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Have you ever had a blessing in disguise?

When I was a teenager, my dad was offered a job in Japan and my parents decided it would be a great idea for the whole family to move there. I was at a very awkward age (15/16), had just got together with my first ever boyfriend and didn't want to move at all. In fact, I cried for three days when I arrived in Tokyo and refused to even talk to the kind neighbouring kids who came to welcome me and introduce themselves. In short, I thought it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me… but as it turned out, it was the absolute best!

Once I'd got over my sulks and started to get into the swing of things, I discovered what a wonderful place Japan is. The three years I spent there were the best of my life and I still long to go back there all the time. My stay in Tokyo had a huge influence on me, on my taste and thinking - I was a completely different person when I left. If I had stayed in Sweden, I don't think I would have been able to see the world in the same way. Life in Tokyo taught me to get along with all kinds of different people, to be tolerant of everyone else's beliefs and ways of life, not to judge anyone because of where they came from. So it was definitely a blessing in disguise!

Today is publication day for my friend Rhoda Baxter's novel Girl in Trouble, and her main characters have a similar experience - they undergo changes that they feel are bad, but end up being positive. Here's the blurb:-

Grown up tomboy Olivia doesn't need a man to complete her. Judging by her absent father, men aren't that reliable anyway. She's got a successful career, good friends and can evict spiders from the bath herself, so she doesn't need to settle down, thanks.

Walter's ex is moving his daughter to America and Walter feels like he's losing his family. When his friend-with-benefits, Olivia, discovers she's pregnant by her douchebag ex, Walter sees the perfect chance to be part of a family with a woman he loves. But how can Walter persuade the most independent woman he's ever met to accept his help, let alone his heart?

Girl In Trouble is the third book in the award nominated Smart Girls series by Rhoda. If you like charming heroes, alpha heroines and sparkling dialogue, you'll love this. Ideal for fans of Sarah Morgan, Lindsey Kelk or Meg Cabot's Boy books. Buy now and meet your new favourite heroine today.

Buy link (should go to your preferred bookstore): books2read.com/u/4Doy6r

(The book is on sale for 99p on the 9th and 10th of October, after which it'll climb up to 2.99. If you buy in the first week, you get some early bird bonuses - a short story collection and a recipe booklet containing recipes for the snacks mentioned in the Girl Having A Ball.)

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It's amazing how much fun it can be to sit in a student kitchen with your friends and talk about everything under the sun! From happy-ever-afters to religion, women's football to social welfare, hot heroes and suitable heroines, and most of all how the writing is going… That is the wonderful thing about the RNA conferences! There is never a dull moment and you never run out of people to talk to and catch up with, or topics of conversation.

I must have been to at least fifteen of these conferences by now and it never gets old. Each year it is just as much fun and there are always interesting talks on a variety of subjects. I learn something new each time and come away feeling inspired and more enthusiastic about writing, fired up and ready to go… once I've had some time to recover from the late nights and early mornings. Because who needs to sleep, when there is so much to do? Sleeping can be done afterwards!

This time I attended some great talks, among them Janet Gover's excellent one about how to manipulate pictures using programmes like Adobe Photoshop - I am now itching to go and play around with photos to see what I can do! There was also the brilliant and very useful talk by Ruth Long (R F Long) on how to do talks at schools. She had some great advice and made me feel inspired to give it a try.

I also participated in talks myself - one with the lovely Anna Belfrage, where we discussed time slip vs time travel and what an author writing in these sub-genres has to bear in mind. We had a wonderful audience who had some great suggestions when it came to finding a way to time travel that a reader could find plausible.

Then there was the talk with my fellow Paisley Piranhas (Gill-Marie Stewart, Claire Watts and Katy Haye) in which we discussed romance and relationships in YA novels. Our audience braved the early hour (nine on a Sunday morning after the gala dinner!) and we had some fun creating a YA plot together.

As happens every year, there were some great talks that I missed - because you just can't be in two places at once, sadly! - and people I didn't have time to chat to, but there is always next year and I'll definitely be there! Huge thanks to the organisers for this time!

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Last Friday I attended a service of rededication and songs of praise in honour of the altar cloth at St Faith's church, Bacton, in Herefordshire. That might sound a bit weird, but this was something that had to be done because the altar cloth in question isn't the original one, it's a facsimile - the original is at Hampton Court being restored by a team of textile specialists, a job which will apparently take something like 1000 hours (or 18 months)!

Some of you may have already heard the story of how this altar cloth was discovered last year and was found to be something extraordinarily special. For over a hundred years it had hung on the wall of St Faith's, a tiny village church that dates back to the 1500s, and before that it had been used to cover the altar until a new, bigger one, was installed.

It looked like nothing more than a grubby piece of material, in dull and faded colours, and cut into a strange T-shape. Most of the parishioners probably hardly glanced at it whenever they attended a service.

St Faiths and Bacton village are, however, connected with royalty, sort of. Queen Elizabeth I's 'Chief Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber' and confidante was someone called Blanche Parry, and she was born in this tiny village. She wanted to be buried there too, but the queen decreed otherwise and kept her in London (she's buried at St Margaret's, Westminster), so St Faith's has a monument to her instead, which she'd commissioned herself, thinking she was going to retire there. And at some point, probably after Blanche's death, the little church was also given an amazing gift - the altar cloth. Except that's not what it was originally.

A local historian and some of the parishioners eventually realised that it hadn't always been an altar cloth, and textile expert Eleri Lynn, curator of historic dress at Historic Royal Palaces, now believes it was part of one of Queen Elizabeth I's dresses. Possibly even the skirt of the one she is wearing in the famous Rainbow Portrait. Because when the material was sent for restoration, it was discovered that it's made from cloth of silver with the most exquisite and detailed embroidery, all done on this one piece of material. (In Tudor times, apparently most embroidery was done on separate pieces which were later affixed to the clothing, but that wasn't the case here). The wearing of cloth of silver was restricted by law at that time (the sumptuary laws) and only the monarch herself or immediate members of the royal family were allowed to use it. Since the material dates from the last decade of the sixteenth century, that meant only one person could have owned it - Elizabeth herself. There were no other royals at that time.

Eleri Lynn attended the rededication service and told us how finding this piece of one of Elizabeth's dresses was, to her, like finding the Holy Grail. She said that if anyone had ever asked her what she would most like to find, this was it. There are hardly any pieces of clothing left from Tudor royals, only what is assumed to be one of Henry VIII's hats. Of Elizabeth I's vast wardrobe there was nothing until now - so this is the only surviving item. Eleri had brought along another facsimile of the altar cloth, which we were allowed to take a closer look at after the service. It was fascinating to see the botanical pattern up close. She also showed us photos of some parts which have been restored already, and the difference was incredible! Instead of the dull and faded colours, there were the most vivid blues, greens and yellows. Amazingly beautiful!

The piece of cloth will eventually go on display when it has all been restored (a massive job, as I said) and I can't wait to see it in all its glory. It's going to be magnificent!

I love when discoveries such as these are made - so exciting!

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As I've been away, I'm a bit late posting about this, but I was absolutely over the moon to find out that not just one, but TWO of my books have been shortlisted for this years RoNAs!

The RoNAs are the UK Romantic Novelists' Association's annual awards for excellence in romantic fiction, and this year they comprise seven categories (one more than last year). My novel The Velvet Cloak of Moonlight is shortlisted in the newest category, Paranormal, as it features ghosts and other paranormal phenomena, and it's lovely to be one of the first books acknowledged in this way. I'm up against some great RNA friends of mine - Jan Jones, Kate Johnson and Hywela Lyn - and it will be very exciting to see which one of us triumphs on the night.

As if that wasn't wonderful enough,

New England Dreams
, written under my own name, has been shortlisted in the Young Adult category. I'm really pleased about this as it was self-published and this is the first time the RNA has allowed independently published books to feature on the shortlists. I may also be the first author to be shortlisted under two different names in the same year (?!), which would be an added bonus.

The awards event will be held on Monday 13th March and whatever happens I know it will be a fun evening - can't wait!

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Kirsty Ferry, whose latest book The Girl in the Photograph (the third book in her Rossetti Mysteries series) has just been published as an ebook, while the second book in the series, The Girl in the Painting is now out in paperback. I've had the privilege of reading an advance copy of this novel and I can highly recommend it - it's a wonderful time slip story!

Here's a Q & A with Kirsty to tell us a bit more about it:-

The books in this trilogy all feature Pre-Raphaelite or Victorian artists - what first drew them to your attention and have you studied them at uni (you are very knowledgeable about Victorian art)?

I think the thing that drew me to them initially was when I read about Dante Gabriel Rossetti digging up Lizzie Siddal's body and raiding her coffin to retrieve a book of poems he'd buried with her. I started researching a little bit more just out of morbid curiosity really, and the more I found out, the more fascinated I became. I wrote a short story called The Other Ophelia which was a YA ghost story where a young lad was recreating the famous Millais Ophelia painting and the ghost of Rossetti didn't like it. What actually happened in real life, is that Lizzie lay freezing in a bath of cold water while Millais painted her, and she became very ill - and the public turned her into a sort of Gothic, idealised, Victorian 'celebrity'. Beyond all that you have this overriding, quite dangerous, obsessive passion between her and Rossetti.

I filed the short story away for a few years, then pulled it out again when I decided to write The Girl in the Painting. I'd read some of Rossetti's poems by then, and was struck by Sudden Light, which is all about soulmates. Some Veil Did Fall was based on that poem, The Girl in the Painting was inspired by Lizzie and The Girl in the Photograph by Pre-Raphaelite photography - another art form that took the world by storm. I studied a little bit of art history during my degree but would love to take it further. Everything else was gleaned by good old-fashioned research and reading. You should see the pile of books I acquired!

I'm particularly fond of Millais' paintings, but also like other Victorian artists, especially Lord Leighton. Who is your favourite?

I love the Pre-Raphaelites of course, but some of Rossetti's work is quite wild and slapdash when you compare it with the perfection of Millais! I am also a huge fan of the Impressionists and could stare at Degas' ballerina pictures for hours. And John Singer Sargent did some fabulous work - but he was a little later, and more of an Edwardian artist, I suppose.

If you could own one painting from that era which one would you choose? (Not sure I could choose one as there are so many amazing ones!)

Ohhhh - what a choice! Can I just own the Tate Gallery? If pushed I'd have to say Millais Ophelia was up there, naturally, or I might have to expand the timeline slightly and go for Edward Robert Hughes Midsummer Eve, which is a gorgeous piece of 'fairy art' from about 1908. That's actually a really tough question! But do you know, Landseer's Dignity and Impudence would be wonderful - Google it. It's two dogs in a kennel and the little one is so cheeky!

