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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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Image of ya launch party scotland book table 003 <h2>2015-04-02 - YA Launch Party in Scotland</h2>Image of ya launch party scotland book table 002 <h2>2015-04-02 - YA Launch Party in Scotland</h2>Image of ya launch party scotland book table 001 <h2>2015-04-02 - YA Launch Party in Scotland</h2>

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!

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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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Last Saturday I spent a lovely day in Leighton Buzzard, which is where the Festival of Romantic Fiction was held this year. I had never been a 'market trader' before, but the authors taking part were allocated a proper market stall in the High Street and we set out our wares. All the books on the stalls were a lovely sight (although being a book worm, I may be slightly biased).

Members of the public passing by were interested and supportive, asking if we'll come again next year. It was huge fun chatting to everyone - and selling some books of course - and I could happily have stayed there all day.

In the afternoon we had to go on to the local tea room, however, for a traditional afternoon tea and readings from our books. The Green House in the Market Square put on a fabulous spread which included my favourite type of scones - those without raisins or currants. No dinner was needed after that!

Which was just as well, because we then continued on to the Festival Awards presentation at the Leighton Buzzard theatre, where we were treated to some dance displays by a local theatre school - the children taking part were very talented indeed!

Although Monsoon Mists was shortlisted in the historical category - which was lovely - it didn't win, but as it lost out to the wonderful The Dress Thief by Natalie Meg Evans, I didn't really mind. Other winners included Fiona Harper, Rowan Coleman, Alice Peterson, Jo Thomas and Nicola May. And our lovely RNA President Katie Fforde was inducted into the Festival Hall of Fame - very well deserved!

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This weekend I attended the Historical Novel Society Conference 2014 in London, something I'd been looking forward to immensely. I knew from previous experience that the talks would be excellent and varied and I definitely wasn't disappointed - the organisers, Charlie Farrow, Richard Lee and Jenny Barden had done a brilliant job!

The programme kicked off with a panel talk on the challenges and triumphs of selling historical fiction. Chaired by the lovely Carole Blake, this was a wide-ranging discussion which concluded that in order to sell historical fiction you need a combination of paid advertising, social media networking and an absolutely fantastic cover design. We were also told to be bold and use our passion to write the best possible story (without following trends) so that it has something very special to offer, but above all to enjoy writing it.

This was followed by the keynote speaker Conn Iggulden, best-selling author of action-packed adventure stories. He was a fabulous speaker, very entertaining and amusing, and we could have listened to him for a lot longer!

There were some smaller break-out sessions and the one I attended was extremely interesting - how to make an attention-grabbing book trailer. Filmmaker Philip Stevens of Urban Apache Films and best-selling author Giles Kristian told us how they went about creating the best possible trailers for Giles' books. Trailers that had a real impact on the viewer and instantly made you (a) grasp what the book was about and (b) made you want to go out and buy it. They showed us the do's and don'ts of trailer-making. It should be a collaboration between the author and the filmmaker, and should capture the essence of your book. It should inspire the audience to find out more about your book.

Unfortunately book trailers are not yet seen as a 'must-have' marketing tool by publishers, but Philip and Giles felt that they should be because people spend a lot of time online so this is a great way of making them aware of our books. The only downside is that a really good trailer costs a lot of money so I'm going to have to start saving up I think!

The afternoon featured a fun session where five authors argued in favour of the particular eras they write about ('My Era is Better than Your Era') and somewhat surprisingly, I think the early Georgian won (?!), although to my mind you can't beat the Vikings or the Civil War period. Finally we had a wonderful interview with Lindsey Davis, who chatted to Jerome de Groot and gave us some great insights into her writing process and the inspiration behind her books - very enjoyable indeed!

Unfortunately I wasn't able to go to the Sunday morning sessions, but I understand they were all just as good. Many thanks again to the organisers - I'm looking forward to the next conference already!

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Image of historical novel society conference 2014 002 <h2>2014-09-08 - Historic Novel Association Conference 2014</h2>Image of historical novel society conference 2014 001 <h2>2014-09-08 - Historic Novel Association Conference 2014</h2>

Monsoon Mists at last! I'm so pleased to have the final instalment in my Kinross trilogy available - it feels as if I've come full circle and although there are other members of that family trying to attract my attention, I feel I can leave them for now and get on with other things.

As I'm not a champagne kind of girl, I will be celebrating with some cake and chocolate today, but feel free to raise a glass to Monsoon Mists if you want to!

Blurb for Monsoon Mists

Sometimes the most precious things cannot be bought…

It's 1759 and Jamie Kinross has travelled far to escape his troubled existence - from the pine forests of Sweden to the bustling streets of India.

Jamie starts a new life as a gem trader, but when his mentor's family are kidnapped as part of a criminal plot, he vows to save them and embarks on a dangerous mission to the city of Surat, carrying the stolen talisman of an Indian Rajah.

There he encounters Zarmina Miller. She is rich and beautiful, but her infamous haughtiness has earned her a nickname: "The Ice Widow". Jamie is instantly tempted by the challenge she presents.

When it becomes clear that Zarmina's step-son is involved in the plot Jamie begins to see another side to her - a dark past to rival his own and a heart just waiting to be thawed. But is it too late?


I'll be a guest on various blogs during the coming weeks and I kick off on the lovely Tara's blog Book Babe today - many thanks to Tara for hosting!

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I have just returned from the RNA conference, which was held at Newport near Telford this year, and I've had a lovely time! The weekend began with a series of reader events, first at Wellington Library where many of our authors took part in talks and activities, and then at Blists Hill Victorian Town in Ironbridge Gorge where we put on a 'Meet-the-Author' and book signing/selling event. And what a fab time we had!

There were authors of historical romance, Regency romance, sagas, steampunk and alternative history, and the displays were as diverse as they were wonderful! Visitors to the Goods Shed (where the event was being held courtesy of the lovely team at Blists Hill) could come and look at exquisite Regency fans and prints, medical instruments from the 1940's, a model of the Roman Coliseum, Titanic and suffragettee memorabilia, Elizabethan musket balls, Georgian scents and alternative history books of the UK. Our authors had gone to great lengths to make it all as authentic as possible, which was much appreciated.

Many of us had dressed up in costume and I loved every one of them - see photos below - although I have to say that my favourites were the steampunk ones. But everyone looked just right for their chosen period and the attention to detail was brilliant! I really enjoyed the day and I hope all the visitors did too. A huge thank you to Blists Hill for hosting us!

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It's finally here - Monsoon Mists is available on Kindle both in the UK and the US!

This story follows Jamie Kinross, the younger brother of Brice (hero of Highland Storms) - since he seemed to be the bad guy in that novel and that wasn't entirely fair, I had to let him tell it from his point of view because things aren't always what they seem…

Here's the blurb:-

Sometimes the most precious things cannot be bought…

It's 1759 and Jamie Kinross has travelled far to escape his troubled existence - from the pine forests of Sweden to the bustling streets of India.

Jamie starts a new life as a gem trader, but when his mentor's family are kidnapped as part of a criminal plot, he vows to save them and embarks on a dangerous mission to the city of Surat, carrying the stolen talisman of an Indian Rajah.

There he encounters Zarmina Miller. She is rich and beautiful, but her infamous haughtiness has earned her a nickname: "The Ice Widow". Jamie is instantly tempted by the challenge she presents.

When it becomes clear that Zarmina's step-son is involved in the plot Jamie begins to see another side to her - a dark past to rival his own and a heart just waiting to be thawed. But is it too late?

Buy links:-

UK -

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=monsoon+mists&rh=n%3A341677031%2Ck%3Amonsoon+mists

US -

http://www.amazon.com/Monsoon-Mists-Choc-Kinross-Book-ebook/dp/B00LI7J1C2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1404464804&sr=1-1&keywords=monsoon+mists

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I'm very pleased to have been invited by Jane Jackson to take part in a continuing series of blog posts called "Meet My Main Character". It was started by Debra Brown, who is the Administrator of English Historical Fiction Authors, a great website for anyone interested in obscure bits of British history. Please click here for her original post.

Jane's latest book is Crosscurrents and her website is at www.janejackson.net - please go and have a look at her post about the main character of this novel which sounds brilliant!

My own main character:-

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or historical?

My character is called Jago Kerswell and he is entirely fictional although I borrowed his surname from a Devon ancestor of mine as I liked it very much.

2. When and where is the story set?

The story is set in a fictional village on the south coast of Devon in 1781/82. The village is called Marcombe and is somewhere near Kingsbridge. It's part of a fictitious estate owned by Sir John Marcombe of Marcombe Hall (another imaginary character).

3. What should we know about him?

Jago is a smuggler and an innkeeper, but he's only taken to smuggling in order to help the villagers, who were very poor and struggling to feed their families before the extra income came their way. He's not married and happens to be half-brother to Sir John Marcombe - they share the same father but Jago is illegitimate. His mother was a gypsy, so he has a gypsy grandmother who tells fortunes and knows how to cast spells.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

Meeting Sir John's wife, Eliza, out on the cliffs one dark night totally messes up Jago's life. It turns out John has been mistreating her and in despair she wants to kill herself. Jago saves her, but the two of them fall in love which was never part of his plans. He knows there is danger in the stolen moments with her, but he discovers he'll take any risk to be with her, including submitting to one of his grandmother's spells.

5. What is the personal goal of the character?

His main goal until he met Eliza was to keep the villagers and his fellow smugglers safe and prosperous and to live a comfortable life on his own terms, beholden to no one. Once he meets her, however, things change. He begins to plan how to get her away from her brutish husband and perhaps for the two of them to emigrate to the Colonies. But there are things that stand in his way…

6. What is the title? Can we read more about it?

The Secret Kiss of Darkness. You can read more about it here.

7. When will the book be published?

The book was published in February 2014 so is available now as a paperback and ebook (all formats).

Thank you for visiting! The next Main Character blog post will be on Henriette Gyland's website on Tuesday 8th July when she'll be talking about The Highwayman's Daughter.

Please also check out Tom Williams' Main Character from his novel His Majesty's Confidential Agent, which is part of this series of blog posts as well. You can find it here!

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Yesterday I had the huge pleasure of taking part in the Worcestershire Lit Fest, thanks to fellow author Alison May. She had invited me, Sue Moorcroft and Liz Harris to form a Romantic Novelists' Panel, being held at St Swithun's Institute in Worcester in the afternoon. It sounded like fun so we all said yes!

I had never been to Worcester before (only Worcester, Massachusetts, New England - which is an entirely different kettle of fish!) and loved driving into town over the magnificent bridge that spans the river Severn. The venue wasn't hard to find either, being right in the centre of town.

Despite the wonderfully sunny weather, a small but lovely audience came to hear us answer questions on everything to do with writing. Alison proved to be the perfect compere, skillfully keeping the conversation flowing, and it was fun to hear how differently the three of us approach everything from research to the writing itself. There really is no right way of going about it obviously - it's whatever works for each individual author!

Before the talk began, the audience was asked to write down questions they would like the answers to, which I think was a brilliant way of doing things. It ensured - hopefully - that they got to hear what they wanted to, rather than topics that didn't interest them.

A huge thank you to Alison and the organisers, who very kindly provided some absolutely delicious cakes with tea afterwards - a wonderful end to a lovely afternoon!

The Lit Fest runs from 20th - 29th June, so for anyone wanting to attend other talks and events, there is still time.

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Today I'm very happy to welcome my friend Alison Morton back onto my blog. Alison has just published the third book in her Roma Nova series, SUCCESSIO, and is here to talk about it. (The previous two books in the series were INCEPTIO and PERFIDITAS). As I've mentioned before, they are an intriguing blend of alternative (alternate) history, suspense thriller and romance, so I had some questions for her:-Q - Okay, first of all, what does the title mean and what made you choose it for this book?

A - SUCCESSIO has a double meaning: 'what happened next' and 'the next generation'. As you've seen before, I love playing with words and their meanings. No doubt I'll get into trouble for it one day! I think the original Latin word successio has shifted in meaning in English although it's kept it in the romance languages like French.

Q - This is the third book in the series and your heroine Carina Mitela has come a long way since the first time she found out Roma Nova existed. What's been the hardest thing for her to adapt to? And does she ever wish she could go back to a time before she knew about Roma Nova?

A - Although she's thoroughly at home in her role as a Praetorian and has slowly grown into her social role, she sometimes has feelings of still being the outsider. As she says, she has 'zero intention of going back to the EUS' where she was brought up, but she is very happy to speak in English from time to time. When you cross cultures, there are always gaps both in knowledge and values. But they can be strengths: she often looks at things with a different perspective which triggers her into finding a unique solution to a problem.

Q - I have immense respect for the real Romans and always find it amazing that some of the things they invented were lost for centuries (millennia in some cases!) after the fall of Rome. Which of their achievements are you most in awe of?

A - I won't go into the John Cleese speech in the Life of Brian, but although there were massive failures in this respect, I think the idea of the rule of law is very important. Also the fact that if you were a Roman citizen, you had the ability to rise to the top. Now, that's a massive generalization for a society riddled with class systems, but it was possible on merit, connections (networking as we call it now) and proven track record. In the military/political field.

Q - The Roman empire fell spectacularly in the end and one can't help but think of the phrase 'pride goes before a fall' - do you think we're in danger of heading the same way now? (That's a bit of a 'Mad Max' question, but you know what I mean)

A - Well, the Roman Empire declined and dissolved over quite a long period, rather than collapsed in one go. It was weakened in many places and on many layers by a variety of things so when the crunch came, it was fatal. Here's more about the Roman dusk: http://alison-morton.com/2013/12/20/shedding-light-on-the-roman-dusk-4/

My personal view for now is that we have to keep our heads, ignore the hysteria in the newspapers and dig out hard facts. Homo sapiens is supposed to be intelligent and adaptable. It would be a shame if she/he succumbed to irrationality and rumour and didn't have the vision to look towards a better, more realistic future.

Q - I'm still intrigued by the concept that Roma Nova is ruled by women. Do you think we should be to a much greater extent? (I'm kind of thinking of Angela Merkel of Germany who seems to be the only leader in Europe recently not to have received a drubbing at the polls!)

Definitely! Women of all political shades and talents should be much more present in government, industry, science and commerce. There is a tendency to lump 'women' together as a heterogeneous group. We are people as well. 😉 Politically, you have had Mary Robinson, Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, Golda Meyer and Angela Merkel - all completely different characters, but they all stand out because they are so few. That's the problem.

