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Monday, 25 September 2017

Interview: Poppy Dolan

the-woolly-hat-knitting-club, poppy-dolan, blog-tour

I am so pleased to be kicking off the blog tour today with a warm welcome to Poppy Dolan on The Writing Greyhound! Poppy's here to chat about her life, her inspiration, and her novel The Woolly Hat Knitting Club.

After you've finished reading her exclusive author interview, don't forget to check out the other fantastic stops coming up soon on the blog tour!

Morning, Poppy! Could you start by telling me a little about yourself?
Hello! I’m Poppy, I’ve always been a big reader (even the illustrated children’s dictionary when I was a kid. Once a nerd, always a nerd). I’ve been writing on and off for about 10 years. 
How did you first become interested in writing? 
I suppose it’s natural that if there’s a skill you really love and admire in others, at some point you wonder if you could have a go. I was reading all these funny, surprising, romantic books and I decided to give it a try.
So what's The Woolly Hat Knitting Club all about?
It’s an uplifting, fun (I hope) story about finding real happiness, family loyalties and - you guessed it - knitting!
the-woolly-hat-knitting-club, poppy-dolan, book, blog-tour

 What’s the best thing about writing fiction? 
Being able to escape to your dream world when you’re really at a cafe table covered in toast crumbs.
How do you get inspiration? 
Sometimes song lyrics, sometimes a dilemma in the real world around me or sometimes something very personal to me - There’s More to Life Than Cupcakes was definitely about a phase of my own life.
What’s the best thing that you’ve managed to knit? 
Not to toot my own horn but I’m a badass knitter. Probably one of my favourite things I’ve made is a woolly Christmas wreath! I would also like to add that later, I spray painted my coffee table. Nothing escapes my crafty habits!
Do you think that it’s important for a story to have a happy ending? 
To me as an individual, it’s pretty important but I think even a sad ending can have a way to uplift you if there’s a lesson to learn or the prospect of hope on the horizon. But I am a sucker for a happy ending when it comes to my characters.
What do you love most about writing? 
Being playful, and writing first-kiss moments.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers? 
Don’t stop. Even if no-one is reading what you’re producing: if it matters to you, do it for you. I’m not saying you’ll end up selling a million (I definitely haven’t) but do it for the love and sometimes good things follow.
What are your other interests? 
Anything crafty, which is why this book was so much fun to write. And baking!
What are you reading at the moment? 
I just finished Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine, which I really loved.
The Woolly Hat Knitting Club is available to buy now. For more about Poppy, don't forget to follow her on Twitter!

Have you ever tried your hand at knitting? Share your story in the comments below!

Saturday, 23 September 2017

The Benefits of Online Dating in Later Life

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Image: Pixabay
Getting old is something that comes to all of us eventually, but by the time we get there, we are expected to have already sorted our lives out. Despite the sheer variety and diversity of experiences we are exposed to throughout life, for most people, the hallmark of a successful life remains the same as it has for centuries - a good job, marriage and children, leading to a comfortable retirement. But while this is the traditional approach, sometimes life just doesn't work out that way.

Sometimes it's hard to find the right person, or sometimes the right person is the one that got away. Sometimes you spend your life with someone only to find out that they're not the one for you; sometimes the right person is your biggest regret or most painful loss. Sometimes life just gets in the way of love.

The problem is, once you reach a certain age, it can be difficult to get back into the dating mindset. It's often said that dating is a young person's game and that dating as an older person is more daunting than exciting. However, this needn't be the case.

Not Just for the Young

Contrary to popular belief, there are many benefits of getting back into dating in later life. From better experience to knowing what you want out of both life and a potential relationship, dating as a mature person still has the power to give you butterflies.

Understandably, online dating sites may not be the first thing to spring to mind for older people looking for love, but they can be a great way for people of all ages to meet new people. Even better, as the demand for online dating is continually increasing, more and more sites are being set up to cater to specific locations and even the most niche personal tastes. From over 50s dating in Derbyshire to over 50s dating in Hertfordshire, there are plenty of ways for older people to meet like-minded people close to home.

The beauty of the new era of location-specific dating sites is that you only reach people who are close to you - no longer will you sign up to over 50s dating in Merseyside only to find a match with someone looking for over 50s dating in Bristol!

Banish Loneliness for Good

Of course, online dating may not be for everyone. Some members of a certain generation will understandably feel much less welcoming towards the technology behind over 50s dating in Cambridgeshire than a younger person would be, for example.

However, it's my belief that everyone should have the opportunity to fall in love and be loved in return. It's an amazing, unforgettable feeling - possibly one of the best in the world. And no matter whether you are young, old, or somewhere in between, there's nothing quite like the feeling you get when you first realise that you're in love.

At the end of the day, the message is simple - online dating isn't just for the young!

* This is a sponsored post.

What are your thoughts about online dating in later life? Let me know in the comments below!

Friday, 22 September 2017

Interview: Stephen Clark

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an author of thrilling political fiction? If so, you're in luck, as indie author Stephen Clark is here to tell you all about life as an author as he releases his novel Citizen Kill.