This novel also deals with photography - did you have to do a lot of research about this? Have you tried it yourself?

I love old photographs and again did plenty of reading about the Pre-Raphaelite side of it, and especially about Julia Margaret Cameron for The Girl in the Photograph. Lorelei was a perfect heroine to team up with my Edwardian photographer - all she ever wanted to do was have a photograph taken of her. It's something we take for granted nowadays.

I also visited Lacock Abbey, which was the home of Henry Fox Talbot, an innovative Victorian photographer, and I saw the window which exists in the first photographic negative. At Lacock there were some astonishing statistics of the amount of pictures we take now to the amount they took then - it's very thought-provoking. I had a lovely camera when I was in my early twenties. Then my Dad dismantled it for some reason and I was left with a working light-meter and nothing else. He kindly held the meter up and demonstrated how it still worked, but that was no use to me at all! I've tinkered with things like Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro and have taken some really nice photographs unexpectedly; but again it's something I'd like to pursue further. Maybe one day!

Do you have any old photos you can share with us?

When I was researching photographic plates I fell in love with something on eBay from America - these original Edwardian glass photo plates. I have no idea who the people are, but had to buy them. I took them to work and one of the technicians scanned them into a machine for me and the pictures you see here are the result.

I've also got this lovely little one of my Grandma. I think it was a school photo, and it's tiny as you can see by the pencil I put next to it - I suspect she was just cut out of a group shot. She was born in 1909, so it's quite an old one. The original is all cracked and damaged, so I scanned it in and spent hours cleaning it up with Paint Shop Pro. Then I printed out a new copy for me and one for my mum. It really is one of my most precious possessions.

Many thanks, Kirsty! I love the old photos and photo plates, amazing what you can find on eBay. Happy publication for The Girl in the Photograph!

Bio:-

Kirsty is from the North East of England and won the English Heritage/Belsay Hall National Creative Writing competition in 2009 with the ghostly tale 'Enchantment'. Her timeslip novel, Some Veil Did Fall, a paranormal romance set in Whitby, was published by Choc Lit in Autumn 2014. This was followed by another Choc Lit timeslip, The Girl in the Painting in February 2016 and now The Girl in the Photograph (March 2017). The experience of signing 'Some Veil Did Fall' in a quirky bookshop in the midst of Goth Weekend in Whitby, dressed as a recently undead person, was one of the highlights of her writing career so far! Kirsty's day-job involves sharing a Georgian building with an eclectic collection of ghosts - which can sometimes prove rather interesting.

You can find out more about Kirsty and her work at www.rosethornpress.co.uk - catch her on her Facebook Author Page or follow her on Twitter @kirsty_ferry.

THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPH

What if the past was trying to teach you a lesson?

Staying alone in the shadow of an abandoned manor house in Yorkshire would be madness to some, but art enthusiast Lissy de Luca can't wait. Lissy has her reasons for seeking isolation, and she wants to study the Staithes Group - an artists' commune active at the turn of the twentieth century.

Lissy is fascinated by the imposing Sea Scarr Hall - but the deeper she delves, the stranger things get. A lonely figure patrols the cove at night, whilst a hidden painting leads to a chilling realisation. And then there's the photograph of the girl; so beautiful she could be a mermaid… and so familiar.

As Lissy further immerses herself, she comes to an eerie conclusion: The occupants of Sea Scarr Hall are long gone, but they have a message for her - and they're going to make sure she gets it.

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Travelling through the Welsh valleys on a beautiful autumn day is amazing and yesterday I had a great excuse for doing just that - I was heading for Ystrad Mynach in South Wales to do a library talk together with my fellow Choc Lit authors Chris Stovell and Evonne Wareham.

Ystad Mynach library has recently been refurbished and it was looking fab! Just the sort of place I love to go to browse the shelves and find reading gems. We were given a very warm welcome by the lovely librarians (including one from another nearby library) and then joined by the audience who had come to hear us talk about "Heroes, Heroines and Happy Endings ".

It all felt very informal, like chatting to friends, and we covered all sorts of topics/questions. Among other things we talked about our research and Chris demonstrated why trying to write a romantic scene with your hero and heroine wearing sailing gear and life jackets might not be such a good idea! Not impossible, but certainly not easy.

We all write different sub-genres, different heroes, and our opinions on happy endings were similar but not quite the same, but the main ingredient is of course the romance and being left feeling upbeat and positive after reading - we all agreed on that.

All in all, we had a wonderful afternoon and hope to go back again soon - thank you so much to the staff and everyone who came to our talk!

(PS. Many thanks to Alex for allowing me to use her photos in this blog post!)

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Yesterday I spent the day in Nottingham in order to attend my lovely friend Sue Moorcroft's book launch for her latest novel - The Christmas Promise. (A fantastic read - kept me up till the early hours as I couldn't stop reading it!) Waterstones in Nottingham have a wonderful event space and we had a perfect evening, listening to a reading by Sue followed by a Q & A session. Sue's heroine is a milliner so she wore a fantastic little cocktail hat made specially for her and some of the rest of us wore hats too. And to fit in with the theme of the book, the events manager declared the Christmas season officially started at the shop!

While waiting for this evening event, I wandered round the city as I'd never been before. Being a history buff, my first destination was of course the castle where Charles I started the English Civil War by raising his royal standard on 22nd August 1642. Sadly though, there didn't seem to be much left of the castle he would have known as most of it was razed to the ground and another house built within the castle walls instead later on. (That, in turn, was badly damaged by fire during riots in the 1800s). I was disappointed to find so little mention of Charles and the war, mostly just a plaque put up by the Sealed Knot on the 350th anniversary of that August day and what I assumed was supposed to be a reference to Charles's children on a pub sign - 'The Royal Children'. (Whoever painted that had obviously never seen Van Dyck's portraits of the king's offspring!)

The view from the castle grounds was fantastic though - if a bit scary for those of us who don't like heights - and underneath were caves (which I didn't have a chance to look at this time). And there was plenty of shopping to be had in the city centre, including a shop with my name on it - perfect!

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The Velvet Cloak of Moonlight at last and I'm so pleased it's finally out there! This was one of those novels that was "brewing " in my mind for a long time before I actually started it so it feels like it's been a long time coming, but I hope readers will enjoy the end result.

Here is the blurb:

"As the velvet cloak of moonlight settled over the ruined towers of Raglan Castle, the shadows beneath them stirred… "

When newly widowed Tess visits Raglan Castle, she experiences an extraordinary vision that transports her to seventeenth-century Wales and a castle on the brink of a siege.

Even when Tess leaves Raglan to return to Merrick Court, her late husband's home, the strange dreams continue as her life becomes increasingly intertwined with the past. And when the new owner of the estate arrives - New Zealander Josh Owens - the parallels become even more obvious.

But perhaps the visions aren't just trying to tell their own story, maybe they're also giving a warning…

Raglan Castle is a very special and magical place - if you're ever passing by, do stop for a visit if you have the time as it's well worth it. The people who defended it so valiantly during the final siege in 1646 must have been very special too and I hope I've done them justice!

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Just back from the 2016 Historical Novel Society (HNS) conference in Oxford where I had a wonderful time, as always!

The venue was superb in a truly beautiful city and I was lucky enough to have time for a quick wander round when I arrived on the Friday afternoon. I had a look at some of the famous colleges - including one with a fierce-looking porter/guard wearing a bowler hat! - and then managed a lightning tour of the Ashmolean Museum. I've wanted to see King Alfred's jewel for ages and although it was a bit smaller than I'd expected, it was lovely. Plus they had a lot of other interesting objects and paintings as well - I will have to go back some day for a longer visit.

Once the conference itself got going there was no time for sight-seeing - we were kept busy with some fantastic talks, panels and workshops, and among the main speakers were Melvyn Bragg and Tracy Chevalier, both excellent.

Of the workshops, I particularly enjoyed the one led by Paula Lofting and her Regia Anglorum friends where we were taught how to build a shield wall when fighting like Anglo-Saxons. This was fascinating stuff and I was really pleased to have a chance to hold a battle axe and a shield, both quite heavy! (Am now also very tempted to shout 'Ut! Ut! Ut!' all the time LOL)

I also loved the workshop on secret Stuart marriages by Nicola Cornick and Andrea Zuvich, and the panel talk about historical YA fiction featuring C C Humphreys, Deborah Swift and Simon Scarrow.

The 'gala' dinner was great, with a costume pageant and a brilliant after-dinner speech by C W Gortner. And meeting up with old friends and making new ones is always fun and I very much enjoyed chatting to various people, lots of whom had come all the way from the US - so lovely to meet them! My thanks go to the fantastic organising committee who, I know, had worked incredibly hard to put together the programme and they made sure everything was seamless. Huge thanks also to my workshop 'partner' and fellow Swede Anna Belfrage who made our own workshop run smoothly and put together our presentation. Can't wait for the next conference now!

Here are some of the photos I took:-

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I had a fantastic time last night at the Chippenham Library, taking part in a panel talk which in turn was part of the Chippenham Lit Fest. It's always lovely to get together with fellow RNA members and much more fun when you're not alone doing a talk!

There were six of us - Nicola Cornick, Louise Douglas, Alison Knight, Jean Burnett, Teresa F Morgan and myself - on the panel. There were some fab questions from the librarian in charge and also from the audience, and it's always fun to hear the varying answers of so many authors - we're all so different in the way we approach things!

There was delicious home-made cake and other refreshments, and lots of chatting afterwards. All in all, a really enjoyable event so huge thanks to everyone who took part and organised it!

Here are some of my photos:-

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Have just had a fabulous week with my Swedish "apprentice ", Adam! We've had fun going round London in search of ideas, inspiration, settings and characters and I hope he enjoyed it as much as I did 🙂

In Sweden, teenagers get to have a week at the end of year 8 where they go out into a workplace to see what it's like to do different jobs - preferably the sort they think they might like to pursue as a career in the future. They get to try out various aspects and really find out what a job entails, which I think is great. Either they'll love it or they can see it's not for them, but whatever happens it's important and a great opportunity.

Adam wants to be an author, so he'd asked if he could be my "apprentice " for a week and I was very happy to agree. I don't know how useful it's been in terms of deciding his future, but I hope I've given him a little taste of what I do. And London is definitely a very inspiring place!

Here are some photos from our outings/fact-finding missions:-

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Last week I attended the annual London Book Fair at Olympia, West Kensington, and as always the place was buzzing! There were some amazing stands with imaginative displays - not just of books, but everything the publishing industry could possibly want or need. A very enjoyable three days!