Q - Finally, what's next for Carina and Roma Nova? Are you working on a fourth title or would you like a break now to start a different project?

Roma Nova marches on! The fourth novel tells the early story of Aurelia Mitela, Carina's grandmother. Book five will be about the terrible rebellion that almost destroyed Roma Nova. So I have quite a lot to be getting on with!

Many thanks for being my guest today!

A pleasure, as always, Christina. Thank you for having me!

So what's SUCCESSIO about?

Roma Nova - the last remnant of the Roman Empire that has survived into the 21st century - is at peace. Carina Mitela, the heir of a leading family, but choosing the life of an officer in the Praetorian Guard Special Forces, is not so sure.

She senses danger crawling towards her when she encounters a strangely self-possessed member of the unit hosting their exchange exercise in Britain. When a blackmailing letter arrives from a woman claiming to be her husband Conrad's lost daughter and Conrad tries to shut Carina out, she knows the threat is real.

Trying to resolve a young man's indiscretion twenty-five years before turns into a nightmare that not only threatens to destroy all the Mitelae but also attacks the core of the imperial family itself. With her enemy holding a gun to the head of the heir to the imperial throne, Carina has to make the hardest decision of her life…


And here's the SUCCESSIO book trailer (quite exciting!): http://youtu.be/B6Tr0VvKbJI

About Alison
Alison Morton writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with strong heroines. She holds a bachelor's degree in French, German and Economics, a masters' in history and lives in France with her husband.

A 'Roman nut' since age 11, she has visited sites throughout Europe including the alma mater, Rome. But it was the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain) that started her wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by women…

Both INCEPTIO, the first in the Roma Nova series, which was also shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award, and PERFIDITAS, the second in series, have been honoured with the B.R.A.G. Medallion®, an award for independent fiction that rejects 90% of its applicants. Alison's third book SUCCESSIO is being launched this month!

Links:-


Connect with Alison on her 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 links (multiple retailers):

INCEPTIO: http://alison-morton.com/inceptio/where-to-buy-inceptio/

PERFIDITAS: http://alison-morton.com/perfiditas/where-to-buy-perfiditas/

SUCCESSIO: http://alison-morton.com/successio/where-to-buy-successio/

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Image of book successio alison morton <h2>2014-06-06 - Guest Blog - Allison Morton - SUCCESSIO</h2>Image of alison morton roman buildings <h2>2014-06-06 - Guest Blog - Allison Morton - SUCCESSIO</h2>Image of alison morton with christina <h2>2014-06-06 - Guest Blog - Allison Morton - SUCCESSIO</h2>

In between RT sessions, we all went out to explore the wonderful French Quarter of New Orleans, obviously an absolute must-see for anyone visiting the town.

For someone who loves history and old houses, it was a complete gold-mine! Street after street with old-fashioned houses, covered in wrought iron balconies, window shutters and hanging baskets. Ornate doorways and hidden courtyards, old paving stones worn smooth by thousands of feet, mimosa and acacia trees, intricate verandahs and porches… I couldn't stop taking pictures and here is a small selection - believe me, I have lots more!

Music - mostly in the form of various types of jazz - is of course very much a part of the New Orleans ambience. Not just in the bars and cafes, but on every street there were musicians and buskers and wherever you went, your feet were tapping. On one street corner a group of kids were doing proper tap-dancing (the youngest surely no older than three and such a sweetie!). A group of Christians sang out their messages on another, and late on Saturday night we came across a wedding party dancing their way down a street in the wake of a marching band - fascinating!

The local food had to be sampled and I did my best to try all the specialities - gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, crawfish cakes and even alligator. And the absolute favourite - beignets. I left the cocktails to others, but loved the names like 'Hurricane' and 'Blue Bayou' 🙂

Magic and voodoo featured hugely in all the shops, so a visit to one of the cemeteries became another must. We saw the grave of the supposed 'voodoo queen' and knocked on it three times (to gain her attention) before leaving an offering. The cemetery was a very evocative place, with some of the graves and monuments crumbling, while others were brand new. A lot of French names added a distinctly Southern flavour.

So many impressions crowd my mind - the heat and humidity, the Southern drawl sprinkled with "y'all" in every other sentence, the friendliness of everyone, the vibrant colours and insistent beat of the famous Bourbon Street at night, the beautiful street cars (trams), sparrows stealing crumbs at café tables, the paddle steamboat, crudely made voodoo dolls and Mardi Gras bead necklaces, Café du Monde… I think I might just have to go back in order to absorb it some more!

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Laissez les bon temps rouler! - let the good times roll - was a phrase I saw and heard over and over again in New Orleans during the past week, and we definitely did! This year's RT Convention was bigger than ever before and even more fun! At least after we ironed out a few initial glitches (which all had to do with airlines and shipping rather than the convention itself, I have to stress)…

Having attended RT last year, I was really looking forward to going back and it was great to know what to expect this time. I'd booked my spot in 'promo alley' and packed a lot of UK goodies for a gift basket to be raffled, plus I'd spent ages putting together some swag - in other words, I came prepared! Unfortunately our flight from London was delayed and we missed our connection to New Orleans from Washington, and for some reason our bags were sent to Chicago and stayed there for two days. Not ideal! Just as we were beginning to despair, though, they all turned up in time with the swag intact - phew!

The Choc Lit author team this year consisted of myself, Sue Moorcroft, Janet Gover, Liz Harris, Beverley Eikli and Kate Johnson. We had a very British table as our base and took turns to sell books there and chat to attendees, which was lovely! I don't suppose anyone can have missed the fact that we were from the UK, with all those flags 🙂 (and some lovely mini koalas and kangaroos to show that we had two Aussie authors as part of the group of course).

We did a panel talk about heroes & heroines and how to create a spark between them, held a 'tea party' for booksellers and librarians plying them with proper English tea and shortbread, and we attended lots of talks, workshops and parties between us. It was all huge fun! I particularly enjoyed the 'Call my Historical Bluff' session devised by Susanna Kearsley and her friends, which featured some fiendishly difficult words.

In between, we explored the French Quarter of the city, which was just outside the hotel, and it was so beautiful and fascinating, I'll have to do another post with pics of that tomorrow!

I'll just leave you with some photos from the Convention and of the view from our room - the mighty Mississippi river in daylight, at night and close up (very muddy!). I was reminded not to go swimming in it in case I came across an alligator. The only way I wanted to meet one of those was in a restaurant - deep fried and delicious!

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Today I welcome my Swedish friend Anna Belfrage to my blog - we met quite by chance at a conference in York some years ago and, as well as being delighted to find a fellow Swede (or half Swede in my case), we also discovered a shared love of time travel stories! She's here today to talk about the latest instalment of her wonderful series about the Graham family. Over to you, Anna!:-

The other day, one of my sons and I were standing in the supermarket, considering what vegetables to buy.

"April is when most people starved to death in the old days," he said out of the blue, frowning down at a plump Spanish tomato. Not exactly news to his history nerd of a mother (some interests, it seems, are passed along with the mother's genes), and we spent a happy half-hour discussing just how exposed the people some generations back were to the vagaries of weather and the resulting famines.

For us, it is difficult to comprehend what it means to starve. We read about people mixing ground bark into the flour to make it last longer, but none of us have ever tasted bark bread. To us, nettle shoots are a delicacy (and they are, let me tell you!), to our great-grandmothers they were a way of ensuring her family survived - one more day.

A long, cold spring was a disaster, the depleted winter stores down to the last wrinkled carrot by April. If the crops failed, there was no if about someone in the family dying, it was simply a question of who.

Famine was one of the driving forces behind the mass immigration to America in the 19th century. People fled Ireland and Sweden, dirt-poor Norway and overcrowded Holland, in the hope of making themselves a new life "over there".

However, famine was not the only reason why people set off across the Atlantic, never to return. There was another, just as forceful reason, and that was the desire to escape religious persecution. From the 17th century on, people left Europe in boatloads for the Colonies, because they were Catholic, or Puritans, or Presbyterians, or Quakers, or Baptists, or… And the colonies received these religious immigrants with open arms - well, more or less."Quaker? Pennsylvania for you, m'dear!""Puritan? Welcome to Boston!""Good Anglican stock? Virginia welcomes you!""Catholic? Hmm. Ah, yes - Maryland!"

Life was no easier for the religious immigrants than it was for those fleeing starvation. Setting down roots in a new country is a difficult business, even more so when your allotted farm consisted of virginal forests that had to be cut down before the land could be cleared and planted. It wasn't as if you could call the nearby logging company and have them come in and do it for you… And yet they came, all those people who could no longer stand living in constant fear because of their faith. Impressive people, in my opinion, which is why my books centre round one such man, Matthew Graham, who had to flee his beloved Scotland in the late 17th century due to his Presbyterian faith.

Fortunately for Matthew, I gave him quite the companion through his very adventurous life. Alex Graham is creative, optimistic and buoyed by a firm belief in the future. Well, she would know all about the future, having been born in 1976 before being thrown three centuries backwards in time to land at Matthew's feet. In Matthew's opinion, Alex's drop through time was an act of God, a divine gift, no less. In Alex's opinion, it was all a matter of a number of improbable circumstances. Whatever the case, they both agree it was somehow meant to be - she is his woman, he is her man, no matter that they were born three centuries apart!

The latest release in The Graham Saga, Serpents in the Garden, has just been selected Editor's choice by the Historical Novel Society. It shares that honour with one of the previous instalments, The Prodigal Son, which has also won a B.R.A.G. Medallion and is shortlisted for the 2014 RONE Awards. If you want to find out more about The Graham Saga, please visit Anna's website, or why not pop over to Amazon US or Amazon UK?

Anna is also a proud member of the RNA New Writers Scheme and is presently in the final editing phase of her manuscript. As all her books, this m/s combines love with gritty historical detail and quite some adventure. And no, they don't eat nettles - but Alex Graham is a major fan of nettle soup!

It sounds lovely, Anna, thank you for being my guest today! And just to confirm that the threat of starvation wasn't that long ago in our countries, my Swedish grandmother told me about eating bark bread when she was a little girl (just before World War I) and she also made me nettle soup 🙂

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Since I love everything to do with history, I found Barcelona and the city's architecture absolutely fascinating, and I can't resist sharing some of the photos here on the blog.

First of all, there was the Old Town with its many narrow lanes and every now and then a piece of the old Roman wall popping up where you least expected it. It was wonderful walking on the old paved streets, worn down by thousands of feet through the ages. I couldn't resist a visit to the Historical Museum too, where you can see a large area (4,000 sq.m.) of excavated Roman ruins, criss-crossed by walkways that showed everything in detail. I'm always astonished at how the archaeologists can decipher old ruins and tell us exactly what each building was for, in this case a Roman laundry, dyeing workshop and a winemaking facility among other things!

Then there was the architecture of the buildings themselves. The fantastic creations of Gaudi of course - the cathedral of La Sagrada Familia has to be seen to be believed! - but all over the town, on every street, there were some amazing houses. I fell in love with quite a few, especially the Art Nouveau ones, and could quite happily live in an apartment there! See here for yourselves and let me know what you think please.

I'm sure there was a lot that I missed, so I'm just going to have to go back another time!

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This year I was thrilled to be invited by my Spanish publisher Libros de Seda to take part in the Sant Jordi (or St George's) day celebrations in Barcelona, which are held every year on 23rd April. It is a day when men are supposed to buy women roses and the women reciprocate by buying them books - a perfect combination!

I had never been to Barcelona before, but right from the start, I loved it! Everywhere you went, there were vendors selling beautiful red roses, most of them with a stem of wheat as added decoration. The vendor's tables, and indeed a lot of balconies throughout the city, were decorated with the Catalan flag in vivid red and yellow stripes. This made for a very colourful display and added to the festive atmosphere. Publishers and bookshops also had stalls in the streets, selling books and arranging book signings by authors, and I was lucky enough to take part in three of these.

First I spent some time with the lovely team from Libros de Seda - Rosa, Maria Jose and Alex - meeting some readers and trying to practise my very rusty Spanish. (Not that it was really needed, as almost every person I met spoke extremely good English!).

I also had the great pleasure of meeting Laura from the book blog Cientos de Miles de Historias who had travelled all the way from Segovia especially for this day, something we all appreciated very much!

After a while, we headed off for a book signing at the Plaza Monumental - an enormous shopping centre which has been built inside Barcelona's former bullfighting arena. As someone who loves ancient buildings, I was very pleased to see that they had retained the original facade of the building completely and the result was amazing. I was given a very warm welcome by the FNAC Arenas bookshop team.

Later it was time to go to another book shop, Libreria Maite in the Gracia area of Barcelona, where I joined four other authors for another signing. Here I was again given a warm welcome and I got to meet the bookshop owner and also three lovely ladies from the book group 'Be Romantic Addict - B'Radic' which was great!

The final part of the afternoon was spent back at the Libros de Seda stand, something I enjoyed very much. Friends and family of the team joined us from time to time (including the lovely Gordo - a dog who despite his name was not fat but gorgeous), and I had fun chatting to everyone. After such a brilliant day, it was sad to say goodbye, but I'm hoping to go again next year!

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Last week was the London Book Fair - for the last time at the Earl's Court venue as they are moving to Olympia next year. As always, it was busy and buzzing, filled with publishers, agents and providers of anything and everything to the book trade - fascinating!

The Choc Lit stand was a vision in fuchsia pink this year and really stood out - I loved it! Seeing the shelves stacked with Choc Lit titles, all written by my friends the lovely "ChocLiteers", was a joy, and lots of people stopped by to have a look and a chat, and of course to sample the chocolates on offer. (Yes, I had my fair share, possibly a few too many…)

The Book Fair isn't really aimed specifically at authors as such, but there are still lots of things of interest, not least the many varied talks, some of which I attended. Really enjoyed listening to Katie Fforde, Manda Scott and Jo Fletcher discuss genre fiction for example. Wandering along the many aisles you come across all manner of sights and my favourite this year was the virtual fish pond with koi fish swimming leisurely. If you stepped on it, the water rippled - magic!

The best thing for me though is just being surrounded by books on all sides, that's pure bliss!

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This year's RoNA's (the RNA's Romantic Novel Awards) took place in the gorgeous Gladstone Library at One Whitehall in London, and I think a good time was had by all! The pink fizz was flowing, the canapés were delicious and the tables were covered in pink heart-shaped chocolates (my personal favourite, of course!). As always, at an RNA gathering, the noise levels had to be heard to be believed.