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.
I’m a former award-winning reporter who served as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and as a politics editor for the Washington bureau of FoxNews.com. I grew up in the suburbs of Philly and I currently reside in North Jersey with my wife and son.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I’ve always had a passion for writing, from my journal entries as a kid to the church plays I wrote as a teenager to working as a journalist as an adult. I didn’t consider writing a novel until I left journalism behind. Then I wondered what took me so long.
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Image: Stephen Clark
Tell me about Citizen Kill.
Citizen Kill tells the story of a covert effort to finally end the War on Terror after the president loses her son in a devastating explosion. Her administration authorizes the launch of a CIA program that targets for assassination U.S. citizens suspected of radicalizing Muslims. Among the recruits is Justin Raines, a suspended operative determined to redeem himself after a botched assignment overseas. But when he is assigned to kill a mysterious Muslim educator that he believes is innocent, he grows disillusioned. Now he must find a way to prove her innocence and derail the program before they both are assassinated.
How do you get inspiration?
I was inspired by then-Attorney General Eric Holder’s declaration in 2012 that it was constitutional for the government to kill U.S. citizens overseas without any judicial review if they were deemed a terrorist threat. Holder’s remarks came after a U.S. drone attack killed an American-born Muslim cleric in the Arabian Peninsula. Given my experience covering national politics at FoxNews.com, I thought it would be fascinating to write a story that took that policy to its logical conclusion.
Writing political fiction must require a lot of research. How do you go about the research process?
Even with my experience covering politics, writing this book required extensive research. I voraciously devoured news reports on domestic terrorists, international terror groups and U.S. counterterrorism efforts (the FBI probably has a thick file on me), and CIA memoirs, including Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy by Lindsay Moran. Although the character for the nation’s first female president was not based on Hillary Clinton, her memoir, Living History, provided me with a strong frame of reference for an ambitious woman living in the White House.
What draws you to writing thrillers?
The thrill, of course! Seriously though, when executed correctly, there’s no greater feeling in the world than to build suspense to an incredible climax and end a story on a satisfying note. Much easier said than done, however.
What’s your writing process?
I start with a basic outline of the story, including the cast of characters and what happens in each chapter. Then I flesh out the details as I research the characters and the story. Once I reach a minimum word count, I celebrate the completion of the first draft and prepare for the rewrites.
stephen-clark, author
Image: Stephen Clark
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Without question, rewriting is the hardest part. Maybe not the first or second rewrite. But after several rounds of retracing the same ground, examining identical passages line for line, it becomes a form of sadistic torture. As most of us know, rewriting is essential to producing our best work. But it’s also the leading cause of writer insanity.
Which authors inspire you?
That’s quite a long list that goes back years starting with Albert Camus and includes James Patterson, J.K. Rowling and Stephen King. In recent years, Gillian Flynn has inspired me to start reading psychological thrillers, a genre that I’m now obsessed with, like so many other readers.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Yes. Don’t bother wasting your time writing a novel for money, fame or recognition. Most books fail; most authors toil in obscurity, and the road to traditional publication is paved with rejection. If you want to write a novel, do it only if the passion is burning so deep that you have no other choice.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
Again, that’s a long list that goes back years starting with The Stranger by Albert Camus. The only book I’ve read in recent memory, however, that I could not put down or stop thinking about from the first page would be Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To make a boatload of money, gain international fame and to be recognized as the voice of my generation. LOL. Just kidding. My main goal is to improve my craft with each book and entertain readers with thought-provoking and memorable stories.
What are you currently working on?
A psychological thriller centred on a deadly police shooting that sets the shooter on a collision course with the victim’s family.
What are you reading at the moment?
I just finished The Passenger by Lisa Lutz. Next, I’ll be reading Storm Shelter by JL Delozier and The Green Reaper by Elizabeth Fournier, both fellow label mates.
Citizen Kill is available to buy now. For more information about Stephen and his work, check out his website.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, 21 September 2017

How Does a Writer Undertake the Research Process?

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The journey of every novel begins somewhere. For me, it was a photograph on the wall of a Singapore museum where I was a guide. Two young Chinese people - one a man, the other a woman - were getting married in Singapore dressed in the elaborate costumes of China’s Qing Dynasty which had disappeared three decades before.

Through my training programme with the Friends of the Museums of Singapore, I had learned that for a century, a young Chinese coolie fresh off the boat could be selected (if he was intelligent and could speak a southern Chinese dialect, read and write Chinese script) to marry the daughter of a rich local merchant who had lost all those attributes over the centuries of foreign life and now spoke a local patois called Baba Malay and needed fresh blood to invigorate his family and reconnect to a China long forgotten by their Peranakan (locally-born) Chinese families spread throughout Southeast Asia.

Who could not be intrigued? She and he, the two in the photograph, looked entirely the same, yet for decades these two people would have been completely different. He would not have been able to speak to her, nor she to him. He would not have understood anything of her culture, nor she his. And why would a young, clever man not have jumped at such a marriage? For him, instant status and wealth, a docile wife and a new prosperous life. All too tempting, a way out of poverty and misery in this hot and alien British land.

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Image: Dawn Farnham / Faye Rogers PR
All right, I was hooked. So where to go from there? I needed conflict for the Chinese hero. I needed an impossible love affair which would supply tension for the Chinese man and his true love, a Scottish woman, fresh off the boat who meet long before these arrangements are made; who meet the night they both arrive, from the distant ends of the earth on an English schooner and a Chinese junk.

My research then began in earnest. I spent hours in the National Library of Singapore, researching the coolie trade, prostitution, trade practices in early Singapore, triads, opium farms, Peranakan customs and culture. I read all the first-hand historical accounts of the colonial government of the time. I found out what colonial women wore in the 1830s and how they did their hair.

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Image: Dawn Farnham / Faye Rogers PR
In the National Archive of Singapore, I found the first map of the town drawn up in 1824 by George Coleman, the colony’s architect. Singapore’s streets in the Civic District haven’t changed at all and I could walk that map today. Through old paintings of the town, I discovered George had a Dutch/Armenian mistress and he had built her a beautiful house.

There is a lot of reading, but most of it gets left out of course Only the fascinating details which give colour to the story remain in the final edit, but most historical novelists do masses of this kind of research. It is actually part of the great pleasure of writing historical novels.

Dawn Farnham is the author of The Straits Quartet as well as numerous short stories, plays and children’s books. A former long-term resident of Singapore, Dawn now calls Perth, Australia, her home. Learn more about Dawn on her website. The Red Thread is available to buy now. 

Did you know how much research goes into writing historical fiction? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Interview: Layton Green

I'm sure you will all be happy to join me in welcoming author Layton Green to the blog today for a chat about his life, his writing and his recently released novel The Spirit Mage.