Here are some of the photos I took:-

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Had a lovely time at the RoNA Awards Event last night even though The Secret Kiss of Darkness didn't win - huge congratulations to Iona Grey who won both our category and the overall prize of Romantic Novel of the Year!

As always, it was wonderful to be at the Gladstone Library, the perfect venue for any literary event, and it was fun to catch up with friends and fellow ChocLieers, one of whom won the Contemporary category - congrats to Melanie Hudson!

The prizes were presented by TV personality and author Fern Britton and I really enjoyed all the thank you speeches, in particular those given by the two Outstanding Achievement Award winners, Claire Lorrimer and Anita Burgh. They were both very amusing and were given a standing ovation by the audience - fab!

I'm sure there will be official photos soon, but here are some of mine!

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I have just returned from two days in Spain where I attended the sixth annual 'Yo Leo RA' (roughly translated 'I read romantic fiction') 'Encuentros RA' conference in the heart of Madrid - a fantastic experience!

This was a conference for readers and authors of romantic fiction which started six years ago with around 80 people getting together in a bar to share their love of the romance genre. It has been growing steadily ever since and this time there were over 500 attendees, 120 of them authors! I really enjoyed chatting to some of them and all were enthusiastic and extremely friendly, making me feel very welcome.

Among them were the lovely Laura Frias of the Cientos de Miles de Historias blog (whom I have had the pleasure of meeting before so it was great to see her again!), fellow Libros de Seda author Nuria Llop and the lady who runs the Lectur Adictiva blog. It was great to see romance appreciated so much and the way the audience engaged in the discussions showed how passionate they are about romantic novels - just as it should be!

I was honoured to have been invited to take part in the programme and after listening to two panel discussions, it was my turn to take to the stage, where author and organiser Merche Diolch asked me questions. My Spanish is a little rusty (I can understand most of it but have forgotten so many words!) but fortunately I had two members of the Libros de Seda team (my Spanish publisher) to help me with translation - Maria Jos é de Jaime and Alex Many é - huge thanks to them and to Merche for her patience!

Unusually for Spain, the weather was awful with rain and strong winds, but I managed to get to the Prado and Thyssen-Bournemisza museums to have a look at all the fabulous artworks on display. It was almost too much to take in, a real feast for the eyes with some paintings so beautiful it was hard to believe anyone could have created them.

I finished my time in Madrid with a stroll round the old streets in the centre, narrow with the typical Spanish houses covered in wrought-iron balconies, and the sense of history was overwhelming. A stark contrast to the very new and very modern airport, whose ceilings had to be seen to be believed! All in all, a very enjoyable visit to one of my favourite countries - a very big thank you to the 'Yo Leo RA' organisers for inviting me!

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RoNA (RNA's Romantic Novel Awards) shortlists have been announced and I am thrilled to have The Secret Kiss of Darkness nominated in the Historical Romantic Novel category! I have known for a while but was sworn to secrecy so it's lovely to be able to tell everyone at last 🙂

I'm up against some fabulous historical authors and am very much looking forward to reading their books. Here's the list:-

and here are the author photos:-

Special shout out for fellow ChocLiteers Melanie Hudson, Alison May and Angela Britnell who are also shortlisted in various categories - so exciting!

The awards ceremony is on the 7th March - please keep your fingers crossed for me!

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Today I'm very pleased to be able to reveal the cover of my new Regency novella, Marry for Love - it's a new style of cover for this series and I love it!

Marry for Love is available for pre-order now and will be published in ebook format on Monday (11th January). Here is the blurb:-

Trapped in an intolerable marriage?

Delilah cannot bear to watch as her twin sister Deborah marries Hamish Baillie, Fourth Earl of Blackwood. Not only because she knows that her conniving sister has manipulated the poor man into marriage, but also because she has been in love with the Earl since she first set eyes on him…

Delilah is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to save Hamish from a life of unhappiness - but will her plan work, or will she have to accept that she is no match for her twin's scheming ways?

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The boys and I just wanted to wish you all a very

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

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Autumn is my favourite time of year and although it's getting darker, nature puts on such an amazing display to brighten up the days it doesn't matter!

All the Halloween pumpkins certainly add a splash of colour and it's wonderful to see all the little kids getting excited about dressing up - don't they make you smile too? Happy Halloween everyone!

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The Jade Lioness - I'm so pleased the third book in the trilogy is available at last! I always like complete sets of a series on my book shelves 🙂

In order to celebrate there is a competition over on the Choc Lit blog (Choc Lit Corner) where you can win these lovely jade items plus a signed copy of the book. Just head over there and leave a comment and you could be in with a chance!

Meanwhile, here is the blurb:-

Can an impossible love become possible?

Nagasaki, 1648

Temperance Marston longs to escape war-torn England and explore the exotic empire of Japan. When offered the chance to accompany her cousin and Captain Noordholt on a trading expedition to Nagasaki, she jumps at the opportunity. However, she soon finds the country's strict laws for foreigners curtail her freedom.

On a dangerous and foolhardy venture she meets Kazuo, a ronin. Kazuo is fascinated by her blonde hair and blue eyes, but he has a mission to complete and he cannot be distracted. Long ago, his father was accused of a crime he didn't commit - stealing a valuable jade lioness ornament from the Shogun - and Kazuo must restore his family's honour.

But when Temperance is kidnapped and sold as a concubine, he has to make a decision - can he save her and keep the promise he made to his father?

Buy links:-

Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jade-Lioness-Kumashiro-Christina-Courtenay/dp/1781892377/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1444222646&sr=1-1

Amazon US http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1781892377?keywords=The%20jade%20lioness&qid=1444222741&ref_=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2&sr=8-1

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In honour of the publication of my friend Rhoda Baxter's new novel Please Release Me (happy publication day, Rhoda!!), I'm blogging today on the theme of 'being stuck', because all the main characters in that book are stuck in some way.

I guess we all feel stuck sometimes - mostly in the daily "rut " when life can feel like it's Groundhog Day and very tedious. This is especially the case for an author when working on a book as every day is more or less the same. Even weekends in my case - being self-employed you don't have the nine-to-five restraints and you just work until it's finished. I don't really mind, but it always feels a bit weird when friends say "thank goodness it's the weekend " as that's meaningless to me!

The thing I'm stuck on now though is a bit more specific and - predictably - it's the plot of my next story, a YA fantasy. I need to make it darker and more frightening, but at the same time more believable. Not an easy task!

I've found that there are two types of story: those that come fully formed into your mind and just flow onto the page without any trouble, and those that seem like a good idea when you start writing them but turn into a real battle to finish. My current WIP - provisionally titled Dare to Defy - was, I thought, of the first variety, but on further inspection is turning into the second category. Bother!

That means revisions, rethinks and actually having to write a proper outline (something I usually try to avoid, being the kind of writer who just sits down and writes normally), but I'll just have to get on with it and hope that I'm soon un-stuck 🙂

Blurb for Please Release Me:-

What if you could only watch as your bright future slipped away from you?

Sally Cummings has had it tougher than most but, if nothing else, it's taught her to grab o

pportunity with both hands. And, when she stands looking into the eyes of her new husband Peter on her perfect wedding day, it seems her life is finally on the up.

That is until the car crash that puts her in a coma and throws her entire future into question.

In the following months, a small part of Sally's consciousness begins to return, allowing her to listen in on the world around her - although she has no way to communicate.

But Sally was never going to let a little thing like a coma get in the way of her happily ever after…


Buy link: myBook.to/PleaseReleaseMe

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This year's RNA conference was held at Queen Mary University in Mile End, London, and although most of us had a bit of a struggle to get there (thanks to a tube strike), a fantastic time was had by all! I certainly came away buzzing with ideas and enthusiastic about writing - it was fab and just what I needed!

There was so much going on, it was impossible to go to all the talks or to see/speak to everyone, but here is a short summary of the events I attended (and a couple I participated in):-

The Agents' Panel on the Friday which was superb - brilliantly chaired by Carole Blake of Blake Friedmann, it included Caroline Sheldon(Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency), Hannah Ferguson (Hardman & Swainson), Tim Bates (Pollinger) and Lisa Eveleigh (Richford Becklow). It's always great to get the agents' perspective on what is happening in publishing so this was fascinating.

Matt Bates, the lovely fiction buyer from WH Smith Travel gave a great talk about what sells and doesn't sell in his stores. I especially loved his insights into covers and the huge importance they have!

Sarah Broadhurst, book reviewer extraordinaire, told us about her lifelong love of books and her career - very entertaining and interesting!

An Editors' Panel, chaired by Jane Johnson (who is also an author) gave more fascinating insights, and a panel of book bloggers/reviewers told us what reviewers are looking for and how to approach them. This panel included the lovely Charlie of The Worm Hole blog, whom I'd had the pleasure of sitting next to at dinner on the first evening. We share a love of castles!

Author Hazel Gaynor talked about promotion; Eileen Ramsay (RNA's new chair) led a panel discussion that featured Katie Fforde, Jane Johnson and Daniel Hahn (chair of the Society of Authors); and author Ruth Long gave a fabulous talk about magic and folklore that made me want to rush home and write fantasy books! Then Alison Baverstock taught us about marketing, Tamsyn Murray analysed three YA books to find out why they've been such huge successes and Kerry Fisher talked about her road to traditional publication.

I did a talk on "Show don't tell " with the brilliant Sue Moorcroft, utilising some of the many Japanese things I've collected over the years and finally I was one of many who ended up on Jane Wenham-Jones's Sunday Sofa to discuss our quirks… Are you exhausted reading all this? Well, then you'll see why I now need a week to recover from the conference 🙂 But I'm already looking forward to the next one!

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Just wanted to wish Choc Lit a very Happy 6th Birthday today! So many lovely books during that time and I'm very privileged to be part of the Choc Lit "family " 🙂 I think I shall have to make one of these Swedish strawberry cream cakes to help celebrate the occasion. Here's to many more birthdays to come!

PS. If you haven't seen it already, there's a special "round robin " birthday story on the Choc Lit blog - check it out (here)!

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It's been a hectic couple of weeks that brought a major change to my life - I am no longer the chairman of the UK's Romantic Novelists' Association. As of their AGM (on 21st May) I finished my term in office and was free to attend the RNA's Summer Party as just another member - bliss! As you can see from the photos here (and below), it was a fun evening as always, hosted by my successor - the lovely Eileen Ramsay! I'm sure she's going to be a fabulous chair and I wish her all the best!