There were lots of witty speeches (although probably not mine - can't actually remember what I said), and I particularly enjoyed those of Milly Johnson, Dr David Hessayon and Helen Fielding. The awards were presented by the lovely Darcey Bussell and it was a great pleasure to meet her.

For me, it was an extra special evening as The Gilded Fan won the Historical category, despite being shortlisted together with amazing authors Liz Harris, Charlotte Betts, Carol McGrath, Annie Murray and Joanna Hickson. I was so thrilled the readers had chosen my story - huge thanks to them, whoever they are! (Readers for the award are anonymous) And of course, a massive thank you to the wonderful Choc Lit team who believed in this story and published the book!

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It's cover reveal time for my next novel, Monsoon Mists, the third in the Kinross trilogy. The wonderful Berni Stevens has once again worked her magic - many thanks, Berni!

Here's the blurb:-

Sometimes the most precious things cannot be bought…

It's 1759 and Jamie Kinross has travelled far to escape his troubled existence - from the pine forests of Sweden to the bustling streets of India.

Jamie starts a new life as a gem trader, but when his mentor's family are kidnapped as part of a criminal plot, he vows to save them and embarks on a dangerous mission to the city of Surat, carrying the stolen talisman of an Indian Rajah.

There he encounters Zarmina Miller. She is rich and beautiful, but her infamous haughtiness has earned her a nickname: "The Ice Widow". Jamie is instantly tempted by the challenge she presents.

When it becomes clear that Zarmina's step-son is involved in the plot, Jamie begins to see another side to her - a dark past to rival his own and a heart just waiting to be thawed. But is it too late?

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Today I was absolutely thrilled to find out The Gilded Fan has won a coveted 2013 Single Titles Reviewers' Choice Award from the wonderful Single Titles website! This is a huge honour and I'm so pleased they liked my story - many thanks to the lovely reviewers! The full list of winners can be found here.

Yesterday was the day the Romantic Novelists' Association announced the shortlists for their RoNAs (Romantic Novel Awards) and I'm very happy to have two books selected - The Gilded Fan in the Historical category and New England Rocks in the YA group. Many thanks to the readers and organisers who do such a massive job and congratulations to all my fellow shortlistees!

And finally, today is release day for The Soft Whisper of Dreams, the digital only sequel to The Secret Kiss of Darkness. Here is the blurb:-

Some dreams shouldn't come true…

Maddie Browne thought she'd grown out of the recurring dream that plagued her as a child, but after a shocking family secret is revealed, it comes back to haunt her - the same swing in the same garden, the kind red-haired giant and the swarthy arms which grab her from behind and try to take her away…

In an attempt to forget her troubles, Maddie travels to Devon to spend time with her friends, Kayla and Wes. However, it becomes clear that relaxation will not be on the agenda after a disturbing encounter with a gypsy fortune teller. Not to mention the presence of Wes's dangerously handsome brother, Alex.

And then there's the fact that Maddie's dream seems to be coming true…


It's been quite a week!

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Many thanks to Liz Harris for inviting me to take part in this 'blog hop' - you can find her post from last week here. All the participants have to answer four questions (see below) and then pass the baton to others. I asked Henriette Gyland and Celia J Anderson to take part and their blogs will appear on 10th Feb so please don't forget to check them out! You'll find their links and a short bio for them at the end of this post. Thank you for stopping by!

Q & A:-

1) What am I working on? - At the moment I'm working on the third book in my Japanese themed trilogy, which began with The Scarlet Kimono and The Gilded Fan. The final instalment is provisionally called The Snow Ghost and follows Temperance Marston on her adventures when she travels to Japan with her cousin Midori. She's always dreamed of travelling and thinks it's going to be wonderful, but the reality isn't quite the way she had envisaged it. And when she is kidnapped by some Japanese ronin (outlaws), she embarks on the biggest adventure of her life…

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? - I think mostly it's the settings I choose that are different, as I often feature Japan (or other places in the Far East) and/or Sweden. They say you should write about what you know and as I've lived in these countries myself, I try to follow that advice and hope it will interest readers.

3) Why do I write what I do? - I have absolutely no idea - the stories just come into my head, triggered by all kinds of weird and wonderful things. You could say I write romantic fiction because that's what I love to read myself, and mostly I write historicals, as I've always been fascinated by history.

4) How does your writing process work? - I think I may have mentioned this before, but I work in a very haphazard way. My stories usually start with a scene that pops into my head unexpectedly, and then grow from that. The scene can be anywhere in the book, so I might find myself working backwards or forwards from that point on. Somehow it all comes together in the end - just don't ask me how!

These are the authors who will be joining the blog hop next week (10th February):-

Henriette Gyland grew up in Denmark but moved to England after graduating from university. Before she became a writer and a freelance translator, she worked in the Danish civil service, for a travel agent, a consultancy company, in banking, hospital administration, and a county court. In 2011 Henriette won the New Talent Award from the Festival of Romance. Her website and blog can be found at http://henriettegyland.wordpress.com.

Celia J Anderson - when she's not teaching ten year olds or writing stories involving pants, this author spends far too much time on Facebook and does a lot of walking to counteract the cooking, eating and drinking which form most of her hobbies. She blogs as part of the Romaniacs online writers' group, her website was recently launched thanks to Lucy Felthouse - http://celiajanderson.co.uk and she tweets spasmodically as @CeliaAnderson, She now has an author page on Facebook to celebrate the August 2013 release of her first novel Sweet Proposal with Piatkus Entice after winning a writing competition for a contract. Her ultimate dream is to have children's books published. Usually sea-starved in the depths of the Midlands, she can often be found wandering around Brighton visiting her two daughters and pretending to collect ideas for her next book.

Enjoy their posts and thank you again for reading this!

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The Secret Kiss of Darkness is published on Kindle now, soon to be followed by the paperback! Forbidden love, smugglers and romance guaranteed.

Here's the blurb:-

Must forbidden love end in heartbreak?

Kayla Sinclair knows she's in big trouble when she almost bankrupts herself to buy a life-size portrait of a mysterious eighteenth century man at an auction.

Jago Kerswell, inn-keeper and smuggler, knows there is danger in those stolen moments with Lady Eliza Marcombe, but he'll take any risk to be with her.

Over two centuries separate Kayla and Jago, but when Kayla's jealous fiancé presents her with an ultimatum, and Jago and Eliza's affair is tragically discovered, their lives become inextricably linked thanks to a gypsy's spell. Kayla finds herself on a quest that could heal the past, but what she cannot foresee is the danger in her own future.

Will Kayla find heartache or happiness?

Buy links:-

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Secret-Kiss-Darkness-Christina-Courtenay/dp/1781890676/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1389145312&sr=1-5

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Kiss-Darkness-Christina-Courtenay/dp/1781890676/ref=sr_1_14?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1389145429&sr=1-14&keywords=christina+courtenay

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I wish you all a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR - GOTT NYTT ÅR - BONNE ANNEE - PROSPERO ANO NUEVO - AKEMASHITE OMEDETO GOZAIMASU!

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One Day Blog Hop - Casting Light upon the Darkness

This post is part of a 'blog hop', and I hope you're reading this as well as checking out lots of other connected blogs on the above theme (see below for a list of participants). Thanks to Helen Hollick for organising this!

When Helen told me what the theme was, my thoughts immediately went to the Swedish tradition of celebrating St Lucia on the 13th December. I may have mentioned this before, but I hope you'll forgive me if I repeat myself as it seems very apt.

It gets very dark in Sweden during the long winters and by December, there is only daylight between about 9am and 3pm, if that. By the time the longest night of the year comes around (the winter solstice), any kind of light is very welcome and that's where St Lucia comes in.

She is celebrated on the 13th of December, even though the actual solstice isn't until 21st (- it used to be on the 13th when we still used the Julian calendar in the 18th century). It is a rather strange tradition where the saint comes to light up the dark night and sing to you. Most Swedish girls dress up in long white nightgowns/shifts and put candles on their heads (usually fake, although real ones can be used too), then go around and sing special songs. Every school and every town will choose their own Lucia and the other girls are her attendants, called tärnor. I was only ever Lucia at home (from an early age as you can see in this photo!) as to my great chagrin I was never chosen to be an official Lucia, but I enjoyed it anyway.

Little boys are made to wear strange looking hats and similar nightgowns, but some of them prefer to dress up as mini Santas instead (can't blame them!).

It is also tradition to offer people Swedish gingerbread cookies (pepparkakor), which are not as strong as the English variety, and saffron or plain buns, shaped like an S (or cat), called lussekatter. I make them every year as they are delicious, especially hot out of the oven!

Why St Lucia of Syracuse, Sicily, who was obviously Italian? Apparently the poor woman suffered a sad death (some say she had her eyes put out before becoming a martyr), so she is deemed the best person to guide us through the darkness. I have no idea how this tradition first started, but it has its origins in pagan celebrations which have somehow been connected with Christianity. It certainly brightens up one December morning in the whole of Sweden though!

Thank you for visiting my blog - Happy Winter Solstice!

Now please continue to the next blog:-

Helen Holllick - A little light relief concerning those dark reviews! (plus giveaway)

Prue Batten - Casting Light…

Alison Morton - Shedding light on the Roman dusk (plus giveaway)

Anna Belfrage - Let there be light!

Beth Elliott - Steering by the Stars: Stratford Canning in Constantinople 1810/12

Melanie Spiller - Lux Aeterna, the chant of eternal light

Petrea Burchard - Darkness - how did people of the past cope with dark? (plus giveaway)

Richard Denning - The Darkest Years of the Dark Ages: What do we really know? (plus giveaway)

Pauline Barclay - Shedding Light on a Traditional Pie

David Ebsworth - Propaganda in the Spanish Civil War

David Pilling - Greek Fire (plus giveaway)

Debbie Young - Fear of the Dark

Derek Birks - Lies, Damned Lies and… Chronicles

Mark Patton - Casting Light on Saturnalia

Tim Hodkinson - Solstice@Newgrange

Wendy Percival - Ancestors in the spotlight

Judy Ridgley - Santa and his elves (plus giveaway)

Suzanne McLeod - The Dark of the Moon

Katherine Bone - Admiral Nelson, A Light in Dark Times

Edward James -The Secret Life of Christopher Columbus

Janis Pegrum Smith - Into the Light (a short story)

Julian Stockwin - Ghost Ships (plus giveaway)

Manda Scott - Dark into Light - Mithras and the older gods

Pat Bracewell - Anglo-Saxon art: Splendour in the Dark

Lucienne Boyce - We will have a fire - 18th century protests against enclosure

Nicole Evelina - What Lurks Beneath Glastonbury Abbey?

Sky Purington - How the Celts cast light on current American Christmas traditions

Stuart MacAllister (Sir Read-a-Lot) - The Darkness of Depression

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Last night Henriette Gyland and I had the pleasure of doing a book signing event at the Regency Bookshop in Surbiton and we had a wonderful time!

The store owner Pat and her helper Prue were extremely welcoming, and had invited all their customers for a special evening with wine and mince pies. It was great fun to mingle and chat with them, all obviously book lovers - our favourite kind of people 🙂

The bookshop itself has an original Regency bow fronted window, which I loved, and inside is a veritable Aladdin's cave of books, toys and stationery.

I couldn't resist a bit of browsing myself and although I managed to resist the books, I found some fab Christmas wrapping paper with brussels sprouts on - I'm sure my OH is going to love that!

For anyone who lives anywhere near Surbiton - a visit to this shop is a must! A huge thank you to Pat for having us!

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As you may have gathered, I'm half English and half Swedish, and most of the time I don't feel I belong more to one or the other. However, sometimes one nationality takes over completely, like for instance this weekend, when I was at the Swedish Church's annual Christmas Fair and felt totally Swedish!

I've been told there are more than 10,000 Swedes in England and I think the majority live in London. And for one weekend of the year, most of them descend on the Swedish Church in Harcourt Street, not far from Edgware Road, to attend the Fair. In the past I've gone to this event in order to stock up on all the necessary Swedish Xmas essentials like pickled herring, bread, cheese, mulled wine, candles and decorations of various kinds. And each time I've thought to myself that I really ought to help out - well, this year I finally did!

Dressed in my regional costume (most regions of Sweden have their own variation on a 'national' outfit), I arrived at the church on the Thursday morning, not quite knowing what to expect, but I was very lucky and was assigned to the Tornedal stand (Tornedalsståndet) where the lovely proprietors Stefan and Christer put me to work. (On the Saturday and Sunday we were also joined by their friend Torgny). We were selling Swedish delicacies, such as reindeer and elk sausage, smoked reindeer meat, 'gravad lax' (marinated salmon), 'löjrom' (special caviar) and blue cheese (Jarse Ost) handmade by a lady in the north of Sweden. It was great fun!

The fair was organised by two fantastically efficient ladies - Camilla and Åsa - and I was in awe of their organising abilities and eye for detail. Everything ran like clockwork! The selection of things to buy was amazing and I have to admit I spent quite a lot of money myself, not least in the upstairs café where I found cinnamon and saffron buns, and other cake treats (best not to mention how many I had!). Everyone had worked extremely hard to make this all happen and I take my hat off to them, it was very well done!

The Swedish church is a 'home from home' for Swedes in London and they do so much good for the community. I'm really pleased to have been able to help a little bit this year and will definitely go back again next year - in fact, I can't wait! If you've never been, please come next time, I promise you'll love it!

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Last weekend I attended the Festival of Romance in Bedford and thoroughly enjoyed myself! At the moment, it's the only event of its kind here in the UK, and if you ask me, we need more of them because it was such fun!

The weekend started with an Art & Romance evening on the Friday night at the newly opened Higgins Museum, which was great. We were given a quick tour and being a history buff, I really liked the China collection (especially the tea pots and caddies), fascinating pieces of furniture and other displays. The house itself was lovely too! After the tour, there were readings by authors of historical novels, including me. Most of us had dressed up in period costume and mine was that of an ordinary woman of the 1640s (English Civil War) - this was in order to fit the clothing of the heroine from my novel.

On the Saturday, there were lots of things going on at the same time - a Romance Fair, a Coffee & Cake morning with readings, an author panel (led by the brilliant Louise Graham), plus talks and workshops. I enjoyed all the events I took part in and only wished I'd had time to go to everything.