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.
Well, I’m currently a full-time writer, but I’ve had a few jobs along the way. I attended law school in New Orleans and was a practising attorney for the better part of a decade. Before that, I was an intern for the United Nations, an ESL teacher in Central America, a bartender in London, a seller of cheap knives on the streets of Brixton, a door to door phone book deliverer in Florida, and the list goes downhill from there.
How did you first become interested in writing?
A little bit by accident. While I was working as an attorney, I set out to write a novel that I felt I needed to write. Not because I was a novelist (I had never written a word of fiction, outside of my legal briefs), but because I had a story I wanted to tell. During the process of fumbling through that first novel, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that writing novels was what I had to do with my life.
Tell me about The Brothers Three.

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Image: Layton Green
I started with the idea of ‘what do I really want to read?’ I love epic fantasy, I love fantasy novels that transport characters from our world to another world, and I also love urban fantasy. I decided to meld all three, and the world building - the alternate-reality New Orleans - just sort of took off. After the brothers reach the new world and team up with a dangerous adventuress and her band of mercenaries, The Brothers Three follows a classic quest motif, a journey to an abandoned keep, and it’s the first in the series (The Blackwood Saga). There will be five in total.
How do you get inspiration?
I’ve never really had a problem with that. Never short on ideas, never had writer’s block. Whether the ideas and words are good ones, well, that’s much more complicated! That said, I often stumble on a thorny plot point or character issue, and I find that traveling, or even driving a long distance in my car, helps see me through.
What draws you to writing fantasy?
It was my first love as a reader, and I will always love the genre. It’s hard (impossible?) to be a writer of a certain genre without being a super-fan. As a reader, I love the imagination involved, and as a writer, yeah, I love stretching my imagination to the limits. The battle scenes are also fun because of all the various magic and weaponry involved. One can get a lot more creative than with a shootout!
layton-green, author
Image: Layton Green
Do you find it hard to avoid common stereotypes of the genre whilst writing fantasy?
It is a struggle. It’s risky to eschew them entirely, however, because readers expect certain stereotypes, or tropes, of the genre. The trick is to use them in a novel manner, which I’ve tried hard to do.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
The first fourth of a book, especially the first book in a series. You have to turn an idea into a fully-fledged reality, invent characters that come to life on the page, and jumpstart an airtight plot. Once the first fourth is done, it’s still a mental challenge to finish, but I find that the initial section is the hardest.
Which authors inspire you?
That’s a very, very long list. Here’s a few on the fantasy side: Neil Gaiman, Lev Grossman, Terry Brooks, Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, R.A. Salvatore, China Miéville, Anne McCaffrey, David Eddings, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Robert Jordan, Ursula K. LeGuin, Joel Rosenberg, Madeleine L’Engle, Roger Zelazny, and Lloyd Alexander.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
In terms of craft, read as much as you can, write every day, and hire a great editor early on (regardless of whether you plan to self publish or seek out a publisher).
What are you reading at the moment?
The Passage by Justin Cronin and The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever by Donaldson.
The Brothers Three is available to buy now. For more information about Layton and his work, you can visit his website.

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

How Online Dating has Widened the Pool of Potential Partners

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Image: Lorna Holland
In the past, it would be usual to meet your partner at the pub, while out with friends, or through work or possibly a mutual friend. Of course, these are all still great, perfectly valid ways to meet new people, but in today's digital environment, there is a new kid on the block - online dating.

Thanks to the ever-increasing popularity of online dating, there are new dating sites springing up all over the place. From a Southampton dating site to an Aberdeen dating site, there are local, specialist and niche sites to cater to every individual taste and personal preference.

It's a Match

Of course, the influx of dating sites has meant that there are now more ways than ever for people to get themselves noticed and get put in front of the right people. Almost like applying for a coveted new job, the best dating sites will analyse each individual's profile before matching them with similar people.

But does this take all the fun out of dating?

Personally, I think it doesn't. There is no question that online dating has made the whole concept of dating far easier - from providing quick ways to meet new people to helping the shy (or lazy) people among us easily put themselves out there, finding a date has never been easier - in theory, at least.

Nowadays, we can easily hop onto our preferred local app or website and be bombarded with a flood of potential partners within mere seconds. For example, a Shropshire dating site may seem like a particularly niche requirement, but for those looking for a quick and easy way to meet like-minded people within their local area, it can be a goldmine.

New Possibilities

This increased ease and convenience has also meant that people are getting to know others outside of their usual area. Depending on the distance you are prepared to go to meet your soulmate, it is entirely possible that users of a Norfolk dating site could encounter compatible matches on a Bedfordshire dating site. After all, when it comes to matters of the heart, distance means nothing.

From a personal point of view, online dating has opened my eyes to the wealth of possibilities waiting outside of my usual day-to-day life. Over the years, I've tried long-distance relationships and dating guys outside of my local area (get used to spending all your money on travel costs!), both of which opened me up to brand new ideas from an entirely different perspective. Having said that, I'm now perfectly content settling down with a man from the next town over - I guess I've done my share of fishing. But you know what? There's nothing wrong with ending up back in my home pond.

* This is a sponsored post.

Have you got any online dating stories? Share them with me in the comments below!

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Interview: George Bachman

Today author George Bachman is stopping by the blog for a quick chat. Interested? Read on to find out more!

How did you first become interested in writing?
I've been interested in writing for as long as I can remember. There's never been a time when literature and technology weren't twin loves.
Tell me about Spellcaster.
Spellcaster is a fantasy set in an alternate fin de siècle England. It revolves around Christine, a socialite plagued by a debilitating illness and the paranormal visions that cause them. During the London Season her older sister Allie, the family heir, seeks a husband among the titled but impoverished Englishmen.  
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Image: George Bachman
Meanwhile, Christine searches England's occult underground for answers. The only witch who can help is another impoverished aristocrat, Lady Kinloss whose social standing and finances have taken a hit because of a scandalous affair with Lord Serton. Unfortunately for Christine, Kinloss won't help her unless Christine cajoles Allie into marrying Serton so that the illicit pair can share Allie's dowry and inheritance. Christine must choose between betraying Allie and saving her own life.
What draws you to writing fantasy?
Reality has too many rules to abide by. I love creating new worlds and then trying to persuade my readers of their verisimilitude.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Dialogue. Persuasive dialogue is the single most difficult part of the whole business.
Which authors inspire you?
It varies from story to story, but for this book: Mark Helprin, John Crowley, and Edith Wharton were the chief inspirations.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
My Riverdale Shakespeare or my annotated Alice books. For single works, this week it's Cao Xueqin's Dream of the Red Chamber.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
None beyond being read and hopefully appreciated.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
Independent cinema, particularly from Asia.
What are you reading at the moment?
Michael Shea's The Autopsy and Other Tales.
Spellcaster is available to buy now. For more about George and his writing, you can visit him on Facebook.