I have enjoyed my two years as chair very much (have I told you I'm very bossy and love organising things?), but I can't deny it's eaten into my writing time (and other things) so it will be nice to get back to something resembling normality again. Since the party, I have already finished off a new Regency novella I've been meaning to work on for ages - which will hopefully be published in the not too distant future - and have been working on edits of book three in my YA series about the teenagers at Northbrooke High, New England TLC. With a bit of luck that will be published very soon!

Meanwhile, I had a mini holiday in Sweden visiting friends and relatives and catching up on my cinnamon bun consumption - trust me, they are truly delicious! I think I may need to do some baking very soon…

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Today I have the last post in the favourite travel destinations series - I hope you have enjoyed these as much as I have! A warm welcome to K C Abbott who has chosen a truly stunning place as a finale:-

Christina asked for exotic, so I thought I'd do oriental, in honour of her Jade Lioness. Most of us think of Japan or China when we think of oriental. Just to be different, I decided to show you Korea. There is much, much more to Korea than Hyundai cars and Samsung TVs.

It's a fascinating country, tacked on to the Chinese mainland and a short sea-crossing from Japan, with a proud history which goes back 2000 years. It has influences from both neighbours - and Japan ruled it from 1910 to 1945 - but Korean culture remains distinct. If you know Japan, you'll see the differences in what follows.

In the grounds of Kyongbok Palace in Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea, many of the women (but not the men!) wear traditional dress. It's quite usual to do so on holidays; more so than kimono-wearing in Japan, I think. In this picture, the few women in Western dress look slightly out of place to me.

Male traditional dress is rarely seen, but here's an example on stage, with court musicians playing two types of Korean zither. Visitors can also see amazing dancing and drumming displays, by female performers.

Koreans pride themselves on their exquisite Celadon ceramics which fetch enormous prices nowadays and are much sought after by collectors. There are also beautiful brush paintings, in a style similar to Chinese.

Equally astonishing, and unique to Korea, is the Tanchong style of decorating the external woodwork of buildings. The colours have to be seen to be believed. Yes, they ARE that bright.

Korean is a very difficult foreign language to learn. I was warned off by a colleague who was fluent in both Mandarin Chinese and Japanese. Even he was finding Korean difficult, so I decided I would be wise not to try! Fortunately for me, many Koreans speak excellent English, partly as a result of the US military presence there.

Korean has its own phonetic alphabet of 26 letters, called Hangul, invented in the 15th century and much easier to learn than Chinese characters. This early example of printing shows the simple Korean letters interspersed with Chinese characters to explain what the new letters meant. You can easily see how complex the Chinese is, by comparison.

Lovers of oriental food will be used to wielding long bamboo chopsticks. Korean chopsticks are different. They're shorter, pointed, and made of metal, often silver. The theory is that, if you dip your silver chopsticks into poisoned food, they will turn black and you will know to avoid the danger. At least, that was the reasoning that my Korean friends explained to me.

This is part of a Korean banquet. The silver chopsticks are on the table, bottom right, alongside a silver spoon.

Korea is an amazing and very hospitable country. Definitely recommended, if you're going to the Far East!

Thank you so much, Casey! I visited Korea a very long time ago but I missed a lot of these wonderful sights so will definitely have to go back some time.

Casey's latest book is Viper Venom: short stories to chill the blood which is available now as a free download on Smashwords (or for 99p on Kindle here). For fans of Casey's dystopian thriller All Cats Are Grey, there's a short story prequel in Viper Venom.

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Today we go a little bit further afield again with the favourite travel destinations as Liz Harris tells us hers and she definitely prefers a hotter climate:-

When writing Evie Undercover, I'd have been hard put to say which had come first - the sudden desire to write a romantic comedy or my fervent wish to set a story set in the place I'm drawn to every year - Umbria in Italy. Maybe the setting had a slight edge. Umbria is one of my favourite travel destinations. It has everything I could wish for in a place and I never tire of going there, whether to escape from real life and write, or merely to relax.

It has beauty. The countryside is stunning. My favourite time of day is in the evening, sitting outside on the loggia, drinking a bellini while watching the sun set over the hills. It has history. Throughout Umbria, small towns sit atop hills, each with narrow cobbled streets that lead from a central piazza and open on to a lovely view. To sit outside a caf é, drinking coffee while watching the world go by - what could be more relaxing? Three of my favourite towns are the medieval walled town of Bevagna, Montefalco, famous for its wine, and the Roman town of Todi.

Yes, Umbria, unspoilt by tourism, was the inspiration for my rom com. I had the setting so all I then needed was a man and a woman - yes, I was really on the ball! First an engaging heroine for whom no hurdle was too great, and enterprising Evie Shaw was born. And then a hero. Enter handsome libel lawyer, Tom Hadleigh.

Tom had bought a 14th century Umbrian house on a whim. Nearing the end of the house's restoration, Tom's input is needed. But alas, he doesn't speak a word of Italian and his Italian surveyor doesn't speak a word of English. It just so happens, though, that Evie, whose father was Italian, is fluent in the language. What a happy coincidence!

Alas, the path of true love never runs smooth. And especially not when Evie is being forced to work undercover in order to keep her job on the gossip magazine, Pure Dirt - the only job in journalism she'd been able to get. And especially not when the beautiful sister of Tom's Italian surveyor, Eduardo di Montefiori, sleek and gallant in a Mediterranean way, is staying with her brother. Trouble most definitely lay ahead.

Thank you, Liz! Umbria sounds fantastic and Italy is definitely on my list of places I want to visit next!

Evie Undercover is out in paperback on 7th July. Available on Kindle and for pre-order.

Visit Liz at her website www.lizharrisauthor.com

Follow her on twitter: @lizharrisauthor

Please come back tomorrow for the final post in this series when we hear from K C Abbott!

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We've heard about some truly wonderful destinations this past week and today I welcome Kirsty Ferry to tell us about her favourite, which is a bit closer to home but just as lovely:-

I would have to say my favourite holiday destination is Norfolk. We've been going to the same cottage every couple of years for almost two decades and it was the first place we took our son on holiday. He was 18 months old and I still remember him quacking at the ducks on the lawn.

'Our' cottage is a beautiful converted coaching inn which is practically on the banks of the River Waveney, in a little village called Brockdish, near Diss, on the Norfolk Suffolk border. It's a home from home and so lovely to know that when we get there we can just kick back and relax and walk down to feed the descendants of those ducks every night on the riverbank. Even the journey to Brockdish is filled with landmarks we look forward to seeing and we actually love travelling past the pig farms as we see all the piglets in their little metal tents!

We're going again this year and I can't wait. My latest book is set in Suffolk so it's definitely an area full of inspiration as well. Plus there's a very poor Internet connection in the cottage so there's no excuse for not writing a little bit on the evenings if I get the chance!

That does sound beautiful and very relaxing - thank you, Kirsty!

Kirsty's novel Some Veil Did Fall is set in Whitby, another fabulous UK travel destination which I'd love to visit soon!

Please come back tomorrow to hear from Liz Harris, who likes her holidays hot!

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I'm loving all these travel tales on the blog (in honour of the exotic setting of my novel The Jade Lioness) and today it's Kathryn Freeman's turn to tell us about her favourite travel destination:- Hawaii - I blame it on the TV series Hawaii-5-0. Not the old one, though I enjoyed that too, but the new series on Sky. That's when I became hooked on visiting Hawaii. The scenery looked stunning - and I'm not just talking about Steve McGarrett (played by the gorgeous Alex O'Loughlin).

In real life it didn't disappoint, either. Just as well because getting there took a twelve hour flight to LA and another six hour one to Honolulu (umm, it's not just off the west coast of America as I'd imagined. It's nearer to Japan!).

Though we didn't come across the Hawaii-5-0 cast, there was no shortage of amazing sights and experiences. I've not been anywhere else in the world where you can experience so much in one place. On Ohau, the main island, there was history (Pearl harbour), culture (the Polynesian centre), glamour (Waikiki beach) and of course a spectacular coastline, complete with the occasional dozing monk seal.

Then came Big Island and a helicopter ride over one of the most active volcanoes on earth, a walk through craters and scalded forests and a massive zip wire over valleys and waterfalls (the scenery was so stunning I forgot to be scared).

Finally it was to the more peaceful Kauai (Garden island) with it's green turtles, incredible snorkeling and Na Pali coast line, where Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean have been filmed.

As a writer, I love words, but I have to admit photographs do Hawaii more justice than any descriptive words I could pen. It's a holiday with bit of everything, that will please both adults and children - even my teenagers. It is just like the TV series - but without the violence.

Thank you, Kathryn, I totally agree! I've only been to Oahu so will have to try and get to the other islands some time - it all looks wonderful!

Kathryn's latest book is Do Opposites Attract? where the heroine heads to South America, another interesting place. Here are the buy links:-

UK - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Do-Opposites-Attract-Choc-Lit-ebook/dp/B00KRJLFZ8

US - http://www.amazon.com/Do-Opposites-Attract-Choc-Lit-ebook/dp/B00KRJLFZ8

Please come back tomorrow to hear from…

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Most of us love to travel and visit new places and we all have favourites. To celebrate the e-book publication of my new novel The Jade Lioness, I asked some of my fellow authors to tell me what their favourite exotic (or not so exotic?) travel destinations are and to recount some of their travel tales (good or bad!). Today Anna Belfrage reflects on what travelling means to her and where she prefers to end up:-

To travel is to expand your mind. There is a saying that "he who travels has a story to tell " - which is true enough, even if these days places all over the world are becoming depressingly similar in some aspects. No matter where one sets foot on this world of ours, chances are there will be a McDonalds, and I'm not sure this is a good thing. At all.

Through my work I travel a lot. I have the privilege of landing in new places, meeting new people, on a regular basis. And yes, I have fallen in love with some of those places, such as Istanbul, Treviso in Italy, Chicago and Taipei. My first loves, however, remain the same: London and home.

For some people, "home " is a defined place on Earth. For me, due to an itinerant childhood, "home " has been something I have constantly been looking for, a little corner in the world in which to sink my roots. It took me a very long time to find this place, but since some three years back, an old farm in the middle of nowhere has become home - with a capital "h ".

The house is only a century old or so. It nestles into the stony ground on which it is situated, one side facing the lake, the other the surrounding woods. The farm as such is even older - the ancient foundations of the barn, the impressive stone walls, date back to the 17th century when this part of Sweden was Danish. It gives me a strong sensation of continuity to run my hand along these walls, touch timbers so old each individual adze-stroke is easily discernible. My adopted place. Home.

So when I am out travelling, it is always the inbound journey that fills me with joy and expectation. It is when we turn down the last little lane that I can't stop myself from grinning, all of me filling with warmth at the sight of the yellow house, the two huge red barns. I imagine my protagonist in The Graham Saga, Alex Graham, feels the same whenever she sees her 17th century homestead rise out of the Maryland woods - a house built in larch that snuggles into the protective hillside beyond. In fact, I know she feels the same way, and over the divide of time and imagination, she meets my eyes and smiles. Home - the best place on Earth.

