The first in the Serial series is my 101K chick lit, The Serial Dater’s Shopping List, published in July 2018 by Bombshell Books, an imprint of Bloodhound Books. It’s available as a paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com (or change the suffix for your relevant country). Here are the tagline and synopsis:
- 31 men in 31 days – what could possibly go wrong?
- Isobel MacFarlane is a recently-turned-40 journalist who usually writes a technology column for a newspaper based in Northampton, England, but her somewhat-intimidating boss, William, has set her the task of meeting 31 men, via a local internet dating site, all within a month. Having an active, though fruitless, social life with her friend and ‘Health & Beauty’ colleague Donna, she knows what she wants in a man, so creates a shopping list of dos and don’ts, and starts ticking them off as she meets Mr Could Be Right Except For, Mr Not Bad, Mr Oh My Goodness and Mr Oh So Very Wrong.
- Follow the ups (there are a few) and downs (there are many) of the dating process and intertwined with her experiences, get to know her colleagues and family, including her niece Lola who, apart from being an amazing storyteller, can eat ambidextrously whilst wearing a Princess glove puppet on her right hand, and Baby, William’s none-too-healthy African Grey parrot.
And you can see the trailer…
Below is an extract from Chapter 2 (where Izzy meets Tim the ‘Weeble’ at the World’s End pub and hotel at Ecton)…
We sit in a booth and I start to relax. It’s all going swimmingly until he belches. I anticipate the customary apology, but it looks like I won’t be holding my breath, which is a shame as I really wished I had.
Next is the arrival of a huge ‘share’ mixed platter. Having placed the plate in the middle of the table, the waitress returns with two sets of cutlery and two serviettes, which she places, on our left-hand sides.
I stare at the meal, then at Tim and say, “I didn’t realise we were eating. I’ve already…”
“Oh, no,” he interjects, “I ordered this before you arrived,” which is fairly obvious as he’d not ordered it after.
“I’ve already eaten,” I say, finishing my previously-planned statement.
“So have I,” he says, “but my stomach rumbled while waiting for you, so I didn’t think you’d mind.”
I’m not sure how he would have heard, or felt, any rumbling, but I nod politely as he tucks into his ‘snack’.
The whole experience is quite enlightening. Firstly, I’ve never seen anyone eat so quickly, maybe with the exception of Chinese people eating rice with chopsticks, but they’re a hundred… no, a thousand times more elegant. Secondly, between bites, but not before masticating the chicken wings and mini sweetcorn cobs, he takes another extra-large (this man doesn’t do anything in a smaller size) swig of his tankard (how old did he say he was?). I look at his huge right-arm lifting up the mini-keg and start comparing his bicep size with that of my right thigh, which is bigger than my left, having spent years of step aerobics, right being my predominant foot.
I watch his arms compete with each other as they fight for access to his mouth and I look around the bar. No one appears to be watching other than me and for that I’m grateful, but then I remember this is his local and they’ve probably seen it a hundred times before.
With his mouth full of, I sadly know exactly what, he says, “This seems rather unfair. Did you want some of this?” He points down at the plate, there isn’t much ‘this’ to be had. The wings are bones and the dishevelled cobs totally devoid of corn. The stuffed mushrooms and onion rings were the first things to go and are remembered only by the presence of a few breadcrumbs. They would have been my first choices. This may be one thing, perhaps the only thing, Tim and I have in common, other than we’re both human, though at the moment I’m debating that too. There are a couple of potato skins, which I normally adore, but they look rather greasy. I’m pretty sure though that even a Banoffee pie (my favourite food ever; something I would not only die for, but kill for) would be equally unappetising when sitting in front of Tim.
I shake my head, attempt a smile and watch him clear the plate. Finally, he picks up the chicken bones and I expect him to eat them whole, but he just licks them clean and drops them back on the plate. He issues another belch, this time apologising as he realises it was loud enough to draw attention to himself, as if the devouring of an African family’s monthly intake wasn’t bad enough.
Throughout the whole episode, there’s not been a word of proper chat between us. He’s been too busy eating and I’ve been concentrating on keeping my hotpot down.
As the last morsel of food disappears into the black hole, the waitress heads for our table, I assume to clear the platter away, but she’s holding a plate above her left shoulder. I’m relieved it’s not big enough to be another meal for two, although I wouldn’t put it past him, but more like a standard-sized dinner plate. I will it to be nothing I would normally eat, but am sorely disappointed as laid before me is a double helping of, the waitress announces, “homemade Banoffee pie”. I could cry.
