Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Portia MacIntosh

 

In my latest novel, Faking It, Ella is a character who doesn’t have her life together at all. She’s in her early 30s, she doesn’t like where she lives, she hates her job, she doesn’t have a boyfriend and her friends have all grown up and moved on with their lives.

Her twin sister Emma, on the other hand, has a seemingly perfect life. She’s married, lives in a big house, has two beautiful children – it really seems like things couldn’t go better for her, which is why Ella is so surprised to hear that Emma is in a jam and she needs her help.

To Emma appearances are everything, so rather than look bad in front of the people in her village, she enlists Ella to stand in for her, to pretend to be her, which should be easy given that no one in Emma’s new fancy life even knows that Ella exists.

It should be easy, but it isn’t, because it turns out that being the amazing Emma is actually quite hard, and while her life might not be as perfect as it seems from the outside, Ella still has a lot to learn.

If Faking It reminds us of anything it’s that ‘faking it’ can actually be quite a positive thing. You’ve heard the phrase ‘fake it ‘til you make it’? Well, it’s only when Ella tries that approach that she feels like she’s getting somewhere with her double life.

So, obviously we’re not all stepping in for our twin sisters, but there are plenty of times when we put on a brave face, or we have to stand up and talk in a meeting and we are petrified on the inside but try to pretend we’re still cool on the outside. Sometimes all it takes it a little make believe. Pretend you’re confident and wait for the real deal to kick in. Try to find something to smile about when you’re feeling low. The idea is that hopefully, while you’re pretending, everything just clicks into place.

So, when faced with a problem, if you can, just fake it ‘til you make it and hope for the best, because even if you don’t succeed at least it will look like you did.

 

Faking It is out now in ebook, audiobook and paperback! See more of Portia’s books by clicking on the banner below…

Meet The Author – Owen Mullen

 

School was a waste of time for me. Or rather, I wasted time; my own and every teacher’s who tried to get me to work. It took twenty years to appreciate what they were telling me. Life has rules. They aren’t written down but they exist nevertheless. I got that. Eventually. But by then I was thirty five.

Along the way I missed an important clue. At ten I won a national primary schools short story competition – and didn’t write anything else for forty years.

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As a teenager my big obsession was music. Early on I realised if I was successful I would probably be rich and famous and pull lots of girls. So how did that turn out? Well, you haven’t heard of me, have you? And this morning I caught myself worrying about the electricity bill. So the short answer is: one out of three ain’t bad. Running around the country in a Transit van with your mates is fun. It’s your very own gang. You against the world. Until you fall out and the dream lies bleeding on the dressing-room floor. When that happened I went to London [everybody from Scotland goes to London, it’s like first footing at New Year, or ten pints of lager and a vindaloo on a Friday night; a sacred tradition] and became a session singer. I also started gigging with different bands on the circuit. Back in Scotland – most of us come back with wild tales of great success, none of them true – I wondered what I should do with myself and didn’t have to wait long for the answer.

Her name was Christine. We got married, I went to Strathclyde Uni and got a bunch of letters after my name, and toughing it out at Shotts Miner’s Welfare, or dodging flying beer cans at the Café Club in Baillieston, was in the past. The long hair was short now, I wore a suit and pretended to like people I didn’t like because we were ‘colleagues’. After many adventures I started my own marketing and design business and did alright. Christine and I were very happy, we travelled all over the place; India, Brazil, Botswana, Nepal, Borneo, Japan. One day I suggested we move. To the Greek islands. So we did.

We bought land and built a beautiful villa overlooking the Mediterranean. Then the pan global financial crash happened, years of fiscal carelessness finally caught up with Greece; the exchange rate dived and the cost of living in Paradise went through the roof. I had to do something. Then I remembered the short story competition. I had been good at writing, hadn’t I? I wrote another short story called The King Is Dead…the first thing I’d written since primary school. When I typed the last word [Christine taught me to type] I held the pages in my hand and started to read. An hour and a half, rooted to the chair unable to believe what was in front of my eyes. For four decades I had shunned a god given gift. And as I read I started to understand why. It was awful. Not just bad. Bloody terrible. But I kept going.

And now, eleven years and twelve books later, three literary agents plus two I turned down [they were reading a different book] I am a writer. My books are on bookshelves. People buy them and come back for more. One seasoned London agent predicted I was destined to be ‘a major new force in British crime fiction.’ Yeah! So is the moral: follow my example, find something you’re good at and stick with it. Hardly. I didn’t, did I? Do it your own way; it’s your life.

 

 

Owen’s new gangland thriller, Family is out now in ebook, audiobook and paperback. Click on the banner below to see more.