Thank you, Anna, it does sound like a heavenly place indeed!

Anna Belfrage is the author of the successful and acclaimed series, The Graham Saga. Set in 17th century Scotland, Virginia and Maryland, The Graham Saga is the story of two people who should never have met, not when she was born three centuries after him. But as Anna says, "there you are, sometimes impossible things happen, and had they not, Alex would never have met the man fated from the very beginning to be her other half, her companion through life. " For more information about Anna and her books, why not visit her website, her blog, or her Amazon page.

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There are so many wonderful places to visit in the world and to celebrate the e-book publication of my new novel The Jade Lioness, I've asked some of my fellow authors to tell me what their favourite exotic (or not so exotic?) travel destinations are and to recount some of their travel tales (good or bad!). Today Georgia Hill is going to tell us about a rather unusual journey:-

I love train travel. The journey across the Cotswolds from my home in Herefordshire to Paddington is wonderful if a little leisurely. I've been lucky enough to take the Orient Express from Venice and hope, one day, to travel across Canada by train. I'm even a bit of a steam train geek and get childishly excited whenever I can go on one. Soot smuts and all.

Travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway in the winter of 1989 was a whole other experience. Gorbachev was in power and the old Soviet system was just beginning to crumble. It was an exciting time to go. I travelled with a group of other westerners (it was the only way possible back then; independent travel wasn't permitted) some of whom claimed were making a documentary for television. They had caused us all sorts of problems at border control, where their enormous cache of film equipment raised alarm and suspicion in the customs officers. Glasnost may have been at its height but it hadn't filtered through to old-school Soviet bureaucracy!

We boarded the train in Moscow and were headed to Irkutsk and a hard-frozen Lake Baikal, the most easterly point we were allowed. A journey of four or five days. The sleeping compartment was comfortable enough, even though my boyfriend and I had to share with two strangers. The washing and toilet facilities were pretty basic - but even the Orient Express doesn't do ensuites!

As westerners, we were treated with an equal measure of reverence and suspicion. One or two hardier members of our group strayed to second class to chat with the Soviet passengers but it was futile as the language barrier proved impossible. A young, broad-faced female guard sat at the end of our carriage, dispensing hot chai from an ornate, silver-plated samovar. We drank it from glasses in equally glamorous holders. It was a welcome distraction and broke up the long, boring days.

Food was a bit of a lottery. It began well but three days into the journey, meals depended on whatever supplies could be had at the remote stations at which we stopped. One lunch, which consisted of a bowl of watery broth with a whole boiled egg sitting at the bottom, stays in the memory. Goodness only knows what the less favoured passengers in second and third class ate.

The scenery passing by was monotonous. It was exactly the same day after day. Forest upon snow-covered forest of pine trees, only enlivened by the odd dacha or wooden house. I've never felt the sheer scale of a country in quite the same way.

The train was extremely hot. Despite it being the depths of a Russian winter, it remained a steamy 30C or so. Hot, quarrelsome and more than a little stir-crazy, we took to jumping off at stations and running around in T-shirts and jeans, indulging in snowball fights. We recorded a low of -32C at one point, so the novelty of breathing fresh, cold air soon waned and we returned to our stuffy cabins.

One morning, as we were queuing to get back on, feeling the cold freeze the hairs on our bare arms and faces, we heard a knocking sound from underneath the train. Further investigation proved it was our trusty samovar girl. She was hammering at something underneath the rudimentary toilet facility. Turned out whatever went into the toilet simply came out onto the track below. Only, in the sub-zero Steppes, it froze onto the bottom of the train, blocking the toilet. In between serving us delicious, hot chai, her other job was to keep the toilet clear.

After that, funnily enough, we weren't quite so keen to visit her samovar.

What became of the film makers? The leader of our group who suffered a heart attack? The arrest in Samarkand? The sinister men in black who shadowed us? Well, that's an entire novel! One I intend to write some day.

Love, Georgia x

Thank you so much, Georgia - so glad I wasn't on that train with you, doesn't sound like my cup of tea! 🙂

Georgia Hill's non train-based novel, While I Was Waiting, is out in July with Harper Impulse. And you can find her here:-

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/georgiahillauthor?ref=bookmarks

Twitter - https://twitter.com/georgiawrites

Website - www.georgiahill.co.uk

Pinterest - https://www.pinterest.com/georgiawrites/

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Everyone has a favourite place in the world or memories of their best ever holiday and here on the blog I'm continuing to celebrate the e-book publication of my new novel, The Jade Lioness, by asking some of my fellow authors to tell me what their favourite exotic (or not so exotic?) travel destinations are and to recount some of their travel tales (good or bad!). Today I have Alison May with me and she has a truly magical place in mind:-

Picking my favourite exotic location was tricky. I'm a seaside girl at heart, and as soon as I started thinking about it I was torn between two gorgeous bits of coastline -Kaiteriteri in New Zealand and Kaanapali on Maui.

Now I get that that last sentence is the most horrid humble-brag imaginable so let me make clear that I haven't spent hours narrowing it down to those two from the vast array of exotic places I've been to; it's the fact that I've only been to two exotic places that's making it tough to choose.

Kaiteriteri is the place I most associate with the first big holiday I ever took with my beloved EngineerBoy. We rented a camper van and drove around the South Island of New Zealand. We spent two nights at Kaiteriteri's camping ground right next to the beach, where there was a sandwich bar that did cheese and ham toasties. I'm not sure if it's possible to achieve a higher level of contentment than sitting watching the sea eating a cheese and ham toasty. Unfortunately though cheese and ham toasties definitely don't count as glamourous and exotic so Kaiteriteri is, regretfully, relegated to second place, and my favourite exotic location is Maui.

At the risk of coming over all 'holiday brochure' about it, Maui is incredible. It's the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands, and along with its Hawaiian Island buddies, forms a tiny speck of land in the middle of the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. It's a weird cultural mix of American, Polynesian, and something completely unique. The beaches are incredible. The wildlife is incredible. The whole atmosphere is incredible. But none of these are my reason for picking Maui as my favourite exotic location. My reason is simple: Maui is magic.

Now you're going to have to bear with me here, because I don't mean 'magic' in the sense of 'romantic, beautiful, inspiring.' I mean actually magic. And I have evidence. While we were in Hawaii, EngineerBoy and I got a teensy bit fixated on wanting to see a whale breaching. A breach is when the whale 'jumps' out of the water. During our holiday we went out on whale-watching trips and snorkelling boats, and we saw lots of whales. We saw whales up close to the boats, and in the distance from the beach and the cliffs, but by the final day we still hadn't seen a proper breach. On the drive back to the airport we stopped for a few minutes at a viewing point on top of the cliff. We had no time left. There was a plane to catch and a home and jobs to get back to, but we both had that end of holiday 'Why can't we just stay here forever?' feeling. I stuck out my bottom lip, leaned on the barrier and announced that I wasn't moving from that spot until I'd seen a whale breach. And one did. Right in front of us. Right at that moment - the thing we'd been waiting for appeared on demand at the last possible second. And so there you go. Maui - it's actually magic. Either that or the whale thing was just a coincidence, but I'm going to go with the 'magic' explanation. It's much much more exciting.

Wow, that sounds wonderful, Alison - thank you for sharing!

Alison is a novelist and short story writer, who grew up in North Yorkshire and now lives with her husband in Worcester. Her contemporary romantic comedies, including Sweet Nothing, Holly's Christmas Kiss, and Cora's Christmas Kiss, are published by Choc Lit. Alison is also a qualified teacher with a degree in Creative Writing, and teaches novel writing workshops and courses. You can find out more about Alison at www.alison-may.co.uk or on Twitter @MsAlisonMay

Alison's latest book, Midsummer Dreams¸ is available for Kindle pre-order now.

About Midsummer Dreams:-

Four people. Four messy lives. One night that changes everything…
Emily is obsessed with ending her father's new relationship - but is blind to the fact that her own is far from perfect. Dominic has spent so long making other people happy that he's hardly noticed he's not happy himself. Helen has loved the same man, unrequitedly, for ten years. Now she may have to face up to the fact that he will never be hers. Alex has always played the field. But when he finally meets a girl he wants to commit to, she is just out of his reach. At a midsummer wedding party, the bonds that tie the four friends together begin to unravel and show them that, sometimes, the sensible choice might not always be the right one.

Please come back tomorrow to hear about Georgia Hill's slightly scarier adventures!

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As my new novel The Jade Lioness is based on my favourite place to visit - Japan - I was curious about other people's, so I've asked some of my fellow authors to tell me what their favourite exotic (or not so exotic?) travel destinations are. Here is Gill Stewart to tell us about a truly outstanding one:-

For me the best destination has to be South Africa. It's where I used to live, although I haven't been back for 4 years and am missing it badly. South Africa has an amazing variety of places to visit, from the metropolitan, affluent Cape Town, to the spectacular wine routes or the arid inland Karoo. But the place to which I most want to return is the bush country of Limpopo Province. I didn't know this part of South Africa at all until my good friend moved there twenty years ago. Now I love it.

I love the clarity of the air, the way animals large and small can wander across the road, the way you live more outside than in. The peculiar vegetation, such as the massive 'upside down' baobab trees. The fact that you can stay overnight in a lodge beside a river where hippos swim - and wander out to rub themselves against the wall of your building, emitting deep (terrifying) grunts. Or you can swim below waterfalls and be delighted the water is cold because everything else is just so hot. You can sit on the terrace looking out over the bush to the mountains as the sun goes down. The pace of life is slower so you savour every moment. And yes there are lots of problems - poverty and crime being the most obvious. But it is a beautiful place, with amazing people. We're planning on returning in November and I can't wait.

There is a strange similarity between this part of South Africa in summer and Scotland (where I now live) in winter. If you go out ill-equipped you may well not survive! It is a harsh environment - here it is the cold, there the heat and lack of water. Actually, maybe what I like is extremes: another favourite destination is Iceland - land of ice and fire - but that's another story.

Thank you, Gill - I now have a great longing to visit South Africa and swim below a waterfall!

Gill's latest novel, Sunshine Through The Rain (written as Gilly Stewart) is set in Scotland, which although not quite as exotic is still one of my favourite places to visit and reading about it is almost as good.

Please come back tomorrow to hear about Alison May's adventures on the other side of the world!

