a child emptying a Santa sack.
‘His very first toy. Watch.’
He whips a coloured stick out of the bag like a flamboyant magician, the bag floats to the floor and the wand circles above his head before dancing a figure of eight. Yellow ribbons and red feathers follow the trail in a blur.
‘Cats like the chase, see? Put him on the floor.’
Regretfully I do as I am bid and gently place the trembling mite on the tiles, still trying to bend my body in front of the tumble dryer door. Smack! The feathered cane lands a foot away to the left of the kitten and is still. Then, only gently at first, Martin shakes it back and forth, building up steadily to a great crescendo, a dramatic swish across the kitchen floor. The cat does not move, only shrinks.
‘Come on! It’s a little birdie, look!’
Smack! It lands again, this time on the other side and once more lies momentarily still as it awaits attention. Then, it starts to bounce tap tap tap tap flicking up perilously close to the kitten’s nose. The kitten cowers.
‘Just leave it Martin, it doesn’t understand. It’s too young.’
‘Of course it does. Animal instinct.’
‘Oh shut up Kay, what the fuck do you know?’
Here it comes.
‘Look at it, it’s nearly as pathetic and stupid as you are.’
‘Leave it alone.’
‘Or what? You don’t even like the bloody thing. Oh Martin… I’m allergic to cats, poor me, poor me, pour me another drink!’
I turn my attention to the kitten, picking it up carefully and running its back legs under a warm trickle of tap water. I can barely see through my raw, quarter-mast eyes, but my hands feel slowly around the work surface and manage to locate a fluffy tea-towel which I wrap the kitten in and hold it firmly against my chest.
‘Don’t start please Martin.’
‘Do you think I’m stupid? Do you think I don’t see the half empty bottles, every day? You’re not exactly Queen of hide and seek, are you?’
‘It just helps.’
‘Who? Not me, it doesn’t help me. You’re an embarrassment, a fucking catastrophe.’
‘Please Martin, there’s no need to make an issue out of it.’
‘Listen to yourself, for pities’ sake. Normal behaviour is it, hiding wine in a tumble dryer?’
He grabs me by the collar and forces my head towards the floor, my body has no choice other than to follow it. Then, jerking the scruff of my neck to knee level he hauls me across the tiles. Snatching open the tumble dryer door, he grabs my arm and shoves it as far as it will go into the metal drum. I can feel his breath, hot on the nape of my neck.
‘Come on then, reach. That’s what you want isn’t it? That’s all you’re good for.’
About the Author:
Jo Woolaston lives in Leicestershire, England with her extreme noise-making husband and two lovely sons. She tries to avoid housework and getting a ‘proper job’ by just writing stuff instead – silly verse, screenplays, shopping lists…
This sometimes works in her favour (she did well in her MA in TV Scriptwriting, gaining a Best Student award in Media and Journalism – and has had a few plays produced – that kind of thing) but mostly it just results in chronic insomnia and desperate tears of frustration. Pink Ice Creams is her first novel, she hopes you liked it.
Today I am part of the Blog Tour for Sue Wickstead’s children’s picture book Jay-Jay and His Island Adventure! I am sharing my 5 star review. For those of you in the UK there is also a giveaway going on!
Jay-Jay the Supersonic Bus is not an ordinary bus taking you on a journey. He is a Playbus. Find out what happens when he is invited to an island where the children have never seen a double-decker bus – and certainly not one full of toys!
Author: Sue Wickstead
Published: March 20, 2017
Reviewed By: Jessica
Date Read: May 19, 2019
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars
Like Wickstead’s first Jay-Jay children’s picture book, Jay-Jay the Supersonic Bus I also enjoyed Jay-Jay and his Island Adventure. Jay-Jay’s story continues as he goes on an island adventure to see even more children who have never seen a double decker bus! You can feel Jay-Jay’s many emotions as he prepares for his adventure.
Jay-Jay definitely has an adventure before he even gets to meet the children: he has an injury which needs to be repaired. Everything is worth it as the kids love Jay-Jay and he stays there a whole week!
Again the story flows well and the pictures are enjoyable. The pictures seem like ‘watercolor type’ pictures, which is unique. If you have kids and they enjoyed the first Jay-Jay book, they will definitely enjoy them all!
There is also a page dedicated to the real Jay-Jay which includes some pictures of the bus.
Behind the Story:
Jay-Jay and his Island Adventure, was originally written for a Scottish book bus. ‘Play,Talk, Read’ was the project which visited remote areas if Scotland to encourage reading in the very young. It was a great success and the bus even visited the Shetland Islands travelling on a very small ferry. The children had never seen a double-decker on their island before and certainly not one to play on. However, the Scottish project was too busy with referendums and with the book ready and edited I changed the name of the bus from Benji, sending Jay-Jay instead.
The island on the cover of the book was based on a piece of mainland Spain which I have visited many times.
Cap D’Or is the promentory near to a little village of Moraira. The villagers in Moraira invited me to read this book in their library and local schools. The people in this little village were surprised to find that Jay-Jay was a real bus.
(Jay-Jay may not have got to Spain in reality but in my imagination he did and now all of the books are in the local library in both Teulada and Moraira.)
About the Author:
I am a teacher and an author and have currently written six children’s picture books with a bus theme.
For over 20 years, alongside my teaching career, I worked with a Children’s Charity, The Bewbush Playbus Association, which led me to write a photographic history book about it.