Will you be reading Spellcaster? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Interview: Jeannie Zokan

This morning, I am pleased to welcome indie author Jeannie Zokan to the blog for a quick chat. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the read!

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.
I grew up in Colombia, South America, where I was most often found reading library books from the American school I attended. My love of books led me to study Library Science at Baylor University, then to attend The George Washington University in Washington, DC. I now live in Florida, ten minutes from the beach, with my husband, two teenage daughters, two dachshunds, and one black cat.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I’d say that reading led to a desire to write. I’d find myself narrating the events of my life as if I were one of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, or in a Beverly Cleary story. I filled many diaries, burned a few, wrote stories and poetry, circling ever nearer to writing my first novel, which is about a Vespa-driving waitress with a ticking cat whose manuscript comes to life!
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Image: Jeannie Zokan
Tell me about The Existence of Pity.
Sixteen-year-old Josie Wales is growing up in a lush valley in the Andes mountains where her family is mostly isolated from the turbulence brewing in 1976 Colombia. As the daughter of missionaries, Josie feels torn between their beliefs and the need to choose for herself. She soon begins to hide things from her parents, like her new boyfriend and her explorations into different religions. Josie soon discovers her parents’ secrets are far more insidious than her own.
How do you get inspiration?
I was inspired to write this novel by the many people who asked me, “What was it like, growing in Colombia?” There was so much to tell, I decided to write a book about the experience.

I also wrote this book for myself. It seemed I would never be in Colombia again; see the beautiful mountains, eat the delicious fruits and breads, or laugh with the friendly people. Writing this book was a trip down memory lane for me. Just the setting, mind you. The things that happen to Josie didn’t happen to me!
What’s your writing process?
NaNoWriMo! National Novel Writing Month, the online writing program started by Chris Baty, gave me the tools to write my novel. Setting life aside for one month to write a 50,000-word novel worked for me. I wrote my first NaNo novel in November of 2008, but The Existence of Pity was written in 2010. And what took one month to write took five years to edit!
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Trusting that process. Right now I am working on the sequel to The Existence of Pity, and it will be very different from its predecessor. This sequel is what I have in me to write, though, and I have to believe it’s what I’m supposed to be writing. In the past, I’ve chosen writing based on what I thought people wanted to read, and it didn’t work. Those projects felt hollow. The opening scene to the sequel came to me – Josie standing in front of an apartment building on a cold February night – and the story took off from there. Not to worry, though. There will be flashbacks to the years I will be skipping!
jeannie-zokan, author
Image: Jeannie Zokan
What do you love most about writing?
It depends on the day. Some days I love the rituals, the music that immerses me in my writing, the cup of coffee that encourages me, the computer games I like to play that settle me into the right frame of mind, the pictures around my desk that spur me on. I may not get much writing done, but I’m happy to be where I am, and the work I’m doing is on a deeper level.

Other days, I love the ideas as they flow, and I’m typing as fast as I can to keep up with my characters’ conversations. 
Then there are days when I’m immersed in the process of editing. I love printing out a chapter and reading it closely, asking myself what it was I meant to say in a certain scene. Or I’ll work with a critique group. I write to make connections with others, and the best way I’ve found to make those connections is to sit around a table for a few hours every week and talk about writing.
Which authors inspire you?
The Existence of Pity was very much inspired by Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. She gave me the courage to write what was inside me to write. But my all-time favourite author, the one who turned my world upside down was Douglas Adams. I HAD to write after I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and I couldn’t really tell you why. Something about the clever and funny flow of his words, his surprising and amusing characters, their mad antics, it all is just such a delight. I want to delight people like he does!
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Stop wasting time. You’re going to write, it will happen, so you may as well get going. Put your thoughts on paper, no matter how messy. Trust me, ideas about how to clear up your writing will appear to you. But they can only show up after you’ve started. 
In order to move to the next level, you have to make your way through this one, so again, stop wasting time! And of course, I’m talking to myself on that one...
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
My greatest ambition is to know my work has made a difference in someone’s life. It’s to have someone thank me for writing my books. Sure, I think about being a best-selling, award-winning author whose books have been turned into movies.

But I’m happy right now, with my level of success. Someone recognized me at the local post office; there are over fifty reviews on Amazon for my book; I’m a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards for Women’s Fiction. Oh, and someone is selling a used copy of my book on Amazon.com for $45.98! It’s only in acceptable condition, too. Did they underline favourite passages? Dog-ear pages?

Best of all, I’m being interviewed for “The Writing Greyhound! How fun is that?
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
My husband, daughters, and I love to stay active. We bike-ride and exercise at a local gym. I take yoga classes and play tennis with a dear group of friends. After our matches, we go out to lunch, which may be my favourite part. Come to think of it, lunch with friends should be considered one of my interests, especially if we are discussing writing!
What are you reading at the moment?
I am listening to War and Peace on CD. I’m doing it to honour my mother, who read it when I was a child. She has Alzheimer’s now and often doesn’t know who I am. It comforts me to connect with her as I listen to the epic saga, and it’s more enjoyable than I expected!
The Existence of Pity is available to buy now. To find out more about Jeannie and her writing, you can visit her website.

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Blog Tour Spotlight: The Secrets You Keep by Kate White

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You’ve lost your memory. A woman has been murdered. Your husband is keeping secrets. How do you know who to trust?

Months after a being involved in a terrible car crash, Bryn Harper is physically healed but her emotional scars remain raw. She has no memory of the accident and is plagued with bad dreams.