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Continuing the celebrations here on the blog for the e-book publication of my new novel The Jade Lioness, I've asked some of my fellow authors to tell me what their favourite exotic (or not so exotic?) travel destinations are and to recount some of their travel tales (good or bad!). Today Sue Moorcroft is here to tell us about hers:-

I'm not sure that Malta qualifies for the 'exotic' label but as it's my favourite place, and not in the UK, I'm going to choose it.

When my family moved permanently to the UK, I had spent more than half my eight and a half years in Malta. The flat-topped limestone buildings, prickly pears, bougainvillea, blue Mediterranean, old-fashioned buses; these were the familiar landscape. Moving 'home' to London in January was a horrible shock!

One of our army quarters was a top-floor flat overlooking the Ta 'Xbiex Yacht Marina. We kids had a lot of freedom to explore the marina, cross the bridge to Manoel Island, or run around the surrounding fields (now built upon), but I also remember watching the boats from our balcony. It never occurred to me that one day I'd set a book in the marina - especially as I firmly believe that boats are best admired from the shore - but once I'd decided to send Lucas and Elle to Malta in The Wedding Proposal, nothing else would do but to moor the boat they live on, The Shady Lady, in Ta 'Xbiex.

The research, of course, was a particular pleasure. My favourite moment was asking a fisherman how deep the marina was at the point where he was fishing. He reversed his rod, plunged it into the water, withdrew it to display the wet section, and said, 'That deep.'

I wish I could have written some of The Wedding Proposal while in Malta. It wouldn't have been from 'our' flat (apparently a hairdresser named Adrian now lives there), but there are hotels. I could have got close enough. Maybe next time.

Thank you, Sue, and I think Malta sounds very exotic indeed! Sue writes contemporary women's fiction with occasionally unexpected themes. Love & Freedom won the Best Romantic Read Award 2011 and Dream a Little Dream was nominated for a RoNA in 2013. The Wedding Proposal, Dream a Little Dream and Is this Love? were all nominated for Readers' Best Romantic Read Awards. Sue's a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner, a past vice chair of the RNA and editor of its two anthologies.

Sue also writes short stories, serials, courses and writing 'how to'.

Sue's latest book (set in Malta) is: The Wedding Proposal

Links:-

Website: www.suemoorcroft.com

Blog: https://suemoorcroft.wordpress.com/

Facebook sue.moorcroft.3

Facebook author page - https://www.facebook.com/SueMoorcroftAuthor

Twitter @suemoorcroft

Google+: google.com/+Suemoorcroftauthor

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/suemoorcroft

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As everyone probably knows by now, Japan is one of my all-time favourite places in the world to visit. But there are so many other wonderful destinations, so to celebrate the e-book publication of my new novel The Jade Lioness, I've asked some of my fellow authors to tell me what their favourite exotic (or not so exotic?) travel destinations are and to recount some of their travel tales (good or bad!). Today I welcome Janet Gover to tell us about hers:-

I love wild places. I think it comes from growing up in the Australian bush. I also love history, so those are the places that attract me.

I particularly love the South West of the USA: New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Arizona. It's wild and beautiful and unique in so many ways. My holidays there really stand out in my memories for so many reasons.

I fulfilled a life-long wish when I visited the pueblo cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde in Colorado. It's amazing that a whole culture existed here - climbing and an out of these dwellings by simple hand holds in the rocks. There are slightly safer paths for tourists now, thank goodness!

In the middle of the New Mexico desert, inside a secure missile range, is the Trinity Site where the world's first atomic bomb was exploded. Growing up in the nuclear age, I always wanted to see that site and was thrilled to learn you can go there. The site is open to the public on just two days a year. We formed a convoy and were escorted in by military police. It was an awesome feeling to stand in a place where one event changed the whole world.

The craziest place I went to was just inside the same military base. It's officially a Missile Museum, but actually looked a lot like a spare room where you just dump everything you don't use any more but don't want to throw away… or rather how that room would look if you were a military superpower. The buildings and the area around them are littered with leftover missiles and bombs, looking like a child has tossed them aside after playing with them. I couldn't help but wonder what those missiles were pointing at - just in case…..

Like you, Christina, I have been to Japan several times and do enjoy it. But my favourite place in the whole world - well, Australia of course. That's why I set my books there. You can find out more about that on my website at www.janetgover.com

Thank you, Janet, that sounds awesome! And I'm sure the Australian outback is equally as amazing - I hope to visit both places myself one day.

For anyone who wants to visit the Australian outback from the comfort of their sofas, Janet's latest novel, The Wild One, is now available in e-book from all major platforms.

Please come back tomorrow to hear from Sue Moorcroft.

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As everyone probably knows by now, Japan is one of my all-time favourite places in the world to visit. To celebrate the e-book publication of my new novel The Jade Lioness, I've asked some of my fellow authors to tell me what their favourite exotic (or not so exotic?) travel destinations are and to recount some of their travel tales (good or bad!). To start us off, here's Liz Fenwick who agrees with me:-

I think I have travelled more than your average soul and seen some of the world's most beautiful places. But I have to confess I hadn't longed to go to Japan (or if I'm honest it might have been the fear of the food). I'm not sure why but maybe it was just too far from my imaginings. However, fate thankfully intervened when one of our closest friends invited us to his wedding in Kyoto.

I had no idea what to expect… and I came away enchanted and wanting more… except for the food. I'm not a huge fan of raw anything - let alone fish or even chicken. Mark's beautiful fianc ée Yumi took us to her favourite restaurant in Gion (the old Geisha district) and threw me in at the deep end with a dish of minced seasoned raw chicken. I will admit that it was delicious but my mind wouldn't let me do more than taste it.

The long weekend passed in a blur of beauty and culminated in a stunning wedding held in a temple followed by a feast that I will never forget - filled with more raw food exquisitely presented. I survived the meal, but as you can see from the picture… at times it was a challenge.

I'm looking forward to another opportunity to visit Japan, but in the meantime Christina's books are the next best thing to a visit and I don't have to eat the food!!

Thank you, Liz! I love everything about the Japan so I'm glad you enjoyed it (apart from the food - we'll have to work on that!). Gion and the city of Kyoto are absolutely beautiful and well worth a visit.

Liz's own wonderful books are set in Cornwall, another stunning place, and her latest one is Under a Cornish Sky.

Please come back tomorrow to hear from Janet Gover.

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Tomorrow is e-book publication day for my new novel The Jade Lioness. It's set in 17th century Japan and is the third and final book in my Japanese trilogy. The story features Temperance Marston, cousin of Midori Kumashiro who was the heroine of The Gilded Fan (book 2). Here's what happens:-

Can an impossible love become possible?

Nagasaki, 1648

Temperance Marston longs to escape war-torn England and explore the exotic empire of Japan. When offered the chance to accompany her cousin and Captain Noordholt on a trading expedition to Nagasaki, she jumps at the opportunity. However, she soon finds the country's strict laws for foreigners curtail her freedom.

On a dangerous and foolhardy venture she meets Kazuo, a ronin. Kazuo is fascinated by her blonde hair and blue eyes, but he has a mission to complete and he cannot be distracted. Long ago, his father was accused of a crime he didn't commit - stealing a valuable jade lioness ornament from the Shogun - and Kazuo must restore his family's honour.

But when Temperance is kidnapped and sold as a concubine, he has to make a decision - can he save her and keep the promise he made to his father?

From tomorrow onwards some of my author friends will be helping me to celebrate the release of The Jade Lioness by telling us about their favourite exotic travel destinations - watch this space!

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Today I welcome back fellow writer Alison Morton to my blog. She's the author of the Roma Nova alternate history thriller series, and she's just published the fourth instalment, AURELIA. I loved the first three books, which featured Carina Mitela, American-born but with a Roma Novan mother. They followed her story as she returns to her mother's homeland where she has to adjust to living in a matriarchal society where women rule and her family is one of the top twelve in the country (something that brings both duties and privileges).

AURELIA takes us back two generations, to 1960, and is the story of Carina's grandmother. It's a cracking good read! I really like Aurelia, who is a fantastic heroine - courageous, strong, intelligent and decisive - and this fast-paced novel, which takes us on a journey through an alternative Europe, keeps the reader turning the pages throughout. And the villain of the piece is truly evil!

So, Alison, tell us what made you want to go back and tell Aurelia's story?

Two things, really. Firstly, we meet Aurelia as an older woman in INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO and as I wrote her I found myself becoming fascinated by her common sense, toughness and her loneliness. In INCEPTIO, Karen struggles to visualise Aurelia twenty plus years before as a military commander leading a unit to retake a war-torn city. And the mystery of Aurelia's single life - there is no husband, lover or companion in the family circle or memory, yet she is Karen's grandmother.

Plenty to chew on there. Secondly, I wanted to write about the terrible events twenty-three years before INCEPTIO that scarred Conrad and threatened the destruction of Roma Nova itself. AURELIA is the pre-cursor to that story. Watch this space!

She's definitely what I would call a "kick-ass " heroine - is that something you aspired to be yourself? (I know you were in the army)

Well, all fiction is made up, but some of it is less made up than other parts of it. 🙂

As I said, the bad guy is truly evil, almost like a Bond-villain - is that what you based him on or did you have something/someone else in mind?

No, I didn't base him on a Bond-villain. 😉 The bad guy in AURELIA has all the gifts the world could give him, but wants more. This fascinates me. In a way, our modern culture centres on that. But he is beauty and intelligence with a rotten heart and represents our darker side. So I constructed him from those ideas. Of course, there may just have been the odd hint about him in the first three books…

I found your alternative Europe absolutely fascinating and especially the idea that if Germany/ Austria had reverted to tiny kingdoms/ princedoms/ mini republics after the Great War, they would never have had the energy to band together and cause a second one because they were always squabbling among themselves. Do you think that's what should have happened after the real World War I?

Well, maybe I'm a romantic, or possibly a touch Machiavellian, but I think it's a strong possibility. 'German-ness' has never been confined to national borders; for instance, Prague and Strasbourg were very much culturally and philosophically identified German cities for centuries. In contrast, German-speaking regions vary massively from each other in dialect, loyalty, food & drink, national costume, politics and identity from northern Italy to Hamburg, Alsace to Berlin.

You obviously do your research very thoroughly and there was a lot of information about silver trading, stock markets, banking and espionage - how did you go about finding all those details? (And I just want to add that you did a brilliant job in explaining it to the reader).

After hours, weeks, even months of research plus delving back into my own past. I worked in the City of London for a few years, and although not in metal trading or futures, I couldn't help but be aware of them. Ditto the banking. And doesn't silver fascinate everybody…?