I soon found that many children had never been on a bus before, let alone a ‘Playbus’ and they wanted to know more. I decided to write a fictional tale about the bus, his number plate JJK261 gave him his name.
‘Jay-Jay the Supersonic Bus,’ came out in print in 2014. It is the story behind the original bus and is his journey from a scrap-yard to being changed into a playbus for children to play in. From Fact to fiction the bus journey continued.
This story has now been followed by five more picture books.
I also undertake events and author bookings and love to share the story. There are also a few more stories in the writing process, with links to real events and buses.
The story has been read in many schools in the south-East of England, where I teach as a cover teacher, it is always well received and certainly different.
**UK Only Giveaway**
Win Jay-Jay and the Carnival
*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.[Top]
Today I help end the blog tour for Dear Jane by Allie Cresswell. She will be sharing about some of what she learned about Regency life in the seaside towns as she wrote The Other Miss Bates and Dear Jane which are both based on Jane Austen’s Emma.
The final installment of the Highbury trilogy, Dear Jane recounts events hinted at but never actually described in Jane Austen’s Emma; the formative childhood years of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill, their meeting in Weymouth and the agony of their secret engagement.
Orphaned Jane seems likely to be brought up in parochial Highbury until adoption by her papa’s old friend Colonel Campbell opens to her all the excitement and opportunities of London. Frank Weston is also transplanted from Highbury, adopted as heir to the wealthy Churchills and taken to their drear and inhospitable Yorkshire estate. Readers of Emma will be familiar with the conclusion of Jane and Frank’s story, but Dear Jane pulls back the veil which Jane Austen drew over its remainder.
Jane Austen famously writes of the minutiae of life; her books often centred on a single house or area. Emma takes place exclusively in the Surrey village of Highbury and although a few characters travel outside its precincts Emma and the reader never do.
For my Highbury Trilogy, however, I had to venture further afield and my travels took me to two seaside resorts, Brighton and Weymouth. Whereas Highbury is an imaginary place, these other locations are not, and I did a good deal of research about them, particularly about what they would have been like in the timeframe of my novels. I’d like to share with you some of what I learned about Regency life in these seaside towns as I wrote The Other Miss Bates and my most recent book Dear Jane which are both based on Jane Austen’s Emma.
Seaside resorts became popular following the discovery that sea-bathing and – less convincingly – sea-drinking were beneficial for the health. People generally were more aware of their own well-being and apothecaries, physicians, doctors and charlatans all took advantage of the chance to make money by promising cures and administering treatments, many of which seem ridiculous or even barbaric today.
Brighton was a more popular resort than Weymouth, more accessible from London, and made fashionable by the Prince Regent who took a shine to the place and had an enormous residence built there. But, thankfully, that happened after the events of The Other Miss Bates were done. Weymouth was a quieter place, with only one Assembly room to Brighton’s two. In both cases I used historical reference books with maps and illustrations to discover their layouts, and to learn where genteel families would have stayed during their summer sojourn. All the streets and buildings I mention in my Highbury Trilogy are real places.
Normally, most people enjoyed society within the confines of their own homes, holding dinners, card-parties and, occasionally, balls. Naturally the participants in these entertainments were known to the hosts; the company was already ‘acquainted’ and enjoyed that degree of intercourse which familiarity brings. Not so in a seaside town. All the visitors were strangers to each other and some method of overcoming this boundary had to be devised so that orderly social interaction could take place. Newcomers to the town were required to announce their arrival in the society newssheet, printed and distributed daily. In order to attend the Assembly and the circulating library visitors had to pay a subscription which bought them access to the events which were held there. A Master of Ceremonies oversaw all entertainments, collected subscriptions and introduced people to one another. Without a proper introduction from him or a mutual acquaintance it was impossible for one person to ‘know’ another. A gentleman could not ask a lady to dance unless they had been introduced. Once that had occurred he could dance with her, request leave to call upon her and introduce her to his family and other associates.
Rather than taking place in private drawing and dining rooms, social interaction took place out of the home, at the Assembly, play, in cardrooms and in the circulating libraries, which were much more than just places to borrow books. Refreshments were served there and there were often musical recitals. People walked, on the grassy area known as the Steyne in Brighton, and along the promenade in Weymouth. They went out in their carriages, enjoying excursions to nearby beauty-spots. The idea was to be seen, to encounter others, to enjoy society in a much wider and freer way than could be managed at home. Freer indeed. Seaside resorts were an absolute hotbed for illicit romance, giving young men and women a much wider reservoir of potential suitors and many more opportunities to steal away from prying eyes. Lydia Bennet eloped from Brighton and my character, Louisa Churchill, also arranged assignations there.
The daily routine at a seaside place consisted of rising early to bathe before returning home or going to a coffee house to breakfast. Ladies might then dress and have their hair repaired before setting out for morning promenades or shopping. Gentlemen might go riding, sailing, fishing, or enjoy the sporting contests often arranged for their entertainment. In the mid to late afternoon people returned home to dress, dined, and then went out again to the Assembly or play. It was a social whirl indeed, a far cry from the sedentary lives they knew at home. How Emma Woodhouse would have enjoyed it.
About the Author:
Allie Cresswell was born in Stockport, UK and began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil.
She did a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College, London.
She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B & B and a group of boutique holiday cottages. Nowadays Allie writes full time having retired from teaching literature to lifelong learners.
She has two grown-up children, two granddaughters, two grandsons and two cockapoos but just one husband – Tim. They live in Cumbria, NW England.
Dear Jane is her ninth novel.[Top]