The day culminated with the FoR Ball and Awards, where Choc Lit triumphed as Publisher of the Year and a lot of my friends won other categories - Liz Fenwick for Best Romantic Read, Charlotte Betts for Best Historical Read, Fiona Harper for Best Short Romantic Novel, among many others. I also accepted an award on behalf of the Romantic Novelists' Association who were inducted into the FoR Hall of Fame for "being a defining, driving and positive force for the genre since 1960" - well deserved I think!

All in all, it was a great weekend which even the miserable weather couldn't put a dampener on!

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Welcome back to the blog, Alison! I really enjoyed your first novel INCEPTIO and am very much looking forward to the second book in the series, PERFIDITAS. Please tell us a little bit about it and what that word means?

Thank you for a warm welcome, Christina. Great to be back!

PERFIDITAS means betrayal - our word 'perfidy' is closely related - but for the Roma Novans who have invested their whole way of life and motivation for survival over many centuries in their core values, it's deeply repugnant. And entangled with that, there's betrayal on a personal level…

In INCEPTIO, Carina, the heroine has to cope with a whole new way of life, Roman style, and it was fun to follow her journey as she learned about her mother's country of birth, Roma Nova, and adapted to it. Is there more for her to learn in book no 2, any surprises for her and the reader?

Plenty of surprises! Although Carina knows in her head that she has to be involved in the family-based social system, she tries to dodge it - she's more interested in her exciting job. But with privilege comes responsibility and she has to face up to it. But in doing so she surprises herself.

I loved the way in INCEPTIO she decided to learn to defend herself and really knuckled down to it. Those scenes were very real, so did you have to go to a boot camp yourself to get this right (or did you send someone else? I would have!)?

Haha! No, they're drawn from my own military training. Many's the time I've had to go out on exercise in sleet or rain on the north German plain, or creep on my stomach across a frosty field while the opposition tries to outwit you. The training for it was pretty rigorous!

The heroine learned to speak Latin fairly quickly - I assume the spoken version was easier than the written one? And would you, yourself, be able to communicate with someone in Latin if you had to?

Like children with parents of different nationalities, Carina learnt her mother's native tongue when she started to speak as a very young child. Her father insisted she went to Latin class, but that stopped when he died when she was twelve. It's a little like the heroine in the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding who went to Greek school on Saturdays. Carina didn't use Latin again for years, but once the language is imprinted in the brain when small, it comes back. I'm sure you know the experience yourself with Swedish!

Et ego? Difficile est tenere quae acceperis nisi exerceas!

Me and Latin? It's hard to remember what you learned unless you practise it 🙂

Conrad, the hero, had been a bit of a bad boy before meeting the heroine, although the people of his country didn't seem to look at it quite the way we do. Does this come back to 'bite him on the bum' at all in the rest of the series?

You'll have to wait! But yes, the Roma Novan system of morality is quite different from ours, being based on inheritance of names, rights and property through women. This goes back to the earliest times in Roma Nova when they were struggling to survive and women ran social, political and economic life when men were defending the young country.

Everything is based on the family/tribe. Men join women's families and take their partner's family name, if the couple chose to marry formally. Traditional Roman marriage is more a social and economic arrangement, not a religious one. In modern Roma Nova, they can contract for a term, i.e. so many years, if they choose. It's always the woman's eldest daughter who inherits whatever her parents' contracted arrangements. After all, you always know who a woman's child is…

Conrad tries to hold it and himself together by doing the right thing all the time, but he struggles sometimes because of his traumatic childhood and it's all bound to unravel sometime in the future. But that's a little way off yet.🙂

It was interesting to note the matriarchal society you created - is that something you think we should have? Women are, after all, capable of multi-tasking to much greater effect than men (or so I'm told :-))

I wanted to explore the 'what if' idea where society was a mirror of the way ours had developed. The real late Roman period was one where women's power and influence were growing. Without the patriarchal Christian political system that developed in Western Europe, I think that women wouldn't have been so contained and relegated as they have been.

I had a lot of fun writing a potted 'history' on my own blog about how I imagined Roma Nova developing into a 21st century matriarchy which is a far more egalitarian society than ours and one that doesn't conform to the male/female stereotypes or gender roles. Whether readers would enjoy living there is something for them to decide…

Thank you, Alison, for telling us a bit about the background to PERFIDITAS. I look forward to the continuation of the series!

PERFIDITAS blurb:-

Captain Carina Mitela of the Praetorian Guard Special Forces is in trouble - one colleague has tried to kill her and another has set a trap to incriminate her in a conspiracy to topple the government of Roma Nova. Founded sixteen hundred years ago by Roman dissidents and ruled by women, Roma Nova barely survived a devastating coup d'état thirty years ago. Carina swears to prevent a repeat and not merely for love of country.



Seeking help from a not quite legal old friend could wreck her marriage to the enigmatic Conrad. Once proscribed and operating illegally, she risks being terminated by both security services and conspirators. As she struggles to overcome the desperate odds and save her beloved Roma Nova and her own life, she faces the ultimate betrayal…


Book trailer: http://alison-morton.com/blog/perfiditas-book-trailer/

Buying links: PERFIDITAS is available through your local bookshop (paperback), on your local Amazon (paperback and ebook) and on other online retailers.

Website: www.alison-morton.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AlisonMortonAuthor

PERFIDITAS page: http://www.facebook.com/Perfiditas

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alison_morton

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Barely two weeks after leaving Sweden and the Gothenburg Book Fair, Henriette Gyland and I found ourselves back again in the (not yet) frozen north! We were going on a mini book tour with the lovely team at EA Förlag, including of course ace radio presenter (and fellow author) Lotta Bromé and famous Swedish singer Lill-Babs (Barbro). And even though we were only in Sweden for five days, we saw and experienced so much this is going to have to be a two-part blog post!

We started on the island of Gotland, which is outside Sweden's east coast in the Baltic Sea. Even though it's quite big, the whole of the island only has a population of 57,000 so it's not exactly crowded except perhaps in the summer when it's full of visitors. We headed for the city of Visby on the island's west coast. This is a medieval town with 3.2km of town walls still intact and it's absolutely beautiful! In summer, it must be even more stunning and as it's situated right next to a beach it is an ideal holiday destination. The beach and harbour are just outside the town walls and there was a lovely walkway in between.

After settling into the unusual Wisby Hotell, adapted from an old merchant's house or similar, we took part in "Bokens Dag", ie "the day of books", a celebration of all things literary. There had been talks and panels of authors all day and we were the last ones to take to the stage in front of a large audience. The organisers made us extremely welcome and the audience too, so it was a great start! I love meeting fellow book-lovers.

The following morning we had time to wander round the quaint town, which is full of old houses and where all the streets are still cobbled. Being a history buff, I immediately headed for the local museum where they had an impressive collection of rune stones. I find these fascinating and it was great to see so many in one place! There were also other displays, including some Viking treasures and other precious objects. Despite the rain, we went for a walk along the sea front and around the town, before we had to leave for the airport. I will definitely be going back to Gotland if I can, it's a magical place!

After two short plane journeys, with a quick change in Stockholm (where they lost our luggage), we arrived at our second destination, Kalmar. This is a much bigger town on Sweden's east coast and the lovely owners of the local bookshop, Dillbergs, had gathered a huge audience for us, including some of my relatives who live nearby. It was a fun evening (made even better when we were reunited with our luggage) and we had the pleasure of staying in yet another wonderful hotel, Packhuset, this one converted from an old seafront warehouse with old beams still intact. The view from our little balcony was lovely!

After a few hours spent being tourists, guided by my relatives, we set off by car for our next destination… (see Part 2)

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Driving more or less straight inland from Kalmar, you enter the huge forests of Småland, the county I grew up in. We were heading for a particular area which is known for its glass factories, such as Kosta/Boda and Orrefors. Sadly a lot of them are now closing down, but Kosta/Boda is still going strong and that was our destination.

We were to stay in the Kosta/Boda Art Hotel, an amazing place with glass absolutely everywhere - somewhat scary for someone who is as big a klutz as I am! But I managed not to break anything, despite the fact that even our bathroom sink was made of glass. The hotel bar was entirely made out of blue glass, so pretty, and there was a swimming pool with glass sculptures at the bottom. I could have happily stayed in there for days!

The following day we had a signing at the local bookstore, where yet again the staff were brilliant (and I was able to relax and speak my own dialect of Swedish with them too :-)). After some browsing in the glass shop (of course), we then set off on our travels once more. This time we were going to a place called Tylösand, which is just outside the city of Halmstad on Sweden's west coast. The fabulous Hotel Tylösand is situated right next to the beach and I would love to go back during the warmer season as you can literally go straight outside and into the sea - perfect! The hotel also has an amazing collection of photographic art (by, among others, Terry O'Neill) everywhere so it's like walking around an art gallery. And it's part owned by Per Gessle, half of Roxette, one of my favourite Swedish bands.

We took part in an afternoon tea event on the Sunday, together with an array of Swedish authors. Their books were diverse and it was great to get to know them and find out more about their work. Sadly, that was it for this time, but we hope to go back to Sweden very soon!

Stort tack till alla!

PS. Forgot to add that in Halmstad I met up with a friend I hadn't seen for nearly 40 years - it was amazing! Thank you so much for coming to the event Annika 🙂

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Last weekend was the Gothenburg Book Fair and Henriette Gyland and I had the great priviledge to be invited to help launch our first books which have been translated into Swedish by E A Förlag - Tigerporten (mine) and Alltför Nära (Henri's). We had an absolutely brilliant time!

Shortly after arrival, we were off to E A Förlag's stand at the fair to attend a cocktail party where we got to meet our fellow EA authors Rebecca Chance, Christer Nylander and Lotta Bromé, together with the subject of Lotta's book - the famous Swedish singer Lill-Babs (Barbro). The EA stand was by far the most eye-catching with a black/orange/red theme I really liked, and it was a huge thrill to see one of my books in Swedish at last, lined up along the others on the shelves.

For me, the Friday morning started with an interview at the local radion Station, Radio Göteborg P4, where the presenter Jonas Slättung and his co-host Helena made me very welcome. The studio was in the most fabulous location, right next to the Gothenburg harbour, and when I arrived (fairly early) there was a mist floating over the water which the receptionist told me is referred to locally as "sea smoke" - I loved that! Must put it in a book 🙂

Then it was off to the fair again, where all the authors were interviewed live in front of an audience by Lotta, three times a day - slightly nerve-racking at first, but after about the fifth time I forgot to be scared. We sat on a little raised stage and Lotta made us relax with her great questions and wonderful sense of humour. The rest of the day we mingled with visitors to the fair and it was great fun chatting to some of them and signing some books. The Gothenburg Book Fair was buzzing as members of the public were allowed in from the Friday afternoon onwards and most of the stands were selling books. I had a quick browse and also met one or two strange creatures - see photos below!

We didn't have time to visit Gothenburg itself, but managed a quick break by one of the city's pretty canals. The weather was sunny but fairly chilly!

Saturday was even busier but just as much fun, and Henri and I were sad to leave at the end of the day. But we headed off to Småland to visit my family and on the Monday we also did a book signing in my home town - something I never thought I'd do! We managed to fit in a quick sight-seeing tour - the countryside in Småland is so beautiful (although I may be biased of course) and the little towns are quaint. All in all, we had a fabulous week and I can't wait to go back next year!

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Today I was very excited to see that Trade Winds is Book of the Week in the iBookstore, which means it's free to download for a week! The editor made some lovely comments about the story too, which quite made my day 🙂. Next week I'll be at the Gothenburg Book Fair helping to launch the same book in Swedish, where it is called Tigerporten. Swedish publisher E A Förlag will have a stand and if anyone is around, I shall probably be there at least part of the time during Friday 26th and Saturday 27th - would love to see you!

It's very exciting for me to have one of my books translated into Swedish as I have so many relatives and friends over there. Now they will be able to read it as well, which is great!

Naturally I'm also looking forward to eating one or two Swedish cinnamon buns - if you've never had one, I can highly recommend them 🙂

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Image of book cover translated tiger porten <h2>2013-09-17 - Trade Winds/Tigerporten</h2>

I'm ashamed to see I haven't posted on the blog for over a month!  But it's been a manically busy summer for me and there just never seem to be enough hours in the day.  Perhaps I need better time management?  Or just less work 🙂

At the moment I'm working on the edits for my next novel, The Secret Kiss of Darkness, and this reminded me that I haven't done a cover reveal for it yet.  So here it is - tah-dah!  Yet another triumph for Choc Lit's cover designer, Berni Stevens - I love the deep, dark red!

The Secret Kiss of Darkness is a time slip novel and here is the blurb to give you an idea of the story:-



Kayla Sinclair knows she's in big trouble when she almost bankrupts herself to buy a life-size portrait of a mysterious eighteenth century man at an auction.

Jago Kerswell, inn-keeper and smuggler, knows there is danger in those stolen moments with Lady Eliza Marcombe, but he'll take any risk to be with her.

Over two centuries separate Kayla and Jago, but when Kayla's jealous fiancé presents her with an ultimatum, and Jago and Eliza's affair is tragically discovered, their lives become inextricably linked thanks to a gypsy's spell. Kayla finds herself on a quest that could heal the past, but what she cannot foresee is the danger in her own future.

Will Kayla find heartache or happiness?


It's due to be published by Choc Lit in February 2014, but should be available as an e-book before then.

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In the meantime, New England Rocks has been well and truly launched and my talented daughter has helped me create some lovely character bookmarks to use as giveaways for reviewers, bloggers and competition winners.  If you'd like some, let me know!

Hope you've all had a great summer!

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There is nothing better for an author than meeting your readers and this week I had the great pleasure of meeting some of my young adult readers for the first time at Heartlands High School in Wood Green, London!

HHS is a fairly new school and I was extremely impressed when I went on a tour of the buildings with the lovely librarian, Helen Swinyard.  The campus had everything the students could possibly need and I loved the differently coloured ‘houses' (the school is divided into houses to encourage a spirit of competition among the students).  The emphasis is on learning and enjoying learning, and I found all the students I talked to very articulate and well informed.