The ending of the book isn't exactly a cliff-hanger (I think I can safely say that without giving anything away?), but at the same time I was left wanting to know more about what happens next. Will you continue Aurelia's story or are you moving on to her daughter Marina next?

I like to resolve each of my stories properly; I'm not a fan of leaving readers on a cliff-hanger as I think it's unfair to them. You may think that things seem settled for the moment, but if you look up a Roma Nova history book, you'll see that there's a catastrophe looming. Oh, are all the history books out on loan? What a shame! You'll have to wait until the next Roma Nova story to see what happens thirteen years later…

Ohh, intriguing! Best of luck and thank you for being my guest today!

There's a lovely book trailer for AURELIA here:-

https://youtu.be/K5_hXzg0JWA

Links:-

Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova blog: http://alison-morton.com/blog/

Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/AlisonMortonAuthor

Twitter https://twitter.com/alison_morton @alison-morton

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5783095.Alison_Morton

Buying link (multiple retailers/formats):

AURELIA: http://alison-morton.com/books-2/aurelia/where-to-buy-aurelia/

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At last I can share the beautiful cover of my next novel - The Jade Lioness! It is the third book in my Japanese trilogy, the Kumashiro series, and features Temperance Marston, an English girl who fulfills her dream of going to Japan. Unfortunately, things don't quite go to plan though…

Here's the blurb:-

Can an impossible love become possible?

Nagasaki, 1648

Temperance Marston longs to escape war-torn England and explore the exotic empire of Japan. When offered the chance to accompany her cousin and Captain Noordholt on a trading expedition to Nagasaki, she jumps at the opportunity. However, she soon finds the country's strict laws for foreigners curtail her freedom.

On a dangerous and foolhardy venture she meets Kazuo, a ronin. Kazuo is fascinated by her blonde hair and blue eyes, but he has a mission to complete and he cannot be distracted. Long ago, his father was accused of a crime he didn't commit - stealing a valuable jade lioness ornament from the Shogun - and Kazuo must restore his family's honour.

But when Temperance is kidnapped and sold as a concubine, he has to make a decision - can he save her and keep the promise he made to his father?

(It's available for pre-order from Kindle now - published by Choc Lit 15th May 2015)

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I absolutely love Scotland and will take any excuse to go there, so although it's a very long drive, I jumped at the chance for a visit last weekend. And I had a very good reason to go - the launch party of the Paisley Piranhas!

That might sound a bit strange and has nothing to do with fish - Paisley Piranhas is a group of YA authors (including me) who are working together to promote our teen books, and Sunday saw our official launch party at the Robert Burns Centre in Dumfries. A fab little cinema, we were able to use it to launch our books and to have a private showing of The Princess Bride, one of our all-time favourite movies (which also happens to be mentioned in one of the books).

With sweets, snacks and drinks on offer, as well as our books of course, it was a great afternoon and we were very pleased to welcome so many lovely people. Claire Watts, Gill-Marie Stewart and myself had a fab time and were only sorry the fourth member of our gang, Katy Haye, couldn't be with us on the day. Next time for sure!

The Paisley Piranha books so far are:-

Gill-Marie Stewart - Music and Lies

Claire Watts - What They Don't Tell You About Love in the Movies

Katy Haye - The Last Gatekeeper

Pia Fenton - New England Crush

Here are some photos from the event - huge thanks to everyone who came and Gill's and Claire's families who went above and beyond the call of duty to help us!

(For more information about Paisley Piranha and our books, please check out our website here)

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The RNA's annual awards event, the RoNAs, was held last night at the wonderful Gladstone Library, One Whitehall. It was a celebration of the very best in romantic fiction and the awards were presented by the amazing Barbara Taylor Bradford, herself the author of thirty romantic novels.

The lovely compere Jane Wenham-Jones introduced the shortlists and the winners were:-

Contemporary category - Lucy Dillon

Epic category - Ella Harper

Historical category - Hazel Gaynor

Romantic Comedy category - Lucy-Anne Holmes

RoNA Rose category - Louise Allen

Young Adult category - Joss Stirling

And the overall winner of The Romantic Novel of the Year was Joss Stirling with her YA novel Struck, a wonderful story with a quirky hero and a multi-cultural heroine. A truly worthy winner!

For me, it was my last awards event as chairman of the RNA so I was very glad everyone seemed to enjoy it. I'm already looking forward to next year's!

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Thrilled to find out today - on Valentine's Day - that The Secret Kiss of Darkness has received a Reviewers' Choice Award 2014 from the Single Titles reviewers!

There is a full list of the awards here and I'm very honoured to be one of them - huge thanks to the Single Titles review team and Happy Valentine's Day!

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Image of book cover the secret kiss of darkness <h2>2015-02-14 - Reveiwer's Choice Award</h2>

Today fellow author Nikki Moore is my guest and she's here to talk about Valentine's Day and the third book in her Love London series - Valentine's on Primrose Hill.

Welcome, Nikki! Please tell us how you came up with the idea for this series and why London?

Thanks for having me 🙂 I can't really take the credit for the idea - that would have to go to my fab HarperImpulse editor Charlotte. My debut Crazy, Undercover, Love was partly set in London, and my next full length book Picnics in Hyde Park is wholly set in the city, because I've always loved London and get a real buzz every time I visit, but it was Charlotte who approached me with the idea of an eBook series of short stories linked to Picnics, that would all be romances set in London. We thought it would be nice if a character from each story could be linked to Picnics, so I did that too 🙂 As to why London, I find it endlessly fascinating because there's so much to see and do, and it's very diverse. I love the pace, architecture, nightlife, landmarks… I think I could live in London and still never come closing to experiencing all of it.

This is the third book in the series - which one has been the hardest to write so far? And did you have to make a conscious effort to come up with plots/themes that would go especially well with a London setting?

That's a tough one! I definitely found Cocktails in Chelsea and Strawberries at Wimbledon easiest to write, I'm not sure why, but they flowed better. Valentine's on Primrose Hill was quite difficult because I kept wanting to write a darker story, with a more damaged heroine that was probably better suited to a full length book. Luckily Charlotte is incredibly supportive and very good at giving feedback, so the finished product is one I'm happy with (until the readers tell me otherwise)! I suppose Skating at Somerset House caused me the most agonising because as the first story in the series I wanted it to be really strong. There was a balance between making sure I didn't disappoint existing readers and trying to entice new readers, and not put either group off the rest of the series. Thankfully, Skating at Somerset House has had over twenty Amazon reviews and all bar one are four and five stars 🙂

As for the plots, they really grew from the titles and covers, which Charlotte and I had agreed on in advance. The stories were also shaped by deciding which character in each story would be linked to Matt and Zoe, and how.

I love the idea of the heroine's mum buying her a puppy to get out of the house and as I have dogs myself (and have lived in London with them and had to walk them in Hyde Park) I know that it's a great way to get chatting to people. Is this something you've experienced yourself? Sadly I mostly met little old ladies, no handsome heroes!

I had a dog when I was little, a lovely Collie/Terrier cross who lived to a ripe old age, and loved our family dog, a mad Chocolate Labrador (some people might recognise Pudding from Skating at Somerset House here) who now lives with my ex-husband and his partner. I enjoyed taking them for walks and there is a great sense of community with dog owners, so I agree they're very social animals in every sense of the word. I felt that a puppy for Georgiana in Valentine's on Primrose Hill would be great for her in a few ways; as a companion; as someone to be responsible for and as a way to force her to go out into the world again after her accident.

What does Valentine's Day mean to you personally? Are you the kind of person who loves getting cards, balloons, flowers or whatever from the man in your life or are you a "bah humbug, it's all a commercial gimmick " type?

I think I'm a bit of both to be honest! On one hand I love romance, and the idea of celebrating it, and am certainly happy for my lovely boyfriend to get me flowers etc but on the other hand I resent the pressure of having to be super-romantic on one particular day of the year. Romance should be a part of every-day life!

Thank you!

No, thank you for asking me such brilliant questions 🙂 and having me on here as your guest.

Nikki's book Valentine's on Primrose Hill (#LoveLondon series; eBook 3) is released today and here is the blurb:-

For Georgiana Dunn, life changed forever in the devastating moment that the lorry hit her car.

Scarred and scared, she's not left the house properly in months. Then her mum buys her a puppy, forcing her to face the world again, walking on London's beautiful Primrose Hill. But that doesn't mean she's looking forward to Valentine's Day.

Leo devotes himself to working with children with special educational needs. In fact, he does very little else, and his friends are always telling him to get a (love) life. So when they challenge him to find a date for Valentine's Day, and he meets a lovely but lost girl who looks like she could use a friend, he thinks he's found the perfect solution.

But life has a way of being less than perfect… Will he be left standing on his own on the most romantic day of the year?


It's available from Amazon for only 99p! (here)

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I wish you all a very Happy, Healthy and Successful New Year 2015!

I'm hoping one of these little Japanese Darumas will grant me a wish this time as last year's failed to perform his duties - we will see! 🙂

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Today my fourth Regency novella, Never Too Late, is released on Kindle - a sort of early Christmas present for me and just in time to help me celebrate Swedish Christmas! Here's a little bit about it:-

Can true love be rekindled?

Maude is devastated when the interference of her strict father prevents her from eloping with Luke Hexham. It is not long before she is married off to Edward, Luke's cousin - a good match in her father's eyes but an abhorrent one to his daughter.

Eight years later, Edward is dead. Maude, now Lady Hexham, is appalled to find his entire estate is to go to Luke - the man she still loves - with no provision for either herself or her young daughter.


Luke has never forgotten Maude's apparent betrayal, but he has the means to help her. Maude doesn't want his charity, but agrees to stay as his paid housekeeper.

Soon Maude and Luke realise that perhaps it is never too late for true love. But, even after eight years, there is still somebody who would stop at nothing to keep them apart…

Another lovely surprise is that my other three Regency novellas - Marry in Haste, Once Bitten Twice Shy and Desperate Remedies - put together as a collection, are currently #1 in the Amazon UK Regency Kindle chart! I think I'd better go and celebrate with some chocolate… God Jul everyone, I hope you're having a great day too!

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Image of book cover regency collection <h2>2014-12-24 - Never Too Late and GOD JUL!</h2>

It's taken a bit longer than I thought, but it's finally done - New England Crush, the second book in my contemporary YA series, is out now!

I've chosen to publish this under my other name, Pia Fenton, as I wanted to distinguish my YA titles from my adult historical/time slip novels. As I have self-published this time, it kind of felt right to do it under a different name. The lovely cover - as always, thanks to talented Berni Stevens for that! - shows both in order to (hopefully) avoid confusion.