I smile less than half-heartedly at the waitress who looks sympathetically at me before retreating to the kitchen, I assume to gossip about Table 14.
At the thought of the beautiful dessert being dismembered in such a way, I look at Tim’s eyebrows. I can’t bear to look any further down as his nose is running and it’s close to meeting the barbecue sauce on his upper lip. I’ve finally had enough and blurt out, “I’m sorry, but I’ve just remembered I’ve left my oven on.” But then I recall Duncan’s battle to lose weight and feel guilty, until Tim’s mouth gapes open revealing a mixture of toffee syrup and pastry, which threaten to spill over the edge like a coin cascade at a fair, and I can’t bear to look at him anymore.
As I get up to leave, he splutters a, “so, do you want to meet again?” and I don’t know what to say without hurting his feelings. I mumble a non-committal, “I’ll message you” and almost do a Usain-Bolt-sprint down the stairs.
Reviews of ‘The Serial Dater’s Shopping List’ include:
- Amazon.com: 5* – “I really enjoyed this one. Ms Bailey writes an engaging, sometimes laugh out loud funny story, with wonderful characters. If you read this and don’t see a bit of yourself or someone you’ve dated in it, you need to read it again. Well worth the read, from a wonderful author.”
- Amazon.co.uk: 5* – same as above 🙂
- Amazon.co.uk: 5* – “I thought this book was a really good easy read, very funny in places, with great descriptions of the dates. It is perfect for winding down after a hard day. I would certainly read more by this author.”
- Amazon.co.uk: 5* – “This book is good fun – a well-written chick lit novel that will really make you laugh. Loved Morgen Bailey’s style and sense of humour.”
- Amazon.co.uk: 5* – “This is a truly delightful and very funny novel about what women look for in a man, about friendship, and about how it is possible to exist on very little sleep and a diet of alcohol and ice cream when you are really busy. We follow our heroine Izzy as she embarks on a series of dates (all in the line of duty for her job as a journalist) and meets a host of frogs in her quest to find Prince Charming. Her best friend Donna and her long-suffering boss William give her plenty to think about too and in the end…but no, I won’t spoil it for you. Just believe me when I tell you that the tale of Izzy and her suitors is like a lovely box of chocolates – you will meet some hard centres and lots of gooey ones, you won’t like them all (a few of them are a bit weird), but some are very tasty indeed. You will want to keep on dipping into the box until you have devoured the lot. Take this essential shopping list with you on every date – every little helps!”
- Amazon.com: 5* – (same as above except… “This is a truly delightful and very funny novel… devoured the lot. Morgen Bailey has written a shopping list that everyone will want to read.”
- Alana Woods’s site (which she put on Amazon and many other networks): 4* – “The book’s sub-title is 31 men in 31 days—what could possibly go wrong? and then we dive straight into an often very funny, often very insightful look at exactly what can go wrong, or right, about online dating. While it would definitely appeal to Bridget Jones’ fans The Serial Dater’s Shopping List actually tells a better story, one where the main protagonist, Isobel MacFarlane, or Izzy Mac to her friends, is not a journalist desperate to find a man, although she is a journalist. She writes the technology column on a Northamptonshire UK newspaper. The story opens with Izzy just having been given an assignment of a different kind—to join an online dating service and, pretending to be a secretary, date a man a day for a month and write an article about each date. With loose-lipped colleague and friend Donna party to the intrigue keeping her identity secret sometimes takes effort. The story is written in first-person present tense and Bailey handles it well, keeping the pace moving and keeping it entertaining. I liked the descriptive narrative, such things as ‘ … Tea shoots up both nostrils, which isn’t pleasant but clears the blockage nicely’. That and many more had me wondering if Bailey is writing much from life and if she actually took on this assignment in the interests of making it come across as real because it has the ring of authenticity. I was smiling often and even breaking into a grin with some of the dates, and I don’t do that often. The story is interspersed with a well-rounded drawing in of the lives of work colleagues, friends and family—a necessary diversion away from the 31 dates which, as an unbroken litany, could otherwise have become boring even though well told. This is quality chick-lit. The story and characters kept my interest, the writing is polished. My one criticism is the use of whilst, not once but often. I’m Australian and such spellings haven’t been common here for years. We go for the simpler while, among, program etc. If I’m being unfair I apologise but after the first couple, it annoyed me. That aside this was a very entertaining read. And in spite of not really looking, does Izzy actually meet a man she’d like to take home?”