#BoldDailyThought – Portia MacIntosh

 

When people share quotes that mean a lot to them they are usually pulled from the pages of great books, or they’re meaningful words from incredible people, or even something truly profound from a life-affirming film.

My favourite quote isn’t one of those quotes.

Of all the words of wisdom I’ve heard over the years the line that has truly meant the most to me comes from none other than The Office’s Andy Bernard.

“I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.”

Now, more than ever, I think about that line. Being stuck in lockdown, separated from family and friends, not being able to go anywhere or do anything, and all while people around us are struggling and falling ill. Looking back, to life before whatever this is, I can’t believe the things I used to fret over, the things that used to get me down, things I had to do that I let annoy me.

We really don’t know we’re in the good old days until they’re behind us. All being well, these bad old days we’re living in now will soon be a thing of the past, and we can get back to ‘normal life’, but hopefully we take these experiences with us and keep them close, just in case we ever need the reminder.

#BoldDailyThought – Lizzie Lane

 

Many promise themselves to live the dream but never get round to it. I did it, sailed south until the butter melted, gazed with awe at the sun going down and welcomed its warmth as it rose after a long passage from Malta to Cephalonia.

This picture reminds me of the warmth of the sun, the gentle sound of waves lapping against the hull and the delicious aroma of lamb chops being grilled by a waterside taverna.

It was my late husband’s idea to grab the adventure. I wasn’t that keen, but now treasure those warm memories. Live each day, grab the excitement and the happiness.

Each day is another dream to be savoured.

‘Twas The Night Before Publishing – Owen Mullen

 

I wanted to write about pre-publication. That moment between complete belief that you’ve written a masterpiece, and utter dread that you’re a self-deceiving fool. This is what came out. As usual, apologies to anyone who knows anything about poetry…

 

‘Twas The Night Before Publishing… a thing I know well

When angels and demons come forthwith to tell

How success and failure are lying in wait

For anyone knocking on literature’s gate

I pace up and down and I pace back and forth

Convincing myself of this novel’s great worth

Then the demon steps forward ‘Your dream is o’er

You fool don’t you know that your book is a bore’

 

 

‘Don’t listen to him for he does naught but lie

Even when staring you straight in the eye’

My angel reminds me to look for the light

Tho’ fear tries to win on this darkest of nights

From start to this point such a momentous task

Why put myself through this torture I ask

 

 

The writer in me he leaves me no choice

Determined the world will list’ to his voice

My characters clamour to get centre stage

Me?  I’d be happy to wrest out a wage

The plots and the dramas all scream to be told

‘Come on man’ they shout ‘It’s time to be bold’

‘Have faith in what you alone have created’

The sound of my nemesis now is abated

 

 

But again he arises my mind to torment

‘Your voice is naught but a childish lament’

He bellows at me with scathing and scorn

‘Your phrases and language are tired and worn’

I look for my saviour but she’s not in sight

I’m left with this monster alone in the night

‘Don’t try to defend what you thought was so good

The paper you’ll waste was best left as wood’

 

 

‘Don’t listen to him for he does naught but lie

Even when staring you straight in the eye’

My angel reminds me to look for the light

Tho’ fear tries to win on this darkest of nights

From start to this point such a momentous task

Why put myself through this torture I ask

 

 

Dawn brings me hope for the day that’s now here

I’ll take my chances yes I’ll face my fear

I’ve written my story now it must be told

Even if it turns out reception is cold

Be true to myself as true as I can

Trust in the talent of my inner man

As worries and cares arise and are calmed

To publish or not…each way I’ll be damned

 

 

So reader dear reader I lay myself bare

When you judge this novel please do so with care

 

 

Owen’s new gangland thriller, Family is out now in ebook, audiobook and paperback. Click on the banner below to see more.

Grab that hairbrush and move! Thirty songs to make you smile

– Jessica Redland

When I was growing up, music was a huge part of my life. There was always music playing in the house or the car and this love has stayed with me. It’s very rare the house will be silent. There are so many bands and artists I love and many genres I enjoy but I’d say that pop music is my strongest preference and my favourite era has to be the 1980s as that was the soundtrack to my school and college days.

Music is amazing. It has the power to lift us up and soothe our souls. It can comfort us. Or it can make us cry and sometimes we feel so much better after letting it all out.

Do you listen to certain songs and find you’re instantly transported back to a particular time in your life or even a specific event?

Do certain tracks remind you of friends or family members, past or present?

Do you hear a particular beat and your feet instantly start tapping or your head starts bobbing?

It doesn’t matter whether your taste is classical, jazz, folk, musical theatre, pop, rock, thrash metal, hip hop or anything in-between, music can fit your mood or music can change your mood.