When Bryn and her husband, Guy, host a dinner party Bryn swears money has been stolen while Guy seems unfazed. Bryn confronts the caterer that night and is horrified to discover the woman’s brutally slain body the next day.

As the case is investigated, Bryn is dragged into a fresh nightmare and learns that Guy is keeping things from her. Another murder occurs and Bryn realises the danger is getting ever closer to home. How well does Bryn really know the man she loves?


For fans of psychological suspense and compulsive mysteries, don’t miss this tense and page-turning novel. Before I Go to Sleep meets The Husband’s Secret.

The Secrets You Keep is available to buy now. 

About Kate White

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Image: Kate White / Canelo
Kate White is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve works of fiction: seven Bailey Weggins mysteries and five stand-alone psychological thrillers, including most recently, The Secrets You Keep. For fourteen years she was the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, and though she loved the job (and the Cosmo beauty closet!), she decided to leave in late 2013 to concentrate on being a full-time author and speaker.

For more information about Kate and her writing, you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Social Conventions Debunked: The Stag Do

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Image: Flickr / vmiramontes
The stag do and the hen do - two of the main components of the wedding, and that's before the big day even arrives!

Stag dos have been around for many years, taking various forms according to different cultures and customs, traditions among friends or family members, and, of course, the groom's personal preferences. Put simply, the event is an excuse for good friends and close family members to get together, get drunk, and have a bit of fun before the seriousness of the wedding really kicks in.

Nowadays, with more and more couples meeting online, often through localised dating apps and websites from a Derbyshire dating site to a Dorset dating site, it is only natural that the phenomenon of the stag do will have changed accordingly.

According to Tradition

In the past, a man's stag do was a much more humble affair than the often overly lavish and extravagant occasions of today. It used to be a time for a group of close friends to take the groom-to-be for his last evening out with friends before getting hitched - a time for drinking and reminiscing, but also a time for celebration. Often, the stag night would take place on the evening before the wedding day; a great way to get the groom out of the house and away from getting under the bride's feet as she put the finishing touches to the big day!

But of course, as people's lifestyles and spending habits shifted over time, the stag do also began to change shape. Perhaps after realising that more and more grooms were saying their vows with a massive hangover, the stag do got changed to a couple of weeks (or longer) before the actual wedding. It also began to change into a longer occasion, a stag day or weekend, with many groups taking the opportunity to travel abroad or to the city and include various activities (apart from just drinking) into the agenda.

While all this may seem like great fun, it can also prove to be expensive. In today's society, many younger people struggle financially and have to save up for important life events like weddings, houses, or starting a family. As a result, this trend towards increasingly lavish stag dos can be a bit of a problem, especially for those on a strict budget.

An Enjoyable Occasion?

Of course, all this isn't to say that guys out on a stag do shouldn't be allowed to have fun. The stag do should be all about fun - celebrating family and friends and looking ahead to the groom's future as a married man. And as a result, you have to wonder whether the modern trend of stag dos is really about this. Is the simpler nature of the more traditional stag night a better way to go?

At the end of the day, it should really be about what works best for the groom and his chosen group of friends and family. Understandably, since no two people are the same, everyone will have different preferences, which is why it is great that there is now so much variety when it comes to organising a stag do.

Did the happy couple meet in a local bar or on a Tayside dating website? The real beauty of dating in the modern world comes from variety and choice - and today's men are lucky to have such a wide range of choices available for their stag do.

Are you searching for a recipe for the perfect stag do? Personality and individuality are undeniably the key here. With as much variety as a Suffolk dating site compared to a Sheffield dating site, the stag do is one social convention that looks firmly set to stay ensconced in the institution of marriage.

* This is a sponsored post.

What are your thoughts on stag dos? Do you have any funny stag do stories? Share them in the comments below!

Monday, 11 September 2017

Poetry Block: Here Comes the Sun by Katie Lewington

It's been a little while, but today I am pleased to be able to herald a return of TWG's Poetry Block feature! Today, young poet Katie Lewington is here to talk all about her work, discuss her latest travel poetry collection Here Comes the Sun, and share an exclusive sample poem titled 'It is Getting Colder'.

It is Getting Colder

bell rings
from the clock tower
always reminds me of
October, and autumn
horror films and drizzle
coat done to my chin
and Thriller
-
i am late.
-
crunch goes the
leaves soon to
be autumn.

About Here Comes the Sun

here-comes-the-sun, katie-lewington, travel, poetry
Image: Katie Lewington
Grab a drink, and your shades, and read Here Comes the Sun; travel poetry written by Katie Lewington. Experience the thrill of summer, and travel with me through Europe, without needing to move from your seat, standing in airport baggage queues, cobbled streets, sandy beaches, and tourist shops. 

Raw and real are the words often used to describe Katie Lewington's work. Here Comes the Sun uses simple language in the poems that were written whilst travelling in the summer of '16. Some of the poems make good use of brevity, while others, such as 'Wi-Fi', are written in more of a prose style. There is contemplation among the hilarity as the seasons change, summer turns to winter, and the nights become colder.

Here Comes the Sun is available to buy now.

About Katie Lewington

katie-lewington, poet, poetry
Image: Katie Lewington
Katie Lewington wrote her first poem aged 16 - even though, after analysing a poem for her hellish English GCSE, she vowed she would have nothing more to do with poetry. She has now self-published a number of books, as well as having poetry published in places such as Ghost City Review, Tuck magazine, Spillwords.com, Pink Litter, and Horror Sleaze Trash. She is passionate about helping independent authors find the best audience for their work.

To find out more about Katie and her work, you can visit her website or alternatively, check out her Instagram.

Are you a poet and would like to be featured in the next edition of Poetry Block? Get in touch if you are interested!

Friday, 1 September 2017

Childhood Memories: Like Riding a Bike?

bike-cycling
Image: Flickr / tejvan
Bikes are one of those things which are just synonymous with childhood. It may not always be an immediately obvious link, but when you stop and take the time to think about it, I can pretty much guarantee that you will start recalling some bike-related memories from days long gone. From learning to ride a bike to the freedom it represents, cycling can represent so much more than just being a hobby or a casual sport.

