Sunday, 13 December 2015

Ten Rules For Wrapping Christmas Presents

Yes, it's that time of year again, and those of us lucky enough to have gifts to wrap for others will know only too well the joy and sellotape-encased chaos that is 'wrapping presents time'.

Of course, those blessed with the double-whammy skills of self-organization and military-precision wrapping can close their browser window and march away to get on with planning their summer holidays for the next five years, untroubled by what follows.

The rest of us may possibly take some comfort from my Ten Rules For Wrapping Christmas Presents. Only please don't take all this too seriously, will you? Rules are usually about as much use as my husband is when a pan boils over while I've nipped to the loo.

So charge a large glass with something intoxicating - no, not Bovril, dear - and sit down with your feet up. No, higher than that. Up on the wall, if you can; it helps the fluid drain from your swollen ankles after you've been round the shops for the umpteenth time. This is going to be very, very silly, and you will need all your concentration not to spit out your eggnog.


Rules are for other people. So let's consider these guidelines instead. Having said that, if there's one thing you must absolutely NOT DO at Christmas, it's decide there's only one right way to do something. There are many different ways to wrap presents, so don't get your blood pressure up at any of my 'rules'. Okay? And go get another drink. You'll need it for what follows. And grab one for me while you're at it. So basically, rule 1 is .... drink alcohol while wrapping. Better take a whole bottle in there. For frequent top-ups.

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Lock the door. This probably should have been Rule 1. You don't want those nosy blighters getting in while you're wrapping their Spiderman outfit and plastic tea set. If there's no lock on your door, barricade yourself in or put up a sign sporting a skull and crossbones that says, NO ENTRY, or hand out the ultimate threat before entering (No Computer Time For A Week) if anyone attempts to spy on you while wrapping. This is a moment that must be shrouded in the utmost secrecy. Think For Your Eyes Only government experiments or military testing zones. There must be no intruders!

Engage sellotape. Now, there are many different methods for this. Some people are well-prepared, with a flat area like a desk or table-top and a sellotape dispenser, one of those clever gizmos that lets you snick off the exact amount you need without ever losing the invisible end of the sellotape. And let's face it, the more alcohol you consume (see Rule 1) the less likely it is you will be able to find that damn invisible end of the sellotape, invented specifically to mock us while in extremis. So a dispenser is worth the extra expense. But if you are like me and too disorganized to get a diospenser in advance of this event, and have to nip across to the local one-stop-shop for sellotape roughly five minutes before beginning to wrap, then you will have to use an Alternative Method for not losing the end.

My method - and this is time-honoured - is as follows: you break off about 20 short strips of sellotape in advance, with scissors or teeth as preferred, and stick them gingerly by one end to a smooth surface near-at-hand from which you can remove them without any problems as and when you need them. For the past 15 years I have slept in a wooden sleigh-bed, and its smooth curved scroll-like end is perfect for attaching and detaching sellotape. I then perch on the bed, which is covered with unwrapped presents, and do the terrible deed right there. Which leads me to ...

Lay out your dead. No, wait, I mean gifts. Lay out your gifts. The scale of your present-giving will determine the amount of space required for this. Or you could be canny and just deal with one gift at a time, with an in-pile and an out-pile in some other area of the room. I would have issues with this method, however, as the more alcohol I consume (see Rule 1 again), the less able I am to potter about the room hunting for presents or neatly stacking wrapped gifts in the correct place. I'm more a kind of pounce, wrap, toss aside in a haphazard 'done' pile, person. So if you are anything like me, you will need a large working area where you can arrange your presents before wrapping, which is when you will find ...

On Amazon UK
Make sure you have enough presents for everyone, and that the spread is equitable. This is such a fundamental of wrapping that it really needs ten rules of its own. However, I shall not sport with your intelligence by pursuing that. Suffice it to say, you should already have made sure you have enough presents for the whole family and - and oh golly, this is the most important rule of all for those with kids - that every child has the same number of presents as the others. Let me repeat that more simply. DO NOT GET MORE OR LARGER PRESENTS FOR JACK THAN JILL, unless you want the Queen's Speech to be drowned out by screaming, shouting, wailing, and probably Jack getting a sock in the eye from a now distraught Jill. These things matter to the little blighters more than you could possibly fathom. So this is the ideal moment to check whether you need to dash out for a chocolate Santa for Jill. Which brings me to Rule 6.