Some of the Year 9 girls had been reading my book, New England Rocks, and Helen had invited me to come and chat to them about it.  It was great to hear the girls' thoughts and we discussed things like what their perfect hero would be like - I have a feeling the boys at HHS are going to find it hard to live up to the girls' high standards!  But they've given me some good pointers for my next book 🙂

We compared UK schools to the American system and all the girls said they'd love a chance to attend a US school for a year, just to try it out.  And we discussed cover art and how they perceived different covers.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and hope to be able to go back there soon - many thanks to Helen and the girls for making me feel so welcome!

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Image of some young adult readers new england rocks <h2>2013-07-18 - Meeting My Young Adult Readers</h2>

I have just come back from the 2013 RNA Conference, which was held at the conference centre called The Edge at Sheffield University's Endcliffe Village site.  Apart from the fact that the air conditioning wasn't working in the meeting rooms, I had a wonderful time!

Our stay began by helping to stuff the goody bags, which this year were brilliant silver and pink - they looked amazing when all 180 of them were done!

The sun shone throughout our stay and it felt more like being in a Mediterranean country than Sheffield.  Sitting outside under parasols at breaktimes and in the evenings was lovely and I really enjoyed catching up with old friends and making new ones.

The "ChocLiteers" were out in force - I think there were fourteen of us - and we scrubbed up nicely for the gala dinner.  The previous evening we had a little kitchen get-together too and it was great to meet the latest recruits.  One of the ChocLiteers - Kate Johnson - won this year's Elizabeth Goudge award, which was a lovely surprise!

As always, I came home exhausted, but inspired by all the wonderful talks and fired up with the urge to write.  Can't wait for next year's conference!

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Today New England Rocks is released on Kindle and other ebook formats will follow shortly - yeah!

I had such fun writing this book as it took me back to my teenage years and especially the time I spent at the American School in Japan, Tokyo (ASIJ).  Those were great times and we had a blast being expats on the loose in Japan!  Because we were all foreigners together we bonded in a special way and when I met up with some of my fellow alumni a couple of years ago, the bond was still there.  Huge thanks for inspiring me to write this, guys - I hope to see you all soon again!

Meanwhile, here's the blurb for New England Rocks:-

First impressions, how wrong can you get?

When Rain Mackenzie is expelled from her British boarding school, she can't believe her bad luck. Not only is she forced to move to New England, USA, she's also sent to the local high school, as a punishment.

Rain makes it her mission to dislike everything about Northbrooke High, but what she doesn't bank on is meeting Jesse Devlin…

Jesse is the hottest guy Rain's ever seen and he plays guitar in an awesome rock band!

There's just one small problem…  Jesse already has a girlfriend, little miss perfect Amber Lawrence, who looks set to cause trouble as Rain and Jesse grow closer.

But, what does it matter? New England sucks anyway, and Rain doesn't plan on sticking around…

Does she?


One of my talented daughters has designed these fab character bookmarks to go with this novel and I'll be giving them out at talks and signings!  There will be more to come as well…

Kindle UK - http://www.amazon.co.uk/New-England-Rocks-Choc-ebook/dp/B00DRLAILU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1372971005&sr=1-1

Kindle US - http://www.amazon.com/New-England-Rocks-Choc-ebook/dp/B00DRLAILU/ref=sr_1_1_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1372971137&sr=1-1&keywords=new+england+rocks

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Image of new england rocks bookmarks <h2>2013-07-04 - New England Rocks - Out Today on Kindle</h2>

Today I'm very pleased to have my friend Jean Fullerton as my guest as part of her blog tour promoting her new novel Call Nurse Millie.  Welcome, Jean!

"Maybe it's because I'm a (East) Londoner"

Thank you, Christina, for allowing me to pop onto your blog for a chat.  For those of you who haven't met me before I'm Jean Fullerton, an award winning author, and I'd like to tell you about the area where I was born and write about, East London.

The Fullertons came to the Wapping area of East London from Rothesay in Scotland in the 1820s and my great-great-great grandmother, Elizabeth Fullerton, is shown on the 1841 census as living in Star Lane at the back of Cable Street.  It was natural then when I started writing eleven years ago that I looked no further than my own backyard for inspiration.  Why wouldn't I, when East London has such a rich vein of pageant and spectacle?  Add to that the river pirates, the gangs, pubs and music halls that were a feature of the teaming waterfront and there's drama enough for any writer.

This is why East London is a character in its own right in all my stories.  My first book No Cure for Love features such delights as the White Swan known locally as Paddy's Goose, which was the notorious public house at the corner of Ensign Street.  My Victorian characters regularly dash along the Highway and up and down Old Gravel Lane or Wapping High Street and Millie in, Call Nurse Millie, cycles along the very same streets.  Whereas in my previous books my characters duck behind the Raines Memorial in St George's-in-the-East's graveyard to avoid the police, Millie's mum is a Mother's Union member in the same church although minus it roof as it was blown off by an incendiary bomb in 1942.

Millie and her mum also shop in Watney Market as Ellen and Mattie did before them.  In my third book Perhaps Tomorrow our heroine finds herself incarcerated in the damp women's cells under Wapping Police Station and Alex Nolan, the hero in Call Nurse Millie, is a police constable at the same station.  I also have Millie's mum living in the same house that Ellen lived in a century earlier.  Kate Ellis's workingman's eating house from Hold on to Hope survives as Kate's Café where Millie and her fellow District Nurse meet for a cuppa mid-morning.

Of course, I have invented places too, such as the Boatman grogshop where Ma Tugman runs her murderous empire in A Glimpse at Happiness which now has Vi White as a more respectable landlord.  And Munroe House, named after the founder of the St George's and St Dunstan's District Nursing Association Miss Robina Munroe, Ellen and Robert's daughter from No Cure for Love.  But in truth even the places and people created in my imagination probably had their real life counter parts.

Of course, for many in modern East London the world I write is a far cry from the pleasant residential area of East London of today but sometimes, in the dusk or on a foggy night, if you're quick you might just catch a glimpse of one of my characters hurrying home out of the corner of your eyes.

You can purchase a paperback or ebook copy of Call Nurse Millie most easily from Amazon at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Call-Nurse-Millie-ebook/dp/B00BMUVRT0/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1363121249&sr=1-1

Book description: An absorbing and richly detailed novel following the life and work of a young nurse in post-war East London - perfect for anyone who loved CALL THE MIDWIFE

Blurb

It's 1945 and, as the troops begin to return home, the inhabitants of London attempt to put their lives back together.  For 25-year-old Millie, a qualified nurse and midwife, the jubilation at the end of the war is short-lived as she tends to the needs of the East End community around her.  But while Millie witnesses tragedy and brutality in her job, she also finds strength and kindness.  And when misfortune befalls her own family, it is the enduring spirit of the community that shows Millie that even the toughest of circumstances can be overcome.

Through Millie's eyes, we see the harsh realities and unexpected joys in the lives of the patients she treats, as well as the camaraderie that is forged with the fellow nurses that she lives with.  Filled with unforgettable characters and moving personal stories, this vividly brings to life the colourful world of a post-war East London.


Jean Fullerton - Fall in Love with the Past.

Call Nurse Millie

Available from Orion Publishing

Website.http://www.jeanfullerton.com

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Image of book call nurse millie jean fullerton <h2>2013-06-01 - Special Guest - Jean Fullerton</h2>

At the recent Romantic Novelists' Association's summer party I had the great pleasure of meeting Lindsey Davis, the best-selling historical novelist, and I just had to put up this lovely photo of us taken by the RNA's photographer Marte Lundby Rekaa.

Ms. Davis was the guest of honour and, after a brilliant and very amusing speech, she presented the RNA's Romantic Novel of the Year Award to the winner Jenny Colgan.

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I think I have finally got over most of the jet lag so now I can report a bit more from the RT Booklovers Convention.  I think my overall impression was - FUN!  There was so much going on each day that it was almost impossible to take it all in, but I've got lots of photos to remind me and I thought I'd share some of them with you.  Here goes:-

First of all, we were there to spread the word about our books and I very much enjoyed the various signings where I got to talk to the wonderful American readers.  They are so enthusiastic about romance, it was a joy to meet them!

The first thing people say when you mention the RT convention is usually - cover models!  And yes, there were some but I was mostly impressed by their hair.  (The tights, not so much!)

The parties were great fun, starting with The Red Slipper Lounge - of course I had to wear red shoes!  And the chocolate fountain was to die for!

Then there was the Ball - we all got to wear our (fake) tiaras and felt like princesses!

And best of all - the Freaky Friday Party!  The table decorations were fantastic and we were glad we'd dressed to suit the occasion.

On the Saturday we all took part in the Giant Book Fair - and giant it certainly was!  Something like 350 authors all signing books in one place, awesome.

And then it was almost time to go home, but not before I'd met some more lovely authors and attended the Harlequin Disco Party with the other ChocLiteers.

All in all, a fantastic week!

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I can't believe I'm finally here at the RT Booklovers' Convention in Kansas City!  I'm having a wonderful time and meeting so many lovely people - it's all a bit overwhelming but in a good way!

There's so much to see and do - here are a few of the photos I've taken so far, starting with my favourite donut shop which I was very pleased to find at Newark airport en route to KC 🙂

More photos to come!

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Had a great time at the London Book Fair this week!  Loved the "buzz", loved meeting lots of fellow authors and loved chatting to people visiting the Choc Lit stand!  And of course, trying out the amazing chocolates supplied by House of Dorchester… (I only had a few, honest!)

I also really enjoyed wandering around looking at all the beautiful book covers on display - plus the weird and wonderful ones 🙂  Fellow ChocLiteers Sue Moorcroft, Henriette Gyland and I checked out all the stands and Sue and I had our photo taken with a lady pirate.  Haven't seen the result yet though - watch this space!

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Here are some Easter feathers to wish you all a very HAPPY EASTER!!

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Today I'm very pleased to have my friend Alison Morton as my guest as part of her blog tour promoting her first novel Inceptio, which is released today.  Welcome, Alison!

Thank you for inviting me to be a guest on your blog, Christina. I'm delighted to be here. You've asked me some wide-ranging questions; I hope I've done them justice!

You describe your novel as an "alternate history thriller" - can you tell us a bit more about that, as it's not a concept I was familiar with?

Alternate history is based on the idea of "what if"? What if King Harold had won the Battle of Hastings in 1066? Or if Julius Caesar had taken notice of the warning that assassins wanted to murder him on the Ides of March? Sometimes, it can be on the personal level such as in the film Sliding Doors, when the train door shuts and Gwyneth Paltrow's character splits into two; one gets into the train, the other is left on the platform.

True alternate history stories contain three things: a point of divergence when the alternate timeline split from our own timeline; some description of how that world looks and works; and a logical sequence of how things have changed since the split.

In my book, four hundred Romans trekking north and founding a small colony in the late fourth century changed the whole world: the British didn't leave North America until 1865, Europe is split into small federated countries. The thriller story - kidnap, death threats, mystery plus romance - takes place against this background.

Does your novel feature any ancient treasures? (I'm very partial to books about those, I have to confess 🙂

Haha!  Not as such. Their values and way of life is their treasure.  But who knows in a later book in the series …

Who are your favourite thriller writers and is there anyone in particular who inspired your own writing?

When I was young, I adored Simon Templar The Saint by Leslie Charteris. Although he did some morally dubious things, he was one of the good guys and an incurable romantic (I was also reading a lot of Georgette Heyer at the same time which may explain why I went around in a day-dream when younger!).

I think Lee Child, Robert Harris and William Boyd are current favourites for their sheer, sparse style and intelligent plotting. William Boyd's espionage thriller, Restless, with two strong female leads, is one of the best books I have read. Wandering into historical crime, one of my favourites is Lindsey Davis' cynical, but good-hearted Roman detective, Falco. I loved Kate Johnson's The Untied Kingdom, both for its alternate history flavour and the jolly adventure. Although I loved the complexity of Sebastian Faulks' Charlotte Gray. My favourite crime and thriller female character is Eve Dallas written by J D Robb (Nora Roberts).

I understand that you have created a new country/state (well, new world really!) - how difficult was that?

Yes, Roma Nova.  It's huge fun, but it takes a lot of research. Setting a story in the past is a challenge - you know this yourself! And the same is true if your story takes place in another country. But if you invent the country and have to meld it into history that the reader already knows, then your task is doubled. Unless you are writing post-apocalyptic, which is too fantastic for me, you have to make the geography and climate similar to the region where your imagined country lies. I'll make a confession: I 'borrowed' Slovenia as the model.  And one of the big things you can't neglect is the social, economic and political development; this sounds dry, but every living person is a product of their local conditions. Their experience of living in a place and struggle to make sense of it is expressed through their culture.

Do you think it's possible that any such secret civilisations could exist, hidden away somewhere in the corner of the Earth?

With Google Maps, spy satellites and social media? Sadly, probably not, but it's a lovely romantic thought. If you set a story before 1939, you could probably get away with it. But now, I think you have to alternate time as I did, if you want to play with that idea.

What pivotal moments in history really interest you and is there one in particular where you wish a different choice had been made, thereby changing the course of things to come?

Oh, what a gift of a question! Thank you. Any historian will give you a full list, but my personal one is when Emperor Julian the Apostate was killed in AD 363 at the Battle of Samarra. He was the last non-Christian ruler of the Roman Empire and wanted to bring the Empire back to its ancient Roman values to save it from dissolution.

His laws tended to target wealthy and educated Christians. Julian's aim was not to destroy Christianity but to drive the religion out of the governing classes of the empire. He was well-educated, a clever and successful military commander, an able administrator and a survivor of lethal imperial family politics. He was only 31 when he died. You could draw a parallel with the death of JFK in 1963. Would that clever and talented leader have gone on to great things or would his own brilliance have been his downfall? If Julian had lived, would he have rolled back Christianity? A big "what if"!

You are obviously very fond of the Romans - why them in particular?

Strange, isn't it, when they weren't exactly a feminist bunch? Rome was founded in 753BC by riff-raff led, according to the legend, by Romulus and Remus and ended in the west in AD476. That's an impressive 1229 years, seven hundred years of which Rome was the most politically important, richest, and largest city in the Western world. I don't want to copy the John Cleese speech in The Life of Brian "What have the Romans ever done for us?" so I won't go on about baths, transport, trade, architecture, etc.

Throughout kingdom, republic, principate and dominate empire they were a regulated and military society. They aspired to the highest values of service to the state and civic virtue. Although ideal Roman family life included the lowest status members of society, such slaves were the most fortunate. Repugnant to us now, all ancient, medieval and early modern societies and some even in the 20th century, used slavery as an economic force.