Personally, like everyone else, my first forays into cycling began with learning how to ride a bike. Some people take to it like a duck to water... from what my parents have told me, I took to it more like an extremely wobbly fish to land. I was needy, I was scared, I refused to let my parents remove my stabilisers for weeks and I crashed into our neighbour's jagged stone front wall more often than I'd like to remember - I never did have particularly great balance.

Learning to Ride

However, once I did eventually learn to ride my bike, things went swimmingly. I used to head out on bike rides around our village with my brother and a small group of my school friends in the evenings and at weekends. Like countless kids before us, we found it was a great way to get outside, explore and do our own thing away from the confines of our homes. 

I remember my brother collecting sticks in the spinney to bring home for our annual Firework's Night bonfire, and the time he was trying to race me down a hill in the park, ran over a stone, lost control and went face-first over his handlebars. I remember my younger cousin trying to dig a hole in the soft muddy ground using only pedal power and his rear bike wheel. I remember family excursions and time spent traversing numerous New Forest trails. I remember my first bike, with tassels on the handlebars and a doll-size baby seat on the back; my second bike was a far cooler turquoise-framed model. 

Growing Up

As I grew older and my spare time grew less and less, my bike began to get neglected. It sat in my parent's garage for many years, gathering dust, until I grew too tall to be able to ride it. I might have passed it on, but for all I know, it's still hidden in there somewhere, a long-lost relic with tales to tell of a time which is now long gone.

Even though I haven't ridden a bike for a few years now, sometimes I do wish I'd had the thought to keep it up. Looking back on these memories has provided me with a new insight into the worth that cycling had on my childhood years, and I think it is something that many of you are likely to feel similarly about. 

Sometimes I see people completing all these crazy cycling routes and challenges and it causes me to stop and think about my own cycling journey. I have thought about purchasing a new bike and trying to get back into it, but aside from a lack of time, one of the main things that put me off is the cost. After all, in order to get the most out of the sport, you need to ensure you have the proper kit and equipment - something which doesn't come cheap. Luckily, this problem was solved when I heard about Bike Discounts UK - the perfect way to get premium cycling gear at affordable prices. You never know... one of these days you might just catch a sight of me biking out and about yet.

* This is a sponsored post.

Do you have any childhood cycling memories? Share your favourites with me in the comments below!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Reading Round-Up: July/August 2017

Summer 2017 is drawing to a close and the lure of autumn is starting to creep into the air. As the curtains close on summer for another year, it's time for my fourth reading round-up of 2017.

If you missed the last edition, you can catch up with that here.

What is reading round-up?

Reading round-up is a simple way for me to keep track of everything book-related, and a fun way to show my readers what I've been reading over the last few months!

Out are the books I've read in July and August.

In are the books I've acquired during that time.

And wishlist are the books I've found out about and want to buy but haven't managed to get my hands on yet!

A post shared by Lorna Holland (@themaxdog) on


In
  • The Time Machine and Other Stories by H.G. Wells
  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  • I Know Where She Is by S.B. Caves
  • Holding by Graham Norton
  • The Linebacker by Gregory S.T. Charlton
  • There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins
  • Outsourced by Eric J. Gates
  • So Near the Horizon by Jessica Koch
Out
Wishlist
  • Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle

What have you been reading recently? Have you read a book I should know about? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Interview: Roxie Cooper

the-law-of-attraction, roxie-cooper, blog, tour

Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Law of Attraction by the lovely Roxie Cooper. To celebrate, I sat down for a chat and a catch-up with Roxie, ready to share the juicy gossip with you all!