Do not leave the wrapping of presents until 10pm Christmas Eve. This is a fundamental mistake and one which will almost certainly result in tears if you are a parent of more than one child. Your tears at first. Your drunken, self-flagellating tears. (I don't advise wrapping too early either, or you will have to police the pile under the tree for weeks beforehand. Even the best-behaved kids can turn light-fingered in face of all that shiny temptation.) But if it's too late now and you're reading this at 10.05pm on Christmas Eve, with five large presents for Jill on one side, and two dog-eared looking gifts for Jack on the other, you are on your own, mate. Those nice folks at Amazon and Argos have gone home to do their own last-minute wrapping. The internet has fallen silent at last. The shops are all closed. You are alone with your glaring error. Oh well, never mind. Have another drink.

Buy enough wrapping paper to go round. No, you'll need more than that. No, even more. No, no, no, no. Good grief. Look, imagine how many rolls of wrapping paper you would need for, say, five Christmases in a row. Then add a couple of 5-metre rolls, just in case. Right, now you're sorted. Good luck, and if you run out, don't come crying to me. (Because I'm under the bed, trying to hunt down those leftover rolls from last year ...)

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Know that bows and fancy string and glitter and all that expensive guff is utterly wasted on anyone under the age of eleven. So put it away. Yes, it looks lovely. Oooh, sparkly. No, they won't care and you'll just be wasting your time and money, because Jack is going to rip that shiny blue holographic paper off, sparkly glitter and bow and fancy gold string and all, and toss your beautiful wrappings aside like it was something the dog peed on, so he can get straight to the tipper truck inside. Take my advice as a veteran mother of five; don't bother with anything but a straight 'cover it in paper' job. You will only end up picking glitter out of the rug for the next three weeks.

Have another drink. Go on, get it down your neck. Everything will look much better afterwards. See Rule 1 and triple it.

Keep a pre-prepared gift list at one side and tick them all off as you wrap. Tom's swanky watch. CHECK. Bethany's embarrassing fluffy slippers. CHECK. Your mother-in-law's bottle of Scotch. CHECK. (No, not as in, check it by drinking some. Tsk, tsk.) If you don't do this, sod's law says you will end up leaving something in your sock drawer or other suitably clever hiding-place and only discover it either, a.) on Christmas morning, when your bewildered spouse whispers in your ear, 'Why haven't we given Aunt Hilda a present this year?' or b.) in July, when you go rummaging for that snorkel-and-shorts set in the bottom drawer before heading off on your summer hols, only to discover Aunt Hilda's comic golf club warmers lurking there instead. Oops.

There you go, ten present-wrapping rules to keep you on the right side of sanity this Christmas.

Now that all my own shopping is nearly done, all I need now is to visit the off-licence ...

Bailey's anyone?

Beth x

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Have a slice of my Christmas Cake this festive season!


My recipe for a HAPPY CHRISTMAS in 2015


One talented young graduate 
Add tinsel and baubles
A sprinkling of snow
Throw in
One sexy Russian baker
Top with
A spicy layer of suspense
Sparkling romance.
Stir well.
Decorate with champagne flutes
Yummy Mince Pies
A thick slice of Christmas Cake
and ...


Saturday, 8 August 2015

THE ODDEST LITTLE BEACH SHOP: 'The perfect holiday read'

From the first day of Annie's arrival in the sleepy Cornish resort of Polzel, next-door neighbour Gabriel seems determined to make her life difficult.
Despite his sexy looks and angelic name, Gabriel behaves like an ogre to everyone, and has apparently been like that since losing his wife in a surfing accident. Annie would do far better, her friend Claudia urges her, to focus her attentions on Jamie instead. Jamie is, after all, the hottest lifeguard in the village - and her co-worker in the Polzel beach shop.
Unfortunately, it turns out Annie has a thing for big Cornish ogres. She tries hard to keep her distance, but fate takes a hand, dragging her and Gabriel together for Polzel's famous annual pie-rolling contest.
Another 'Oddest Little' novella from popular rom com writer Beth Good, author of 'The Oddest Little Chocolate Shop' ("A joy to read") and 'The Oddest Little Christmas Shop'. Perfect for light beach reading!