Hands up who entered 2021 feeling excited and hopeful? Thank goodness 2020 is over. Hurrah for the New Year! Yet the reality is that it’s still a scary Covid world out there and we still have a little way to go. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it will get brighter with each passing month as more and more of those we love are vaccinated. And one day in the not too distant future, we’ll be able to laugh together face to face instead of via a screen, we’ll be able to travel once more, we’ll be able to hug again and we’ll be able to sing and dance together.

But, until then, let music lift you. Grab your hairbrush, turn the lights down low and have a little sing and dance with this collection of songs that never fail to bring a smile to my face.

If you’d like to know why I love them and the memories they evoke, please see below.

Happy dancing!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

 

  1. ‘Reach’ by S Club 7
  2. ‘C’est La Vie’ by B*witched
  3. ‘Waterloo’ by Abba
  4. ‘Be With You’ by Atomic Kitten
  5. ‘Tragedy’ by Steps
  6. ‘The One and Only’ by Chesney Hawkes
  7. ‘Relight My Fire’ by Take That
  8. ‘Believe’ by Cher
  9. ‘Can’t Stop This Thing We Started’ by Bryan Adams
  10. ‘New Beginning (Mamba Seyra)’ by Bucks Fizz
  11. ‘Mustang Sally’ by The Commitments
  12. ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ by The Communards
  13. ‘Real Gone Kid’ by Deacon Blue
  14. ‘Mr Blue Sky’ by ELO
  15. ‘Up’ by Olly Murs feat Demi Lovato
  16. ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry
  17. ‘Love Machine’ by Girls Aloud
  18. ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ by Tiffany
  19. ‘Love Revolution’ by Will Young
  20. ‘Beautiful Stranger’ by Madonna
  21. ‘Friday I’m In Love’ by The Cure
  22. ‘Stop Me From Falling’ by Kylie
  23. ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen
  24. ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ by Starship
  25. ‘Somewhere in my Heart’ by Aztec Camera
  26. ‘ME!’ by Taylor Swift feat Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco
  27. ‘Groove is in the Heart’ by Deee-Lite
  28. ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ by Rednex
  29. ‘Tubthumping’ by Chumbawamba
  30. ‘The Logical Song’ by Scooter (radio edit)

Listen to Jessica’s playlist for FREE on Spotify here!

Why have I chosen this playlist?

‘Reach’ by S Club 7

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t love this song from 2000. It’s so happy! Nuff said! Get on your feet and reach for those stars!

‘C’est La Vie’ by B*witched

Ah, the double-denim class Irish pop princesses. This was their debut single in 1998 and it’s full of crazy lyrics and melodic delights. If you’re of a certain age, I can pretty much guarantee you’ve attempted some Riverdance moves to the instrumental break in this track! I know I have

‘Waterloo’ by Abba

Anything by Abba transports me immediately to my childhood and it was a tough choice as there are so many uplifting songs I could have chosen. They’re the first band I loved and I’ve remained true to them ever since. I’m sure you’re already aware that ‘Waterloo’ was the winning song for Sweden in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. In the fabulous film Muriel’s Wedding, Muriel is desperately unhappy and escapes her troubled life by listening to Abba songs. When she leaves home and finally finds herself, she stops listening to Abba because her own life is “as good as an Abba song”. That speaks volumes to me.

Abba also remind me of so many other fabulous points in my life with friends. Before heading off on our separate ways to university, my good friends Susan and Graham spent an evening at my house dancing to Abba songs. Cider may also have been consumed. Many years later, I took several holidays with another great friend, Catryn. In Turkey one year, we stumbled across a club at the hotel where an Abba tribute were playing. Nobody was dancing but how can you not dance to Abba and specifically how can you not enact the Knowing Me Knowing You video where Agnetha and Anni-Frid face in different directions? The tribute band absolutely loved it! Good times.

‘Be With You’ by Atomic Kitten

Sampling ‘Last Train to London’ by the fabulous ELO, this is such a feel-good track. Out in 2003, this is the year I moved back to the north where my family were based and opened my teddy bear shop. I remember having a night at my younger brother’s with my older brother and the three of us were listening to this and trying desperately to work out where the sample came from. That’s the last night I ever had with just my two brothers (Mike and Chris) and, as I haven’t seen them for over a year now, it feels right to have something that reminds me of them. Although my little brother Chris would probably want pointing out that he likes ELO but not so much Atomic Kitten; not quite his taste

‘Tragedy’ by Steps

I really agonised over which Steps track to pick before settling on this one from 1999. I know the words aren’t exactly uplifting but the dance moves are. The raising of the hands to the head? The shoulder wiggle? You’re doing it now, aren’t you? I couldn’t have been happier when Steps re-formed. One of my all-time favourite bands ever and a gig booked for later this year which might be about my fifth time seeing Steps live

‘The One and Only’ by Chesney Hawkes

This one-hit-wonder is one of my all-time favourite songs. It’s so uplifting. Does anyone else think of it as an 80s classic? It was actually released in March 1991 but I think the 80s vibe might be something to do with being penned by 80s legend Nik Kershaw (bit of pop trivia for you there). So many memories of being on the dance floor to this one at university and beyond. What a floor-filler!