- Amazon.co.uk: 5* – “31 dates in 31 days? How can a girl be so popular? Read the book and find out. Setting updates with everyone from a lycra-clad cyclist to a champagne swilling misogynist and everyone in between. All manner of men tried to see if they can fit and all because of a challenge set by her boss. Plot twists to keep you guessing, entertainment provided by a chorus-line of men and enough drama to lighten up a summer day on the beach.”
- Amazon.co.uk: 4* – “Having had some experience of Internet dating myself (one husband – now ex, one partner, current plus several ill-matched dates) I really enjoyed this novel about a journalist who is assigned to have 31 dates in 31 days. While some of the characters were a little over the top I enjoyed guessing what each man’s foibles were going to be and I could relate to many of the dates as I’ve had my own disasters too. I was a little surprised that there was no backlash from the dates at all …surely at least some of those men must have read the column and recognised themselves? But overall this was a funny, fun and enjoyable book and I’ll definitely look out for more by Morgen Bailey. My only slight quibble is that with my editor’s hat on I spotted a fair few typos, punctuation errors and sentences that changed direction halfway through. Normally that annoys the hell out of me but fortunately, in this case, the story was strong enough to keep me reading.”
- Amazon.co.uk: 3* “This is basically a Sex ’n’ Shopping novel, but without the sex. And it’s hugely enjoyable – without the sex. In diary form, Isobel, aka Izzy, gives the reader a daily account of her activities at home, in the office and on the series of dates she is obliged to endure, and possibly enjoy, for 31 days. This project is set up for her by her boss, the somewhat brusque and anti-social William, editor of the local rag. Izzy, a forty-year-old extrovert lady always up for a challenge, agrees to meet and report on a partner a day (or night) for a whole month. Isobel is an engaging narrator, witty and intelligent, but addicted to food, very tall, overweight and scatty in the Bridget Jones mould. The fact that the book hovers between Chic-lit and Romance may warn away the highbrows, but for sheer fun and a good laugh, it takes a lot of beating. Oddly enough, despite all the chat over the merits and demerits of partners with her friend Donna, their dialogues present a fascinating and revealing, but light-hearted, portrayal of the dating game. Of course, as Wittgenstein or Einstein have shown us there’s more to life than dating. Here there are no intellectual heavyweights among her partners, but a series of lost souls or guys on the make. The girls, mainly Isobel and Donna, are forever seeking that elusive ‘spark’ in their clients, the lack of which leads to a plethora of comic scenes when they come up against lechers, smoothies, liars, gamblers, catatonics, drunks, boring environmentalists and a fine selection of male chauvinists. The danger of becoming bored by all the narrator’s focus on the quotidian details of kitchen and shopping lore is offset by the sheer energy of Isobel, ‘a chatty little soul’ in the phrase she uses to describe one of her clients. Although she spends most of her free time watching soaps or reading thrillers and romances, she is obviously no fool. Even the simple-minded Donna knows her Hamlet and is something of a technocrat. When it comes to men these girls know – or at least think they know – what they want. No doubt about it, the book is definitely middle-brow entertainment, the story is told almost wholly in the vernacular, larded with cliché and teenage argot (‘yay,’ ‘up the ante’ and ‘sad’ meaning pathetic). It seems authentic to me as do the many references to popular and ‘celebrity’ culture that are outside my experience. But obviously not Izzy’s, a bright lass who tells us ‘I’d like to write a book someday.’” Not sure why it only got a 3* but I’m very grateful for the feedback nonetheless.
And news over the past few months…
** Hold the front page! **
Yes! I’m beyond excited… my women’s fiction novel The Serial Dater’s Shopping List has been picked up by Bombshell Books, an imprint of Bloodhound Books! It’ll be published on Thursday 12th July 2018, available online and from all good bookshops (so do support your local bookshop and ask for your copy). 🙂
TSDSL was captured in a YouTube video…
AND HAS BEEN FEATURED ON FEMALE FIRST! 🙂 **
Yes, I’m finally doing something with the novels. 🙂 I’ve written seven and a bit, most for NaNoWriMo. The ‘bit’ by the way is a conversion of a 102-page script I wrote for the since-defunct Script Frenzy back in April 2010.