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Five Rules For Writing Rom Coms

I am lucky enough to be able to write what I like at the moment, which is to say, I have total artistic freedom over my creations and can please myself. But pleasing myself as a writer is all about pleasing readers, because without readers, I might as well be yelling myself hoarse into the void.

So when dreaming up new ideas for rom coms like my latest in the 'Oddest Little Shop' series, pictured below, I always check my plans against a set of criteria that rom com readers are likely to expect from my book.

I've called them 'rules' above, but really these are just guidelines or even suggestions. Because every writer brings something new to the genre.

Read the FREE sample on Amazon UK:

So what do I bring to the writing of romantic comedy that's new, or at least out of the ordinary in that genre?

I bring a humour so physical and strongly visual, it's almost slapstick at times, producing comedy moments verging on the parodic. But I trust the romance element saves my stories from being merely funny.

Remember the Keystone Cops? I love larger-than-life characters, with ludicrous and unlikely scenarios that make me suspend disbelief and roar with laughter.

Publicity still from 1914 film: "In the Clutches of the Gang'

Of course, physical humour can lead a writer into problems when the work in question is also supposed to be romantic. No one can feel that excited by a hero who keeps slipping on the proverbial banana skin. Yet in a rom com you want the kind of romance that makes your toes curl up in delight ...

So we come to a few guidelines on writing rom com. To be taken with a hefty pinch of salt. Maybe even a whole cellarful of salt. From a salt cellar shaped like a banana.

Be funny about men in general, and have at least one male character who can be relied upon to mess up, but never make your hero look like a jackass. The hero must remain desirable, and although goofy Beta males can be sexy at times, it's a struggle to make them look uber-hot. So make sure he has a neighbour, enemy or sidekick - I often use a goofy younger brother, for instance - who can carry the big comic moments while leaving our hero with his sexy mystique and dignity intact. 

Your heroine can be gauche occasionally - isn't it always the way that we goof up just when we're trying to impress a new man? - but avoid inducing belly laughs during a sexy scene. You can probably get away with a brief titter - sex is often funny, after all. But the reader wants to feel they would fall for this hero too, and he would fall for them if they were the heroine, so keep the romance and/or sexual tension high during intimate one-on-one scenes, and let the comedy take a back seat for a while.

Never forget you're writing a comedy. Occasionally scenes get heavy or tense, casting a pall of darkness over your story, and next thing you know, you've written twenty pages with no laughs whatsoever. It's okay to go dark here and there, and have serious elements mixed-in with the hilarity. Shakespeare mixes slapstick with grim reality all the time, even in his tragedies, and it works brilliantly. There doesn't have to be a joke on every page. But don't let too many pages go by without throwing in some banter or an amusing situation. It's okay to have a graveside scene in a rom com; just make sure someone falls in.

It turns out Annie has a thing for big Cornish ogres in THE ODDEST LITTLE BEACH SHOP

Run a tight ship. Or a tight manuscript, in this case. The structure of a comedy is massively important, probably more so than for any other kind of fiction except a murder mystery. Avoid plunging in on page one with some hilarious case of mistaken identity, then feeling your way to the end by instinct. This will only work if you have many, many novels under your belt already, and are damn funny to boot. You need to plan a comedy, at least in rough stages. I tend to do this fairly mechanically and with broad strokes, chapter by chapter, making sure there will be one comic set-piece in each chapter. Beginners need to differentiate between witty banter and big comic moments at the planning stage, and to provide numerous instances of the former and at least one instance of the latter in every chapter. If you can also lead up to one massive joke at the end, that is prepared for throughout the story in gradual stages, all the better. Big jokes work better when the reader is actively waiting for them to happen.

Be funny.

Good luck! Beth x