‘Relight My Fire’ by Take That

With so many huge hits in the early 1990s, Take That were the soundtrack to my university days (1990-1994) and I was spoilt for choice but this 1993 collaboration with Lulu is simply fabulous and steps up to a new level when Lulu’s husky vocals kick in

‘Believe’ by Cher

It was the best-selling UK single of 1998 and I know it might have been absolutely played to death that year but I never got bored of this come-back single from Cher. Single and having recently bought my first house in Birmingham, it reminds me of a happy time in my life where I really believed (see what I did there?) that I could have it all in the future. As it happens, I had a few duff years before life finally came together

‘Can’t Stop This Thing We Started’ by Bryan Adams

Ooh, I love Bryan Adams. I’ve seen him in concert four times and am seeing him again this summer (I hope!) So many amazing up-beat songs to choose from and ‘Summer of ‘69’ might be the most obvious but this one from 1991 has such a rousing chorus that I made a controversial choice. Plus, ‘Summer of ‘69’ is about looking back and regrets. This one isn’t

‘New Beginning (Mamba Seyra)’ by Bucks Fizz

Unless you’re a fan of Bucks Fizz – or The Fizz as Mike, Jay and Cheryl are collectively known now – you might not necessarily remember this one but it was a big hit back in the day (1986). It is such a rousing song. Listen to those drums and harmonies. Gorgeous. Best enjoyed really loud! Bucks Fizz were the very first band I ever saw in concert at Middlesbrough Town Hall for my thirteenth birthday. I’ve seen them a couple of times since and still love them. And, let’s face it, we’re all waiting for our new beginning right now!

‘Mustang Sally’ by The Commitments

You’re singing ‘Ride Sally ride’ aren’t you? You can’t not. I was just into my second year in at university when this film came out in late 1991. I’d never really heard soul music before. Absolutely loved the music and it’s a great film too

‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ by The Communards

For the evening do on my wedding day, I wanted 80s music. The DJ was really young and, bless him, he didn’t have any and wasn’t even familiar with the 80s! Eek! So I had to take my CD collection in with a playlist. He absolutely loved it and the dance floor was crowded all night. He said it was the best wedding he’d ever done so I think it’s safe to say I’d converted him. I can picture everyone bouncing up and down to the chorus on this 1986 classic. Did you try to hit the long high note near the end?

‘Real Gone Kid’ by Deacon Blue

Sticking with the 1980s here (1989) and another band who I absolutely adore who are amazing in concert. A Deacon Blue gig was the very first one I went to without my parents at Whitley Bay Ice-rink in Co Durham. They’re even better live than on their albums. You just have to jump up and down to the piano break in this and sing along to this chorus, arms in the air

‘Mr Blue Sky’ by ELO

Back to the 1970s now. I mentioned ELO earlier being samples on the Atomic Kitten track and now they have their own happy entry. This 1977 song has featured on loads of movie soundtracks and quite right too as it’s simply fabulous. How can you not feel uplifted when listening to this? I remember my dad playing this a lot when we were younger and, when I was on my year out from university, I bought myself ELO’s Greatest Hits and it really reminded me of home. I love Baby Groot dancing to it at the start of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Brilliant!

‘Up’ by Olly Murs feat Demi Lovato

Jumping forward a whopping thirty-six years to 2013 here for my next choice. Another fabulously uplifting tune. I’ve seen Olly Murs twice at Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre and will (hopefully) be seeing him again this summer. It goes without saying that we’ve missed friends and family this past year but who has missed live music and theatre too? Can’t wait to make up for lost time

‘Roar’ by Katy Perry

Sticking with 2013 here although this could easily have been ‘Firework’ as I think both these Katy Perry tracks about believing in yourself are so uplifting. I’ve settled for this one as I remember it being in my bootcamp era. I used to rise at 5.15am and go to a bootcamp on the Yorkshire coast with my sisters-in-law and this was out at that time. For about a year, it was a very special time in my life. Let’s hear you roar!