Hi Roxie! Would you like to introduce yourself? 
Hello! Thanks so much for having me on your blog! Well, my name is Roxie and I live in Yarm, which is a little market town in the North East. I come from Middlesbrough and studied Classics at Newcastle University (yeah, Latin and Ancient Greek – you can imagine how useful that’s been). After that, I worked as a dancer for a few years (a bit like Coyote Ugly – literally the best job I ever had), went travelling for a while, lived in Australia, came back, went to law school and became a barrister! The Law of Attraction is the first novel I’ve written and I completed it in 16 months.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I’m not one of these people who had a burning desire to write from a young age. After practising at the Bar for a few years and experiencing the absurdity of it all as a Northern working-class peroxide blonde with a big personality, I got fed up of people saying to me “Oh! You really don’t look like a barrister!” so I decided to start writing a book about a girl like me just going into this world and coping with it all.
Tell me about The Law of Attraction.
It’s about a girl called Amanda Bentley who comes from a council estate in Teesside. She’s smart, sassy and doesn’t take any nonsense. After winning a prestigious pupillage at the best set of barristers’ Chambers in the northeast, she’s got one year to prove she’s got what it takes to be offered a tenancy there…but she’s up against her smarmy law school nemesis, Marty Gregg.
the-law-of-attraction, roxie-cooper, book
Image: Neverland Blog Tours
She also struggles to resist the sexy barrister Sid Ryder who she absolutely cannot go anywhere near if she wants to retain her professional dignity (or potentially risk the wrath of his venomous ex, Clarinda). But she’s also hiding a big secret which could jeopardise everything if her colleagues find out about it. Essentially, Amanda is that girl who makes the wrong choices, is in the wrong place at the wrong time, says the wrong thing – she’s raw and real…she could be any of us.
How do you get inspiration?
I’m really interested in human emotions and more specifically, secret or forbidden emotions – feeling things we shouldn’t. Although The Law Of Attraction is humorous in the main part, it has a darker side running through it, dealing with these issues. It essentially explains why Amanda acts the way she does, so threads the whole story together. Ultimately, I am inspired writing about flawed characters – I find them fascinating because they’re human and complex – just like we all are.
What draws you to writing contemporary fiction?
The subject matter of my first novel fell naturally into this genre. Most of the books I read are here, too. It’s funny because everyone assumes I write legal thrillers or domestic noir because of the job I do – I can’t imagine anything worse! I’d feel like I was at work. I’d also get far too bogged down in detail, insisting everything was 100% accurate in terms of legal procedure/court scenes etc and that would be tedious for the reader. I had to be really strict with myself for some of the court scenes in The Law of Attraction and give myself poetic licence to bend the rules, knowing that if I wrote it as it actually would be in court, people would stop reading after 2 minutes! Trials are rarely exciting.
What’s your writing process?
Well, I’m initially struck by an idea as explained above. Once I’ve written a few notes down and formed a plot in my head and committed to it, I set about putting it on a planner on my laptop to see if it can work as a full novel. I am an absolutely meticulous planner! I need to (roughly) plan a book out scene by scene before I start writing it otherwise it turns into a big old mess and I get stressed. I don’t write it in sequence though, I jump about all over the place, depending on what I feel like writing on that particular day. The worst part of this is that I’m deprived of writing ‘The End’ and Instagramming it! Once I think I’m close-ish to word count, I’ll read it from the beginning to make sure it’s not completely rubbish and the structure is right, then I’ll work on edits, which will get finer and smaller as the weeks go by.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
The hardest thing is translating what’s in your head to the page. Often, I’ll be walking along with my iPod on (I do that a lot to get ideas) and you’ll plan this amazing scene with brilliant dialogue and incredible scenery description. You’ll then sit down to write it and it’s terrible. Then, other days, the words flow tremendously and you can’t quite believe you wrote this magnificent opus. Bizarre.
Roxie-Cooper, author
Image: Roxie Cooper / Neverland Blog Tours
Which authors inspire you?
Adele Parks. She comes from Teesside, where I’m from so she showed me that it could be done. I absolutely love her books and find her brave, bold style of writing wonderfully inspirational. I think any author who covers controversial or brave topics are fantastic.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
The best tip (which took me a while to put into effect) is leave editing until the end. I wasted MONTHS in the beginning on those important first few chapters when I changed them after a year anyway. You will never reach the end of your book if you edit along the way. Write now – even if it’s complete rubbish – and edit at the end.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
This is going to sound horribly nerdy, but I have to stay true to my Classicist roots and say The Odyssey by Homer. Despite being thousands of years old it’s an absolute masterclass in storytelling. It’s got everything you need; a swoony hero, action, rising tension, great villains and an amazing, climatic ending. I also love Wuthering Heights – so much so, I have the entire novel printed out and framed, hanging in my living room. It’s such a centrepiece and people are always wowed by it.
What are your ambitions for your writing career? 
I don’t want to become too comfortable in anything I do. I always want to push myself and try something new and different. At the same time, I’d like to build up a platform of readers who enjoy reading my books, love my style of writing and can’t wait for the next one to come out – that’s the absolute dream!
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I absolutely adore anything to do with musicals! My favourite thing to do is watch them – I think I probably own every single one on DVD! I also love going to the theatre and very recently went to see Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes which was visually stunning. He’s my favourite choreographer and it was incredible to see one of his shows again. I adore losing myself in the world of theatre.
What are you currently working on?
My second novel is an unconventional love story. I had the option between writing an ‘easy’ second book and this one, but I chose this one for two reasons; Firstly, I wanted to challenge myself as a writer and this one truly has. Secondly, it’s a really interesting, bold story with raw, emotional characters. I’ve really enjoyed writing it. It’s now finished and I’m currently editing it. 
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m currently reading two books, actually – both very different. This Beautiful Life by Katie Marsh – a truly gorgeous, emotional novel which you definitely need a box of tissues for. The other is The Flower Shop on Foxley Street by Rachel Dove – an uplifting, fun read by a wonderful author.
If you want to know more about Roxie, you can follow her on Twitter. The Law of Attraction is available to buy now.

What do you think? Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Theatre Review: The Book of Mormon

the-book-of-mormon, theatre
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Funny, entertaining, yet with a strong message to share - on the surface, The Book of Mormon may seem like any other run-of-the-mill musical. However, there is much more to this story than may originally meet the eye.

Last Wednesday, 16th August, I headed down to London with a friend to catch the day's matinee performance of the show. Going to see Mormon had been his choice, yet being the theatre junkie that I am, I was more than happy to tag along. Unusually for me, I didn't have very much background knowledge of the show at all. To tell the truth, I barely knew the songs, let alone the storyline. This actually made for quite a refreshing change as I was able to fully take in the show and judge it entirely on its own merits rather than having to bow down to prior influence and a preconceived notion of the performance.

However, this being the show that it is, my ignorance meant that I was guaranteed to be in with a lot of surprises as the afternoon wore on.

Satire with a Dash of Humour

The Book of Mormon tells the story of two young Mormons, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, who are dispatched to Africa to complete their religious mission and preach to the local people. Of course, nothing goes to plan, and the pair soon find themselves on a journey of discovery alongside the very people they have been sent to try and convert.

However, satire and stereotypes are the order of the day when it comes to establishing humour within the story, meaning that there is barely a stone left unturned when it comes to satirising people, places, culture and much more. The humour walks a thin tightrope between funny and offensive, at times see-sawing between the two. As you would expect from the knowledge that Mormon was dreamed up by the creators of South Park, some of the humour is quite crass and crude. Luckily, though, the cheap laughs are interspersed with some great lines and moments of real laugh-out-loud fun.

Songs, Characters and More

Although the storyline is rather predictable, this doesn't take away from the fact that this is a great piece of theatre for many other reasons. Aside from the humour and fantastic script, the variety and depth of characters are also great. From the polar opposites of Elders Price and Cunningham to the desperation of the villagers and Nabulungi's hopes and dreams, each character has their own individual story to tell.

In addition, as a fully-fledged musical in its own right, the songs definitely don't disappoint either. Whether it is the inherent catchiness of 'Turn it Off' or the satire of 'Hasa Diga Eebowai', the songs, lyrics and accompanying music are all perfectly suited to the story. However, the stand-out performance of the night went to the big number 'Spooky Mormon Hell Dream'. The staging, choreography, set and costumes all added up to create a memorable showpiece which was more than worthy of being crowned the number of the night.