Corruption was rife in most periods, but the Romans developed systems of law, politics and taxation as well as the principle of the rule of law and for over two hundred years established the Pax Romana. Literary arts, learning, technology, engineering and the decorative arts flourished. But the impressive thing is the complexity of their civil and economic as well as military life, multiculturalism and scientific engineering.

Their attitude to women was legally repressive, but towards the later period, it changed considerable with much more freedom to act, trade and own property. Divorce was easy, but adultery could be fatal. And there are many accounts of women owning and running businesses of all types. As you know, history is not all it seems to be in the public perception.

Are you good at Latin and did you enjoy learning it at school?

Am I going to take a Roman attitude and say yes, I was top most of the time, or a British one and say, well, actually, I wasn't too bad at it? 😉  I loved it, especially the rude and sexually explicit poems of Catullus…

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Alison - it all sounds absolutely fascinating and I can't wait to read Inceptio!

Blurb for INCEPTIO:-

New York - present day alternate reality. Karen Brown, angry and frightened after surviving a kidnap attempt, has a harsh choice - being eliminated by government enforcer Jeffery Renschman or fleeing to the mysterious Roma Nova, her dead mother's homeland in Europe.

Founded sixteen centuries ago by Roman exiles and ruled by women, Roma Nova gives Karen safety and a ready-made family. But a shocking discovery about her new lover, the fascinating but arrogant special forces officer Conrad Tellus who rescued her in America, isolates her.

Renschman reaches into her new home and nearly kills her. Recovering, she is desperate to find out why he is hunting her so viciously. Unable to reply on anybody else, she undergoes intensive training, develops fighting skills and becomes an undercover cop. But crazy with bitterness at his past failures, Renschman sets a trap for her, knowing she has no choice but to spring it…

Buy links:-

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Inceptio-Alison-Morton/dp/1781320624

US: http://www.amazon.com/Inceptio-Roma-Nova-Alison-Morton/dp/1781320624

Website/blog links:-

http://alison-morton.com

http://www.facebook.com/AlisonMortonAuthor

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I had a wonderful time at the RoNA Awards event on Tuesday evening, even though The Silent Touch of Shadows didn't win its category.  The lovely Charlotte Betts won Best Historical Romantic Novel with The Apothecary's Daughter - well deserved as it's a fabulous book!

Other winners were Katie Fforde (Best Contemporary), Jenny Colgan (Best Rom Com), Rowan Coleman (Best Epic), Victoria Lamb (Best YA) and Sarah Mallory (RoNA Rose Award) - huge congratulations to all of them!  For lots of photos, have a look at the RNA website and blog.

I've been laid low with flu, so won't post a long report, but here are a couple of more photos from the event!

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Image of susan kearsley charlotte betts kate furnival ronas 2013 <h2>2013-02-28 - The RoNAs</h2>Image of suzannah brigid coady <h2>2013-02-28 - The RoNAs</h2>Image of sue moorcroft suzannah brigid coady ronas 2013 <h2>2013-02-28 - The RoNAs</h2>

If you have visited the Choc Lit Author's Corner recently, some of you may have noticed that the banner at the top has changed to show some of the lovely new covers for Choc Lit books coming out this year.  One of them is mine so I thought I'd do a proper 'cover reveal' today to show it in all its glory.  Here it is, the cover for New England Rocks!

New England Rocks is a completely new departure for me - the first in a series of Young Adult contemporary stories set in, yes, you guessed it, New England, USA.  I wanted a change from writing historicals with all the research that entails, so I decided to have a go at the YA genre instead and this is the result.  I have to admit I had a lot of fun writing this as it took me down memory lane to my own teenage years.  I hope readers will enjoy it as well!

Here is the blurb:-

First impressions, how wrong can you get?

When Rain Mackenzie is expelled from her British boarding school, she can't believe her bad luck. Not only is she forced to move to New England, USA, she's also sent to the local high school as a punishment.

Rain makes it her mission to dislike everything about Northbrooke High, but what she doesn't bank on is meeting Jesse Devlin…

Not only is Jesse the hottest guy Rain's ever seen, he also plays guitar in an awesome rock band.

There's just one small problem …  Jesse already has a girlfriend, little miss perfect Amber Lawrence, who looks set to cause trouble as Rain and Jesse get closer.

But, what does any of it matter? New England sucks anyway, and Rain doesn't plan on sticking around …

Does she?

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Today is the official publication day for The Gilded Fan, the sequel to The Scarlet Kimono (although it can be read as a stand-alone) and I've just received this gorgeous bouquet!  Huge thanks to the lovely Choc Lit team for that and for all their hard work on The Gilded Fan!

Although there is nothing more wonderful - and terrifying! - than seeing your 'baby' go out into the world, I'm so pleased that this story has now been published.  It's one of those that has gone through numerous rewrites, but I hope it has emerged stronger for it and that readers will like it.

Here is the blurb:-

How do you start a new life, leaving behind all you love?

It's 1641, and when Midori Kumashiro, the orphaned daughter of a warlord, is told she has to leave Japan or die, she has no choice but to flee to England. Midori is trained in the arts of war, but is that enough to help her survive a journey, with a lecherous crew and an attractive captain she doesn't trust?

Having come to Nagasaki to trade, the last thing Captain Nico Noordholt wants is a female passenger, especially a beautiful one. How can he protect her from his crew when he can't keep his own eyes off her?

During their journey, Nico and Midori form a tentative bond, but they both have secrets that can change everything. When they arrive in England, a civil war is brewing, and only by standing together can they hope to survive…


If you'd like to help me celebrate, have a piece of chocolate (or several) - I am!

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Image of the gilded fan oblique view <h2>2013-02-07 - The Gilded Fan.  Today is the Day!</h2>

Today the Romantic Novelists' Association released the shortlists for this years' RoNAs (Romantic Novel Awards) and I was absolutely delighted to find The Silent Touch of Shadows nominated in the Historical category!

The complete lists can be found here and the winners of all the categories will be announced at an awards event on 26th February, which is to be held at the RAF Club in Piccadilly.  The prizes will be presented by Richard & Judy!

A lot of my RNA friends were also nominated - congratulations to them all!  I'm especially thrilled to find my fellow ChocLiteer Sue Moorcroft in the Contemporary category with her novel Dream a Little Dream, my fellow "Heroine Addict" Susanna Kearsley with The Rose Garden up against me in the Historical category and Victoria Connelly nominated in the Rom Com category with The Runaway Actress.

I'm very much looking forward to the awards event!

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Gill Stewart (http://novelpointsofview.blogspot.co.uk/) has very kindly nominated me for the above award - many thanks, Gill!  Not sure I deserve it as I don't post on here as often as I should, but I will do my best to follow the rules.  This means I need to tell you seven things about myself and then nominate some fellow bloggers to pass this on to.

So here are the seven random facts about me (which you may or may not know already):-

1 - My first name is really Pia-Christina with a hyphen, the way they write it in Italy.  I've always had to struggle to get that hyphen included!

2 - I love dogs (I think you've probably gathered that) but if I had to have a cat, I would choose a Maine Coon, preferably a silver coloured one.

3 - I refuse to watch sad films or read sad books.

4 - I've travelled a lot even though I don't actually like travelling much!

5 - I love ice hockey, but hate doing sports myself (am the ultimate couch potato).

6 - I'd like to open a rescue centre for mistreated animals - one day when I have the time!

7 - I hate going to the hairdresser more than I hate going to the dentist!

Now I'd like to pass this award on to my fellow bloggers Sue Fortin and Margaret James.

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The new year is already almost two weeks old - how did that happen?  I've spent most of that time in the garden picking up piles of leaves (which should have been picked up back in November as they are now very soggy and exctremely heavy!), or at least it feels like it.  My muscles are telling me that writers weren't meant for such heavy lifting, but the fresh air and excercise serve to counter-balance my chocolate intake I hope.

To start the year off, my second Regency novella Once Bitten, Twice Shy was released on Kindle last week with a lovely new cover in lilac (my favourite colour, as you've probably gathered by now).  Here is the blurb:-

"Once was more than enough!"

Jason Warwycke, Marquess of Wyckeham, has vowed never to wed again after his disastrous first marriage, which left him with nothing but a tarnished reputation and a rather unfortunate nickname ? 'Lord Wicked'.

That is, until he sets eyes on Ianthe Templeton …

Ianthe lives in the shadow of her beautiful twin sister, Serena and longs to escape the "mindless entertainments" she is forced to endure in London. She soon finds herself captivated by the enigmatic Wyckeham and tempted by his promises of a new life in the idyllic English countryside …

But can Wyckeham and Ianthe overcome the malicious schemes of spiteful siblings and evil stepmothers to find wedded bliss? Or will Wyckeham discover, all too painfully, that the past has come back to bite him for a second time?


Another Kindle release which has received a make-over is the Choc Lit Love Match short story anthology, which includes my story Sweet Beginnings. I love the new look, very stylish indeed!

And it's not long now till the official publication day on 7th February for the paperback of The Gilded Fan!  There will be some competitions and Twitter fun to mark the occasion.  In the meantime, as I mentioned, it's already available on Kindle.

Now, it's back to the grindstone for me, as I'm hard at work on the sequel to Trade Winds and Highland Storms …

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Belated Christmas wishes from me and my writing companions - hope you've all had a lovely, relaxing time!

And Happy New Year!

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As you may have seen elsewhere, National Express and my publisher Choc Lit have teamed up to promote National Express travel and the Choc Lit short story anthology The Choc Lit Love Match Selection.  This anthology includes my short story Sweet Beginnings and a delicious (if I may say so myself!) recipe for banana mousse.  This recipe is a great favourite in my family and is extremely easy to make, which makes it even better!

Click on this link if you are travelling with National Express before Christmas - http://www.choc-lit.co.uk/html/national_express_offer.html - there are loads more short stories and recipes from my fellow Choc Lit authors, continuing up to 24th December.  Enjoy!

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The Gilded Fan is now available on Kindle, a little earlier than expected but in time for Christmas!

Here is the blurb:-

How do you start a new life, leaving behind all you love?

It's 1641, and when Midori Kumashiro, the orphaned daughter of a warlord, is told she has to leave Japan or die, she has no choice but to flee to England. Midori is trained in the arts of war, but is that enough to help her survive a journey, with a lecherous crew and an attractive captain she doesn't trust?

Having come to Nagasaki to trade, the last thing Captain Nico Noordholt wants is a female passenger, especially a beautiful one. How can he protect her from his crew when he can't keep his own eyes off her?

During their journey, Nico and Midori form a tentative bond, but they both have secrets that can change everything. When they arrive in England, a civil war is brewing, and only by standing together can they hope to survive…

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Just back from the Festival of Romance weekend in Bedford, and what a weekend it turned out to be! The Silent Touch of Shadows won the Best Historical Read category of the FoR Awards, which was an absolutely wonderful surprise! Especially as I was up against such amazing books, all written by my lovely friends as I mentioned in the last post. Huge thanks to the organiser of FoR, Kate Allan, the organiser of the FoR Awards, Sarah Taylor, and the reading panel led by Louise Graham!

That wasn't all though as my lovely publisher Choc Lit also won a prize - Publisher of the Year - which was brilliant! Huge congratulations to everyone on the Choc Lit team 🙂

Here are some photos from the Awards Ball, courtesy of Liz Fenwick and Michael Matthews - many thanks to them for allowing me to post these!

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Image of festival of romance 2012 with sue moorcroft receiving award <h2>2012-11-19 - Festival of Romance Fun</h2>Image of festival of romance 2012 nominees <h2>2012-11-19 - Festival of Romance Fun</h2>Image of festival of romance 2012 1 2 3 <h2>2012-11-19 - Festival of Romance Fun</h2>Image of festival of romance 2012 with sue moorcroft <h2>2012-11-19 - Festival of Romance Fun</h2>

It's almost time for this year's Festival of Romance and I'm absolutely thrilled to have been nominated for one of the awards - Best Historical Read - for The Silent Touch of Shadows! I'm in great company, with fellow authors and friends Liz Harris, Jean Fullerton, Jenny Barden, Nicola Cornick and Charlotte Betts also nominated for this prize. My publisher Choc Lit has been nominated for the Publisher of the Year Award and Choc Lit authors Sue Moorcroft and Jane Lovering are among authors nominated for several other prizes. I am really looking forward to seeing everyone at the gala ball on 16th November! (For more information on all the shortlists please see here)

The Festival is taking place in the centre of Bedford this time, so if you're anywhere near there, please come along - it's going to be great fun! There are still tickets for some of the events available and the Romance Fair, held in the Howard Room of the Corn Exchange on Saturday 17th November between 10.00-17.00 is free for everyone. On the Sunday, I'm attending the 'Historical Afternoon Tea' at the Park Inn (3.30pm) - if you like historical romance and scones, do come (but don't forget to book in advance)! Sounds like a great combination to me 🙂

I'll be there from Friday to Sunday and hope to see some of you there!

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Image of logo festival of romance <h2>2012-11-05 - Festival of Romance 2012 - Nomination</h2>

The Long and Short Reviews Site (LASR) are having a Halloween Blogfest at the moment, so why not head on over and leave a comment? There are lots of giveaways to be won - click here for details

I'll be taking part tomorrow, 31st October, from 11am onwards (although that may be US time, so 3pm here in the UK?) If you'd like to leave a comment on my post, you'll find it here - there will be a chance to win a signed copy of The Silent Touch of Shadows!

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A couple of days ago, the lovely Jean Fullerton - author of brilliant novels set in the East End of London - very kindly 'tagged' me in her post about 'The Next Big Thing'. That means it's now my turn to answer ten questions about my next book, which will be released in February 2013, and to tag some other authors who will tell you about their new novels on their own blogs. So here are the Q & A's:-

What is the title of your next book? The Gilded Fan

Where did the idea come from for the book? It's the sequel to my second novel The Scarlet Kimono - as the hero and heroine of that story were from very different cultures, I couldn't help but wonder what would happen to their children, so I decided to find out.

What genre does your book fall under? Historical romance and adventure.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a film version? The heroine would be someone like Tia Carrere and the hero would have to be Chris Hemsworth.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? 'How do you start a new life, leaving behind all you love?'