‘Love Machine’ by Girls Aloud

There’s a fabulous 60s-sounding vibe here with this fun 2004 release from the Pop Stars: The Rivals winners Girls Aloud. I’m no dancer but I cannot help doing a little shimmy to this one. I had my teddy bear shop between 2003-2005 and I often used to listen to this track. If the shop was empty, I *might* have been known to dance to it while dusting the shelves!

‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ by Tiffany

Another of my all-time favourites and back to the 1980s for this absolute corker from Tiffany. She was only fifteen when this was released in 1987. Did you know that 1987 was also the year Scott and Charlene (Kylie and Jason) married on Neighbours. What a cracking year! Doing the ‘Tiffany-dance’ used to be one of my party-tricks

‘Love Revolution’ by Will Young

Since I first saw him on Pop Idol, I’ve been a massive Will Young fan. I have all his albums and have seen him a couple of times in concert. This 2015 60s-vibe song just makes me want to clap along. Love it

‘Beautiful Stranger’ by Madonna

Oh behave! From the 1999 Austin Powers film, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, this takes me back to my single days in my late-twenties living in Birmingham. I had such a busy social life then and a big circle of friends and have very fond memories of those times. I saw the Austin Powers films with my great friend, Catryn and we met another friend, Jackie, on a diving holiday in the late-90s and frequently quoted Austin Powers to each other (and still do on social media)

‘Friday I’m In Love’ by The Cure

Another one from my university days, this is such a lovely song. In fact, so many of The Cure’s songs are gorgeously uplifting which might perhaps be surprising given the appearance of the band. Just shows that you should never judge on appearances. I don’t think it’s possible to listen to this 1992 song without your heart soaring with happiness

‘Stop Me From Falling’ by Kylie

So many Kylie songs I could have picked but I’ve gone for this lovely one from 2018 which describes one of my favourite romantic tropes in books/films: friends to lovers. This song makes me want to pop my cowboy boots on and do a bit of line-dancing

‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen

Queen are amazing. They have songs from such a variety of genres yet a completely distinctive sound. I don’t remember this back in the day (1979) but, over the years, this has become one of my favourite uplifting tracks. And can I just pause to mention how amazing Brian May is for all the work he does rescuing hedgehogs?

‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ by Starship

Sticking with the theme of nothing stopping us, the beat slows a bit here but the message remains just as uplifting. This 1987 track features on the soundtrack of the Kim Cattrall/Andrew McCarthy film Mannequinwhich was an absolute must-watch when I was at college

‘Somewhere in my Heart’ by Aztec Camera

More 80s music here and another of my all-time favourite tracks. I was at college when this was released in 1987 but it reminds me more of recent years out and about with my family on day trips. There’s a standing joke that I think I can sing all the words. I can’t. I also make a few up! Looking forward to days out again

‘ME!’ by Taylor Swift feat Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco

The most recent choice on my list, this 2019 song just makes me smile and even more if watched with the visually stunning video. Those outfits! Those colours! I love Taylor Swift and have been listening a lot to her fabulous more chilled Folklore and Evermore albums recently which are simply gorgeous but, for feeling alive, you can’t beat this one

‘Groove Is In The Heart’ by Deee-Lite

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of this song. From the summer of 1990, it reminds me of finishing college and preparing to start university – friendships pausing and new friendships starting. I instantly think of my friends Susan and Graham whenever I hear this song and love that we may not live close but the positive side of social media has meant we’ve been able to keep our friendships going over the decades. This one’s for you two!

‘Cotton Eye Joe’ by Rednex

Possibly a bizarre choice but, oh my word, I LOVE this 1995 song! I’d graduated from university and was on a graduate trainee programme when this came out. I was in a house-share with another graduate with whom I’ve sadly lost touch but it brings back good memories of a great friendship

‘Tubthumping’ by Chumbawamba

A couple of years after Cotton Eye Joe, this came out in the summer of 1997. It evokes a very specific memory of spontaneously going on a gorge-walking adventure weekend in Wales with a work colleague of mine. We ended up joining two stag dos and had such a laugh with them that we were invited to join them raft-building the following day. This song was constantly played on the radio that weekend and, every time I hear it, I’m instantly transported to Wales

‘The Logical Song’ by Scooter (radio edit)

Yes, I know, things are getting a bit weird now with a bit of early noughties electronica sampling Supertramp on helium which is why I’ve put this last on the list. Scooter makes me think of my big brother, Mike, who loves him. This 2002 song was a huge hit and just makes me smile, especially when Scooter spouts his random musings! I could just have easily selected ‘Posse’ which I also love. Hands in the air like you just don’t care!

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