If it's entertainment you're looking for, then you have definitely come to the right place. Say goodbye to the era of family-friendly musicals and instead, welcome Mormon into your life for an afternoon (or evening) of refreshingly non-PC fun.

If you would like to go along and see the show for yourself, you can buy tickets here directly from the official website.

Have you seen The Book of Mormon? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Interview: R.S. Williams

the-collective, rs-williams, blog-tour

This morning I'm pleased to welcome author R.S. Williams to the blog for my stop on the blog tour for her novel The Collective. Read on to find out all about her thoughts on writing, Harry Potter, and, of course, the book.

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.
My name is Rhianne, I’m a pretty ordinary introvert working a normal office day job, and by night I create stories inside my head.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I’ve always loved reading and the amount of different emotions that come with the stories. I wanted to create something that could re-create the same reaction I have when I read books. Started when I was 16, and apart from a short break, I have been writing every day since.
Tell me about The Collective. 
The Collective is two different things. The title of my book and a secret society guarding time from dangerous artefacts and wrong choices. We meet Tilly who is studying at university, and Jenny who is part of the society and wants to move up through the ranks. Tilly then gets kidnapped and taken on an adventure. Jenny is sent to get her back.
the-collective, rs-williams, book, cover
Image: Neverland Blog Tours
How do you get inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere. I get it from Pinterest, things people say and do. Movies, books, TV shows, and games.
What draws you to writing fantasy?
It’s my favourite genre to read and therefore it’s easy for me to write. There are fewer rules as you make them all up yourself.
What’s your writing process?
My process is different for every book. Some books get plotted out, some get written in order, some don’t. I like the variety. For The Collective it was all done my the seat of my pants. The idea just appeared and grew. I usually sit down and write in the morning for about 30 minutes before work and 1.5 hours on the weekend.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Writing. My career choice is possibly the hardest one out there but it’s so fulfilling.
What do you love most about writing?
Writing. Creating new stories and putting the words to paper is an amazing feeling.
author, rs-williams
Image: R.S. Williams
Which authors inspire you?
Sarah J. Maas, V.E. Schwab, and of course my writing friends; Laura Teagen, Ashley Carlson, Briana Morgan, Rachael Tulipano, Liz Meldon and Sarina Langer.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
TRY EVERYTHING. Honestly. The only way you’ll find whats best for your writing style is to try everything a see what fits best.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
OH. What a difficult question. I love so many books. However, the only books I’ve re-read are the Harry Potter ones.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To continue to write and publish stories. I hope to be traditionally published one day and walk into a bookstore, and see someone picking up my book, then deciding to buy it. Life Made.
If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing?
Probably watching FAR too much TV in my spare time. As it is I probably do that too much anyway. Probably the same thing that I am doing now at the day job, living a half-life.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
TV, Netflix, I go to the cinema a lot with my friends and my mum. My boyfriend and I like to go for walks too. Pokemon Go.
What are you currently working on?
Three different stories.1. The Sequel to The Collective, 2. A new trilogy idea, but only book one and 3. A romance.
What are you reading at the moment?
I usually always have about 3 novels on the go, a paperback, kindle and kindle fire book. Currently, it’s Empire of Storms (I know I’m late to the party).

The Collective is available to buy now. For more information about R.S. Williams, you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

What do you think? Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Is Online Dating Worth the While?

* This is a sponsored post.

love, relationships, online-dating
Image: publicdomainpictures.net
In the past, dating used to be an act of courtship, a dance of stolen glances and careful flirtation. A couple would find one another through work, mutual friends or a chance meeting at a bar.

Nowadays, however, the increasing dominance of technology and the internet has meant that dating and finding a partner has taken a whole new turn - welcome to the age of the online dating phenomenon.

There used to be a pretty big stigma attached to online dating, but as the available apps and websites have become more sophisticated and far more accessible, this has lessened. Today, online dating is seen by many as a great new way to meet like-minded people and, if you're lucky, maybe even get a date or two into the bargain. If you're really lucky, maybe one day in the future you might even hear the chime of wedding bells!

Benefits and Drawbacks

Of course, however, online dating isn't for everyone. Some people are more traditional, others prefer to get to know someone in person rather than befriending an online persona. But while digital dating does have its drawbacks, can it actually work?

One of the biggest draws is that many dating sites allow you to easily set your profile and preferences to suit what you are looking for. From Gwent dating to Grampian dating, you can adjust your profile to be as local or as widespread as you want. This can also be great if you are looking to meet new people, as the wider your area, statistically, the more people you have the potential to meet.

On the flipside, online dating also gives you the freedom and flexibility to be really picky about your potential pool of partners through niche sites. Over 50s dating may be one thing, but if you then add a specific location like County Down dating to the mix, for instance, you are instantly narrowing down the field to include only the people you think you will connect with best.

Sharing My Thoughts

From my own experience, I've only ever used one online dating site - Tinder. It's one of the most popular dating sites out there, especially among teens and younger adults, and the quick and easy swiping method which allows you to get matches has surely contributed to its success.

I've actually been incredibly lucky with Tinder. I've met some great people and, even though I was only on there for a very short time, I was still lucky enough to meet both of my last two boyfriends on the app. Despite starting off a little too optimistic when it came to the location radius (it turns out Nottinghamshire dating doesn't work out so well when you don't actually live in the same county as your match!) I soon found my feet with the app.

Even though I matched with both and exchanged messages yet obviously never had a 'first impressions' face-to-face meeting with either, I can now say that it is thanks to Tinder that I met two amazing people - one of my closest friends and the man I hope to spend the rest of my life with.

Bearing this in mind, my opinions of online dating should be pretty clear to see. From a personal point of view, I've had far more success with it than I ever imagined I would - for an introvert like me, online dating offers the perfect opportunity to virtually get out there and meet new people.

If you're single and thinking of giving online dating a try, I'd say to pluck up the courage and go for it. After all, you never know who could be waiting just around the corner!

Have you tried online dating? Do you think it's worthwhile? Share your thoughts in the comments below!