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? It will be published by independent publisher Choc Lit.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? Six months maybe? I can't remember exactly.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? I can't really think of any books like it, apart from the prequel.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? The story was partly inspired by a song, The Temple of the King by Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow. It's very evocative and conjured up images in my mind.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest? The heroine is half Japanese and half English and has to flee persecution by the Shogun (ruler) of Japan. So how will a heathen girl like her cope with her English relatives in Plymouth, a world away from where she'd grown up? And as Puritans, how will the relatives cope with her? Then there's the additional strain of the English Civil War which begins just as she arrives in Europe…

Now I'm going to tag the following authors:-

Chris Stovell, whose wonderful contemporary novels I love (her blog is at http://homethoughtsweekly.blogspot.co.uk/ )

and

Henriette Gyland, who writes brilliant romantic suspense novels, which I also love! (See http://henriettegyland.wordpress.com/ )

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So the HNS conference is over for this time, but I certainly hope there will be another one next year because I had a fabulous (if hectic) time!

Two days of back-to-back fantastic speakers (authors, editors, agents and booksellers) and panels on every possible topic to do with historical novels - anyone who loves this genre couldn't have asked for more. I particularly enjoyed the panels on "What sells HF?" and "Brawn vs. Heart", where the panellists debated the merits of unusual covers for HF among other things, rather than just the usual "swords, swords and more swords" for males and headless ladies in beautiful gowns for women - browsing the book stall (brilliantly run by Waterstones personnel from their Trafalgar Square branch) afterwards, I saw the proof of this!

The panellists also commented on the rise of HF in general, which is great to see. There seems to be a definite male/female divide in both covers and subject matter, but hopefully e-books will make readers more willing to try different things as no one can see what they're reading.

Bernard Cornwell gave a very amusing after dinner speech during the Saturday night banquet, there was a historical costume pageant with some gorgeous outfits and it was lovely to see so many overseas delegates. On the Sunday, I particularly enjoyed Lindsay Davis's talk where she told the audience how she came to write her Roman stories. Throughout the weekend, soldiers from the Napoleonic association were in attendance (and they looked great, love those red coats!)

I was longlisted (but not shortlisted) for the first HNS short story competition and received a lovely certificate, which was very nice. Congratulations to the winner, Jasmina Svenne - I look forward to reading her story in the next HNS magazine!

The icing on the cake for me, however, was the opportunity to listen to, and meet, both Diana Gabaldon and Barbara Erskine, two of my absolute favourite authors. They did a joint workshop entitled "Haunted by the Past", which was fascinating, and answered questions from the audience. I could have listened to them for hours!

Can't wait for the next time!

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Image of characters in costume hns conference 2012 <h2>2012-09-30 - More about the HNS Conference</h2>Image of hns conference welcome panel 2012 <h2>2012-09-30 - More about the HNS Conference</h2>Image of christina hns certificate 2012 <h2>2012-09-30 - More about the HNS Conference</h2>

This week I'm helping with the final preparations for the Historical Novel Society Conference (28-30 September) here in London, and it promises to be a great event!

The cast list is an absolute dream for anyone who loves historical fiction - Bernard Cornwell, Philippa Gregory, Elizabeth Chadwick, Diana Gabaldon, CW Gortner, Harry Sidebottom - to name but a few. Delegates are going to be spoiled for choice and I'm really looking forward to hearing all the talks.

For more details about the HNS, please check out their website here.

Hope to see some of you there!

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Today I'm honoured to be guest blogging on Rom Con - please drop by and leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Highland Storms!

Here is the link!

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Today I'm very pleased to have Carol Hedges as my guest. Carol knows a thing or two about perseverance, which I can really empathise with, but I will let her tell you all about it herself. Over to you, Carol:-

First, I'd like to thank Christina for her generosity in letting me invade her blog site to share some of my writing journey with you.

So. Here we are. It is April 2012. I am waiting for an email from my agent telling me she's read my new novel, liked it, and is sending it straight out to publishers. I check my inbox. There is an email from my agent. She has read my new novel, liked it, but is not sending it out to publishers because nobody is interested in 'mid-list' writers like me any more.

This is the fifth time in as many years that I have been here. Five separate novels have done the rounds and been rejected. Previously, I have had 11 YA crime thrillers published. I have been nominated for many awards - including the Carnegie. I have had stories broadcast on the BBC. I think: I am 61, it is too late to start building my writing career from scratch all over again. I put my head down on the desk, and cry.

Fast forward to August 2012. I have an ebook, Jigsaw Pieces, out on Amazon Kindle. I have a blog. I have a Facebook page. I have a Twitter account. I contribute to an American writing-site. How have I accomplished this in such a short space of time? Pigheaded determination to 'beat' the system, a lot of very hard work, and the support and friendship of the online writing community.

Jigsaw Pieces is an ebook rewrite of a novel published by OUP in 1998. Based on my experiences as a teacher, and my love of World War I poetry, it is a coming of age story about 18 year old Norwegian student Annie Skaerstad. Like all my heroines, Annie is strong minded, feisty and a trenchant observer of life around her.

The book touches, in part, upon some difficult areas - teenage suicide and the exploitation of vulnerable young people. I decided to revisit the plot in the light of the various cases that have been in the press recently. And I wanted to write more about Annie, a teenage mix of Sarah Lund and Lizbeth Salander. She narrates the story, and her wonderfully wry personality stops it from being a totally tragic read.

The response to the ebook has been brilliant: I already have a 5 star review on Goodreads. Right now, I'm working on my next ebook, a 'Victorian-lite' crime thriller called Diamond Girl, which will be available to download in the Autumn. My advice? Never, ever give up on yourself. I am living proof that even in the latter stages of decrepitude (sic), marvellous things can still happen.

Many thanks, Carol, it's lovely to hear that you've fought back and are doing so well!

You can read more about Carol here:-

Blog: http://carolhedges.blogspot.com ; Twitter @carolJhedges; www.Facebook Carol Hedges and www.Shewrites.com (American).

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Image of book cover jigsaw pieces carol hedges <h2>2012-09-04 - Special Guest - Carol Hedges</h2>

I can't believe summer is almost over and we're into September already! I've had lots of guests, so not much time for writerly things, but they're all gone now and normality is about to return. Some news from me:-

Today has been a busy day! First of all, my Regency novella Marry in Haste was published on Kindle with a lovely new cover in my favourite colour purple. Here is the blurb:-

"I need to marry, and I need to marry at once!"

When James, Viscount Demarr confides in an acquaintance at a ball one evening, he has no idea that the potential solution to his problems stands so close at hand…

Amelia Ravenscroft is the granddaughter of an earl and is desperate to escape her aunt's home where she has endured a life of drudgery, whilst fighting off the increasingly bold advances of her lecherous cousin. She boldly proposes a marriage of convenience.

And Amelia soon proves herself a perfect fit for the role of Lady Demarr­­­. But James has doubts and his blossoming feelings are blighted by suspicions regarding Amelia's past.

Will they find, all too painfully, that to marry in haste is to repent at leisure?

You cand find it on Amazon here.

My latest novel, The Silent Touch of Shadows, was also released today in Australia and the Australian Romance Readers' Association (ARRA) very kindly allowed me to guest blog about it - here is the link. Anyone who is a member of ARRA has a chance to win a copy of the book - just leave a comment on the blog!

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Some of us are born photogenic and some are not - I'm definitely one of the latter. I've always hated having my picture taken and it's very rare that I like any photos of me. This could have been a problem since I had to have some author photographs, but fortunately there was a solution to hand - her name is Marte Lundby Rekaa.

I first met Marte when she came to take the official pics for RNA awards and parties. We got chatting since she's Norwegian and I'm half Swedish (we speak English, funnily enough, even though we can understand each other in our native languages too) and I loved the work she did for the RNA.

When I heard that Marte was offering a special portrait service (called "Promote Me" - see her website here), I decided to take advantage of this. The results were great (see middle photo) and I actually liked the images of myself to the extent that when Marte asked if I wanted to do it again, I said yes!

She wanted to try out different things and explore various possibilities with regard to what was suitable for an author photo specifically. So I arrived at her studio armed with a whole bunch of different outfits and props for us to play around with. Marte herself already had a huge pink pencil (twice my height almost) and we started off with that, but that didn't turn out too well, so instead we tried my clothing collection. It's amazing what a difference it can make when you wear different colours and also change the background colour and lighting.

I was even more pleased with the results this time and had a very hard time choosing from the contact sheets Marte sent me, so I ended up with a selection of my favourites (although I may have to buy some of the others at a future date). Here are a couple of them - what do you think?

At the end of the session I decided to turn the tables on Marte and I snapped her with my iPhone - not quite as good, is it 😀 But it was a fun end to an enjoyable session!

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Image of marte lundby rekaa photographer <h2>2012-08-09 - New Auhor Pics!</h2>

Today I have the lovely Margaret James as my guest. She's not only my friend, but also a fellow Choc Lit author, whose latest novel The Penny Bangle I thoroughly enjoyed. Although it's the third novel in a trilogy, it can be read on its own, but I would urge you to read all three as they're all wonderful! You can find my review of The Penny Bangle here.

Welcome to my blog, Margaret!

Thank you for inviting me to be a guest on your blog, Christina. I'm very happy to be here.

Your story is partly set in Dorset - what made you choose that as a location, and did you have any particular houses that you used as templates for the Charton Minster?

When my children were little, we had lots of seaside holidays in Dorset, and we all became very fond of places like Lyme Regis, Charmouth, (plenty of opportunities for fossil hunting and maternal heart attacks as my children strayed too close to those crumbling cliffs), Swanage and Weymouth. The sun always seemed to shine and we always had a lovely time. One day, we drove past a beautiful honey-coloured mansion which looked as if it was deserted. I haven't been able to find it since, and sometimes I wonder if I imagined it, but people who know Dorset will know exactly the kind of house I mean.

Some of your characters travel abroad, to places like Egypt and Italy - have you been there yourself or did you use eyewitness accounts to recreate these settings? If so, did you find that easy or difficult?

I love Italy and have been there many times. The last time was to Lucca, which is in Tuscany, a place where there was intense partisan activity during WW2 and which has many memorials to partisans who died defending their homeland. I've never been to Egypt, but I did lots of research into Africa during WW2 and found plenty of eyewitness accounts on line.

I love the fashions of bygone eras - do you like the styles of clothing from the 1940s? I really liked the descriptions of Daisy Denham's glamorous outfits, you must have done a lot of research for that?

I do love the fashions of the 1940s and in a way I wish we still wore clothes like that, but what a performance getting dressed must have been! We're so lucky to be able to live in jeans, if we so desire, and to have man-made fibres in our clothes. I can't imagine life without a washing machine and I would hate to wear clothes which couldn't be washed or cleaned, which was invariably the case until about fifty years ago. If you had washed a dress which had shoulder pads, stiffening of any kind and/or was made of anything but cotton or linen, you would probably have ruined it. The person who invented Lycra should be canonised.

Sometimes it's the little touches that make a story even more memorable, would you agree? For example, I loved the scene with the puppy (I won't give away exactly what happens, but that was very moving I thought.)

Thank you - I love the puppy, too. This scene picks up on something which happened in The Silver Locket and gives Rose a chance to make amends for letting down her childhood pet from all those years ago. I feel that in fiction small actions can reveal character as effectively as larger, more expansive and dramatic ones. The puppy incident reveals that Cassie is thoughtful, generous, imaginative and kind.

It's difficult for us now to grasp just how much tragedy people went through during the war - while doing the research for this story, did anything you read make you cry or did you try to focus on the positive things, like the amazing spirit of everyone involved and the fact that ultimately good triumphed over evil?

Anyone researching WW2 will almost certainly tell you that it throws up some amazing stories, both life-affirming and depressing. It seems to have been an exciting or even thrilling time for many young people because it gave them the chance to have adventures, even though there were plenty of opportunities to be hurt or even killed. I feel the Allies must have been constantly buoyed up by knowing they were morally in the right. They were fighting against an evil regime which had to be defeated, and in this respect WW2 was unusual.

I came across many very moving stories of human sacrifice and heroism, and these made me wonder what I would have done if I'd been tested. I particularly admire the quiet, unrewarded heroism of mothers with small children who were left alone at home to cope with rationing, wartime employment, shortages of everything, blackouts, raids, constant day-to-day frustrations and not knowing from one moment to the next if the people they loved were alive or dead.

Many thanks, Margaret!

The Penny Bangle is available to buy on Amazon or The Book Depository.

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Image of book cover the penny bangle margaret james <h2>2012-07-27 - Guest - Margaret James</h2>

I've just come back from five fabulous days "up north", more precisely Dumfries and Penrith, and I'm exhausted, but had a wonderful time!

The RNA's annual conference was held at Penrith this year, just south of the border to Scotland, so I thought I'd take the chance to visit my writing buddy Gill in Dumfries first.  The area where she lives is absolutely stunning and when we went for walks I couldn't stop taking photos so I thought I'd share some with you here.

The Forest of Ae appeals to me especially because it reminds me so much of the Swedish forests near the town where I grew up.  At a distance, they seem almost identical, but when I look more closely there are subtle differences.  For instance, the fir trees in Dumfries are mostly Douglas firs, whereas the Swedish ones are a slightly different variety that are less bushy.  The wonderful scents of pine and greenery are the same though, and we came across a river (in full spate due to all the recent rain no doubt) which made me long for "home".

And once out of the forest, the far-reaching views, all the way across to the Solway Firth, were just stunning!  If it hadn't been for the midges, I could have sat there and admired them all day.  I was very sad to leave 🙁

You would have thought that going to a conference held on a university campus would seem like a let-down after all that scenery, but not so.  RNA conferences are always huge fun - talks, workshops, meeting up with writing friends you usually only talk to via the internet, and of course the sessions in the bar and various communal kitchens in the evenings.  It was a non-stop whirl of activity from beginning to end, but I can't wait for next year!

I leave you with a photo of the Morris dancing lesson, which I confess I chickened out of (was simply too tired by that point and had a six hour drive ahead of me).  I really enjoyed watching though!

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The Silent Touch of Shadows!

The day began with the delivery of this lovely bouquet of flowers from Choc Lit - huge thanks to them!


More celebrations followed with a lovely lunch at the RNA London South-East Chapter meeting (including fizz and chocolates) - and finally dinner with my family.  Perfect!


(Thanks to Catriona Robb for the photo of me.)