Book 1, New England Rocks, featured Rain Mackenzie, an English girl forced to attend an American high school for a year because of being expelled from her posh boarding school back home. New England Crush is the story of her younger sister, Raven, who follows in big sis's footsteps, although against her will.

Here's what it's all about:-

Crushing on the wrong boy - why does it feel so right?

Raven Mackenzie has finally settled into her posh British boarding school when her parents decide she has to attend an American high school for a year just because her older sister enjoyed it - so unfair!

Being a newcomer is never easy, but to her surprise she's befriended by a group of Goths. She's teased about her accent and English ways by others, but with the support of friends it's easy to cope. In fact, everything would be perfect if she wasn't crushing on the one boy she can't have - a jock whose current girlfriend will fight for him by fair means or foul (well, mostly foul!)

Liam Donnelly is easy-going and has never given much thought to his friends' cliquey behaviour. But when new girl Raven quite literally falls into his arms, and his friends do everything they can to keep them apart, he starts to wonder - what's up with that?


I had a lot of fun writing this so I hope readers will enjoy it just as much!

Buy links:-

Ebook: http://www.amazon.co.uk/England-Crush-Northbrooke-High-Book-ebook/dp/B00OYLB636/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1418492749&sr=1-1&keywords=new+england+crush

Paperback: http://www.amazon.co.uk/New-England-Crush-Northbrooke-High/dp/1503096351/ref=sr_1_1_twi_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1418859091&sr=1-1

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Today I have another guest, fellow author Nikki Moore who wanted to share the news about her latest release, which is out now - Book 1, #LoveLondon Series; Skating at Somerset House

There's nothing Holly Winterlake loves more than Christmas and skating, so working as an Ice Marshall at London's Somerset House is a dream come true.

Noel Summerford hates the festive season and is a disaster on the ice, so taking his godson to Somerset House is his idea of the nightmare before Christmas!

Things are bound to get interesting when these two collide…

With a forty foot Christmas tree, an assortment of well meaning friends and relatives, and a mad chocolate Labrador, will this festive season be one to remember… or forget?


Skating at Somerset House is available to buy athttp://www.amazon.co.uk/Skating-Somerset-House-Love-London-ebook/dp/B00P5V4T4C

More books in the #LoveLondon series coming soon!

Sounds great - happy publication day, Nikki!

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Today I'm very pleased to have as my guest fellow YA author Katy Haye, whose debut novel The Last Gatekeeper is out now! Here's a quick Q & A session to find out more:-

1 - So, Katy, The Last Gatekeeper is a YA fantasy novel - please tell us about it!

If you've ever felt like you didn't fit in, then The Last Gatekeeper should strike a chord. The main character, Zan, knows she doesn't fit in with modern life. She has electrical hypersensitivity which means she can't have a normal teenager's life - texting, using the internet, even shopping aren't possible for her. Her mother has the same thing, so Zan assumes it's one of those things that has to be tolerated (and her life's never been anything but isolated, so it isn't as though she really knows what she's missing). But on her seventeenth birthday life takes a turn for the weird. Zan's mother vanishes, she finds her father unconscious in their home, and a rather gorgeous alien knocks on her door to tell her she's the only one who can stop life on Earth being wiped out.

2 - Why did you want to write for teens rather than adults?

YA is about 90% of what I read, so for me it was natural to write for a teen rather than adult audience. YA fiction tells some of the most intelligent, imaginative and unlimited stories around and that's what I want to be a part of.

I also think the human question, "Who are you, and where do you fit in life? ", is particularly key during the teen years and examining that question is a strong vein in my writing.

3 - And what made you opt for fantasy and not any other sub-genre of YA?

My mantra for writing seems to be, "If you're going to make it up, you might as well REALLY make it up. " My imagination teems with fairies and genies and ghosts and aliens, so I guess fantasy is a natural home for the stories that interest me and which I long to tell. I also have quite a taste for melodrama - in The Last Gatekeeper, Zan needs to save the world. That would be a hard sell in a contemporary novel (I guess a thriller could just about manage it), but such high stakes are entirely natural in fantasy.

4 - Your heroine has been kept in the dark as to her true identity. Can you explain why her parents thought that was the best course? And do you think they come to regret it, following the things that happen in this story? (No spoilers, but quite a lot does happen to her!)

Ooh, well, I think one explanation is that her parents have simply not noticed that she's no longer a child. At the backs of their minds has been a nagging thought that they should tell Zan the real reason why she has electrical hypersentivity and can't have the sort of life a modern teenager would expect, but they keep putting off telling her until - bang! - one day it's too late. They certainly underestimate her - but luckily for them Zan turns out to be capable of far more than anyone might expect!

5 - There is romance/first love in your story as well as adventure, mystery and excitement - did you find it difficult to write about this aspect of being a teenager?

Once I'd met gorgeous talvarrine Thanriel I fell a little bit in love with him myself, so that initial rush of infatuation wasn't difficult at all! The Last Gatekeeper is written in the first person and really I saw everything through Zan's feelings and emotions. I didn't find it difficult to write her falling in love because I was simply writing what she experienced - but whether that also communicates to the reader I guess is for other people to decide.

6 - Is this book the first in a series or is it a stand-alone? If it's a series, is there anything you can tell us about what might happen next? Or if it's not, what are you working on now?

There will be more Chronicles of Fane. I'm working on book 2 at present. That tells the story of the dreamseer - a gifted fane who would give anything to be rid of her abilities. It'll be a while before that's ready for an audience, however!

Well, I hope it won't be too long, Katy!

About the author:-

Katy Haye spends as much time as possible in either her own or someone else's imaginary worlds. She has a fearsome green tea habit, a partiality for dark chocolate brazils and a fascination with the science of storytelling.

When not lost in a good book, Katy may be found on her allotment growing veg and keeping hens in order to maximise her chances of survival in the event of a zombie apocalypse or similar catastrophe (yes, she has a very vivid imagination).

Find out more at www.katyhaye.com, check out her blog about books, reading and writing at www.katyhaye.com/add-more-narrativium, or chat on Twitter @katyhaye

The Last Gatekeeper is available as a Kindle ebook or as a paperback.

Zan knows she's different. Today she discovers why…

Zanzibar MacKenzie knows she's a freak. She has EHS - electrical hypersensitivity - which leaves her trying to live a Stone Age life in the twenty-first century: no internet, no phone, no point really. Then Thanriel knocks on her door and the dull summer holiday becomes maybe too exciting. Zan discovers fairies and angels are real beings from other planets, she herself is half alien, and the future of life on Earth rests on her shoulders.


Thank you so much for dropping by, Katy - I've had a sneak preview of The Last Gatekeeper and can highly recommend it, it's fab!

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Image of book the last gatekeeper katy haye <h2>2014-12-03 - Guest - Young Adult Author Katy Haye</h2>

Last year, I had so much fun helping out at the annual Christmas Fair held at the Swedish Church in Harcourt Street, London, that I couldn't wait to do it again! The fair was held this weekend and, as always, was a huge success with so many people through the doors they had to queue to get in. And no wonder it's so popular when there's so much to buy, eat and look at - an absolute treasure trove!

I was helping out at the stand called 'Viltboden' where we sold the very best of Scandinavian food - elk and reindeer meat, sausages, seafood salad, salmon (both smoked and special 'gravad lax', marinated to perfection in gin and juniper berries by stall manager Stefan Hising), caviar, handmade blue cheese and so much more. Customers had a hard time choosing, which I could fully understand as it was all delicious. I couldn't resist buying quite a lot of it myself 🙂

The Swedish church itself is always turned into a cafe for the occasion, selling what we in Sweden call 'fika' (a very useful word if you ever go there) - ie coffee and cakes, including cinnamon and saffron buns. Yes, I had my fair share (and more probably!).

But the best thing about it all is the camaraderie of all those helping out, all cheerful, helpful and with a smile on their faces, and all wearing either the traditional costumes or pretty Victorian style aprons. And of course all the lovely customers who come to share the Swedish Christmas spirit and stock up on all the things they miss or, in the case of non-Swedes, try something new.

I, for one, can't wait until the next one and I want to say a huge thank you to the wonderful staff at the Swedish church for organising this event so superbly!

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Autumn is my absolute favourite time of year and I couldn't resist sharing some lovely photos here - taken in the UK and on my recent trip to Sweden. Enjoy!

I've had a fantastic week in Sweden (despite the weather!), going on a mini tour of book stores in the Southern part and meeting lovely, enthusiastic store owners and readers!

We kicked off in a town called Laholm, near Sweden's south west coast, where the owners of Laholms Bokhandel, Diana and Stefan, had invited their customers for an evening of books and chat. And what a fabulous spread they put on - delicious home made soup and bread to start off with, then some wonderful chocolate cake with coffee after the talks. I teamed up with fellow EA Förlag authors Ulla Gabay and Gustave Lund, and we had a very enjoyable evening!

The following day, after a quick visit to see EA Förlag's offices, I spent some time in the town of Varberg, where the staff at Göranssons Bokhandel (aka Akademibokhandeln Varberg) made me very welcome. I chatted to their customers and met some lovely people. During the afternoon I had a chance to explore the town and its famous fort - Varbergs Fästning - a truly intimidating place (see photos below)! There had been a fort on the site since the 13th century, with the Swedes and Danes taking turns to occupy and own it (and this part of the country). Also used as a prison for a while, I could well imagine how bleak and forbidding it must have seemed, especially in winter, to the poor souls incarcerated there. But what views, truly stunning!

In the evening I attended a mini fashion show in the shop She in Halmstad, Another city on the west coast. The store owners put on a great show for a select audience and very kindly featured me and my books as well. And apart from some fabulous fashion, the attendees were treated to drinks and canapes - what a brilliant idea!

That concluded my trip to the western parts of Sweden and I headed towards more familiar territory - the county of Småland, which is where I come from. I did a book signing in the Eksjö Bokhandel, a small but perfect indie book store, the kind where you feel warmly welcomed and free to browse for hours. Once again, the owners made me feel at home and I enjoyed chatting to readers and friends who kindly popped in. I hope to visit the store soon again as they are only a short drive from my home town.

Finally, Gustave and I met up in the city of Jönköping, at the southern most tip of Lake Vättern (one of the two largest in Sweden), where we did a joint signing at the A6 Mall, a haven for local shoppers. My "clan " and some of my friends very kindly turned up to support us, and we had fun talking to other readers, as well as the wonderful staff at Akademibokhandeln A6.

Huge thanks to EA Förlag and to all the wonderful book stores who hosted us - hope to see you all soon again!

Now I have some time to enjoy the Swedish autumn, which is much further along than in England. The forests around here are beautiful at the moment and the air is crisp and fresh - bliss!

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