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Image of the silent touch of shadows publication day christina <h2>2012-07-08 - Publication Day!  The Silent Touch of Shadows</h2>

The Silent Touch of Shadows is getting closer, only a few days to go! Pre-launch celebrations continue here, on Twitter, FB and on the Choc Lit website, and as promised you'll have a chance to win a Kindle loaded with some of Choc Lit's fab novels.  So here's what you have to do in order to enter the competition.

Simply answer the following questions (some research required):-

How many books has Christina Courtenay published with Choc Lit?

Highland Storms won which award?

Which century is The Silent Touch of Shadows partly set in?

Trade Winds is the prequel to which novel?

Who was abducted by a samurai warlord in 17th century Japan?

Save your answers, as there's a catch - you need to email the answers to info@choc-lit.com on Publication Day - Saturday 7th July.  Emails must be received on the 7th July (GMT) to be eligible.  A winner with all correct answers will be selected randomly using random.org.  Emails received before or after the 7th July (GMT) will not be eligible.

GOOD LUCK!

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Thank you very much to everyone who took part in the competition and tried to guess the ghost's name!

So many of you were very close with Sir Joss, but Morton Gray got it right with his full name which was Sir Jocelyn!  Congratulations, Morton, please e-mail me your address and the little ghost will be on his way to you very soon!

For a chance to win a Kindle, pre-loaded with some fab Choc Lit novels, please come back tomorrow and I'll give you the details on how to enter!

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If you'd like to enter the second week's The Silent Touch of Shadows competition and win one of these sweet little ghost charms, here are the details again:-

All you have to do is guess the ghost's name, either here or on Twitter or Facebook and as before, I'll give you five clues - look out for them at lunchtime (weekdays only)!

The ghost in The Silent Touch of Shadows is called Sir Roger, as he's a medieval knight and warrior.  That was also the name of the real ghost he is based on, so I didn't have much choice when it came to naming him.  However, there was another name I considered giving him and that's the one you have to guess.

Clue number 1 - "It's a very noble sort of name" (and he is a knight, so ‘Sir [name]' of course)

Clue number 2 - "It was used by the Normans"

Clue number 3 - "It's the name of a famous actor"

Clue number 4 - "Half of it is the first name of a UK singer"

Clue number 5 - "The actor's surname is Ackland and the singer's is Stone"

I'll announce the winner tomorrow - good luck!

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So here he is, the prize for the first week of the competition, and Sharon Wilden guessed correctly - a little ghost charm!  Congratulations on winning, he'll be on his way to you very soon, Sharon!  And thank you to everyone who entered!

Tara Chevrestt, you were the runner-up and as your very first guess was brilliant, you'll be receiving a signed copy of The Silent Touch of Shadows in the post - congratulations!

Anyone who didn't win this week, don't despair though as there is another one of these cute little ghosts to be won next week.  All you have to do is guess his name either here or on Twitter or Facebook and as before, I'll give you five clues - look out for them at lunchtime (weekdays only)!

The ghost in The Silent Touch of Shadows is called Sir Roger, as he's a medieval knight and warrior.  That was also the name of the real ghost he is based on, so I didn't have much choice when it came to naming him.  However, there was another name I considered giving him and that's the one you have to guess.  Look out for clue number 1 on Twitter and FB today!

(I'll be posting them here as well so please come back tomorrow for another clue!)

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Here is the final clue for this week to help you guess what the prize is - "anagram CRAG SHH TOM (2 words) now open Pandora's box"!

Previous clues were (1) "it's something you can wear on your wrist (and it's vaguely related to the book)", (2) "it's made of silver", (3) "it's not very big" and (4) "it's paranormal".

The answer will be revealed tomorrow, together with the lucky winner of this item, plus details of how to win one more next week!

Have you guessed it yet?  Then please leave your answer below - thank you!

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So the weekend is over and it's time to give you clue no.4, which is "it's paranormal"!

The other clues were as follows:-

1 - "it's something you can wear on your wrist (and it's vaguely related to the book)

2 - "it's made of silver"

3 - "it's not very big"

Please keep the guesses coming - tomorrow I'll give you the final clue and on Wednesday we reveal the first prize winner and the prize!



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It's time for Clue No.3 to help you guess the answer to the competition question, which was - "Can you guess what this week's prize is?" Here it is, together with the previous two:-

1 - It's something you can wear on your wrist (and it's vaguely related to the book)

2 - It's made of silver

3 - It's not very big!

Happy guessing and have a lovely weekend!

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Thanks for the guesses so far - here is the second clue to help you a bit more!

It's made of silver!

The first clue was "It's something you can wear on your wrist (and it's vaguely related to the book).

The answer will not be revealed until next Wednesday, so even if you've figured it out before then, I won't tell you. I will, however, keep all your names for the draw. Keep the guesses coming, please!

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For the next three weeks, in the run-up to the paperback publication of my new novel, The Silent Touch of Shadows, you will have a chance to win somefabulous prizes! We (the Choc Lit team and I) decided to have some fun with weekly competitions rather than a launch party. So I do hope you'll join in!

On publication day itself, Saturday 7th July, we'll be giving away the top prize - a Kindle, pre-loaded with some of mine and the other Choc Lit authors' award-winning novels! - to one lucky person who has entered the contest during the previous weeks and the final day. To make it fair, we'll put all the names in a hat and draw one at random. It could be you!

Now for the first two weeks, we would like you to guess the answer to a question and we'll be posting one clue a day to help you out. During this time, there will also be random book giveaways to those folks that RT on Twitter, Share on Facebook and generally spread the word - so there's a chance to win something every day. What could be better?

So can you guess what this week's prize is? Well, that's the first question, and here's the first clue - it's something you can wear on your wrist (and it's vaguely related to the book of course). We'll be giving you four more clues - one each day, on Twitter, Facebook and here on my blog. Once you know the answer, please leave a comment here. The correct one, plus the week's winner, will be revealed here in a week's time, together with next week's competition.

Please keep checking Twitter (@PiaCCourtenay), Facebook and my blog for clues and best of luck everyone!

(And if you don't want to wait, The Silent Touch of Shadows is available now on Kindle)

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It's nail-biting time again as The Silent Touch of Shadows has been sent out to reviewers (such as the lovely Squizzey from the Nut Press - shown here with the book and complimentary chocolate) and I await their verdict and comments. It's always scary sending your work out into the world and it doesn't seem to get easier with every book as I had expected - rather the opposite!

The Silent Touch of Shadows has also just been released for Kindle so if anyone is a fan of time slips, here is the blurb:-

What will it take to put the past to rest?

Professional genealogist Melissa Grantham receives an invitation to visit her family's ancestral home, Ashleigh Manor. From the moment she arrives, life-like dreams and visions haunt her. The spiritual connection to a medieval young woman and her forbidden lover have her questioning her sanity, but Melissa is determined to solve the mystery.

Jake Precy, owner of a nearby cottage, has disturbing dreams too, but it's not until he meets Melissa that they begin to make sense. He hires her to research his family's history, unaware their lives are already entwined. Is the mutual attraction real or the result of ghostly interference?

A haunting love story set partly in the present and partly in fifteenth century Kent.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Silent-Touch-Shadows-Choc-ebook/dp/B008834GRY/ref=sr_1_1_title_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1339147858&sr=1-1

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So the RNA's annual Summer Party has been and gone, and sadly I didn't win anything this time. But I didn't really mind because it was lovely to have been shortlisted and it was still an extraordinary evening of celebration for the whole Choc Lit team since Evonne Wareham won the Joan Hessayon Award for a new writer and Jane Lovering won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award!! Huge congratulations to them!

Here are some photos, courtesy of talented photographer Marte Lundby Rekaa, of Evonne and Jane with their trophies, plus me and the other Choc-Liteers in party mode. It was definitely a night to remember!

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Image of rna summer party 2012 winners table <h2>2012-05-22 - RNA Summer Party</h2>Image of rna summer party 2012 jane lovering <h2>2012-05-22 - RNA Summer Party</h2>Image of rna summer party 2012 group shot 001 <h2>2012-05-22 - RNA Summer Party</h2>Image of rna summer party 2012 group shot 002 <h2>2012-05-22 - RNA Summer Party</h2>Image of rna summer party 2012 evonne wareham <h2>2012-05-22 - RNA Summer Party</h2>

Seeing a pile of books with your name on it has to be one of the best feelings in the world! And it was what happened to me this afternoon as the advance copies of The Silent Touch of Shadows arrived - yeah! I was thrilled to see the finished version and love the cover - it definitely looks even better for real 🙂 It goes on sale at the beginning of July, can't wait!

There's more excitement to come next week at the RNA's Summer Party, when the winner of The Romantic Novel of the Year Award (RNOTY) will be announced, as well as the winner of the Joan Hessayon Award for best new writer. As I'm one of the finalists for the RNOTY, I was very happy to see an excellent article about it in today's issue of the Daily Express (link here), written by Emma Lee-Potter. Huge thanks to her for being so positive about romantic novels!

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I have just spent three days at the London Book Fair, helping out on the Choc Lit stand and it's been great fun! The huge halls at Earl's Court were absolutely buzzing, the excitement of all the discussions going on around us almost tangible. Just being surrounded by so many books and book-related things is wonderful, and judging by everyone's enthusiasm, I wasn't alone in enjoying it.

Apart from the fact that we were handing out lovely little chocolate hearts wrapped in mauve foil (we sampled quite a few), I got to speak to lots of interesting people. And just watching everyone go by was fascinating too!

From the many languages I overheard it seemed that just about every country was represented and I had a chance to try out my best Spanish (very rusty!!) and some Swedish of course. I even had a go at Japanese, but was quite relieved to find the lady in question spoke extremely good English since my vocabulary is fairly limited!

There were some great displays too and the one I liked the best is this arch made out of books - I'm very tempted to try and duplicate this at home! (But I doubt I'll succeed…) All in all, a great three days!

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Image of arch of books london book fair 2012 <h2>2012-04-19 - London Book Fair 2012</h2>

I should have wished everyone a Happy Easter days ago, but I've been immersed in editing The Silent Touch of Shadows so that it will be ready for publication on time. So belated Easter wishes and I hope you all had a lovely Easter!

Apart from working through most of it, I had a peaceful and relaxing time, which is just as well since next week will be extremely hectic. I'll be at the London Book Fair helping to man the Choc Lit stand and I'm really looking forward to that as it should be great fun! If anyone is passing, please stop by to say hello to us - there may be chocolates!

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I still can't quite believe it, but at the wonderful RNA Awards Event yesterday, in the Gladstone Library at One Whitehall Place, Highland Storms won the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel!!!

The shortlist for that category comprised some amazing novels by Jean Fullerton, Rachel Hore, Marina Fiorato and Christie Dickason, so I felt very honoured to be in their company, let alone be given this award! Huge thanks to the readers, the organiser and the RNA.

Below are some photos from the event and also of the beautiful bouquet of flowers which I've just received from my lovely mum, to whom Highland Storms is dedicated - thank you! Many thanks also to everyone who has congratulated me, I really appreciate your support!

You can read more about the awards on the RNA website and on the special Awards website here.

Almost forgot - fellow Choc-Liteer Jane Lovering won Best Romantic Comedy with her brilliant Please Don't Stop the Music and Kate Johnson was shortlisted with her wonderful novel The Untied Kingdom - congratulations to them too!

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Image of rona awards official photo martina lundby rekaa <h2>2012-03-06 - Highland Storm's a Winner!!!</h2>Image of rona awards flowers <h2>2012-03-06 - Highland Storm's a Winner!!!</h2>Image of rona awards group photo <h2>2012-03-06 - Highland Storm's a Winner!!!</h2>Image of christina with kate johnson jane lovering <h2>2012-03-06 - Highland Storm's a Winner!!!</h2>

After a very enjoyable day at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live event yesterday, today I immersed myself in Japanese culture at Earl's Court, which was great fun!

The Hyper Japan event featured stalls selling all sorts of things related to Japanese culture, many of them focusing on Manga and Anime, but also clothes and accessories. No one does tiny cute things quite like the Japanese! I almost bought myself a pair of tabi socks (with a separate section for your big toe), but resisted, and a bag made out of recycled kimonos (again, I resisted). Instead I fell for some beautiful blue and white rice bowls - probably a more practical option.

The people attending the event were almost more interesting to look at than the merchandise on offer. Quite a few of them had come dressed in Manga/Anime costumes, presumably those of their favourite characters, and they were happy to pose for the camera. It was a bit disconcerting to see a huge Pikachu (pokemon) walking around, not to mention people with enormous wigs, but it was fun. I think I'd like a blue wig too!

The main attraction for us, however, was the wonderful food. There were stalls selling everything from yakisoba (fried noodles) to octopus balls (bits of octopus with dough around them and fried as little balls) and green tea ice cream, so we had a lovely lunch. The Japanese don't just cook tasty food, it also looks nice, like the little "guy" made out of mochi and a strawberry - so cute.

I'm now wishing I was in Japan for real - Tokyo in the spring is the best!

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Image of japanese anime girl fans 001 <h2>2012-02-26 - All Things Japanese</h2>Image of japanese cooking 001 <h2>2012-02-26 - All Things Japanese</h2>Image of mochi strawberry japanese little guy <h2>2012-02-26 - All Things Japanese</h2>

I've been hooked on genealogy for nearly 30 years now and don't think the fascination will ever go away. Once you start trying to puzzle together your family tree, you never stop. It's definitely addictive and since you don't necessarily have to stick to one branch of ancestors, you can literally go on searching for them forever.

I decided early on, however, that I had to stick to just one name or I'd never get anywhere, so I chose my maiden name and started collecting information about everyone with the same name. Eventually, this led to me becoming a member of the Guild of One-Name Studies, which is an organisation "dedicated to promoting the public understanding of one-name studies and the preservation and accessibility of the resultant information." (quote from their website)

Apart from the obvious benefits of belonging to such an organisation, I've also met some lovely people, all enthusiastic genealogists whose eyes don't glaze over when I start talking about census records or elusive convict ancestors. And tomorrow I'm hoping to meet some more of them, as I'll be helping out on the Guild stand at the "Who Do You Think You Are? Live" exhibition at Olympia in Kensington. It should be great fun and I'm really looking forward to it. If you're planning on going, please stop by and say hello - hope to see you there!

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I didn't post for ages and now I'm posting two days in a row! But really, I had to, because I just found out that Highland Storms has been shortlisted for this year's RNA awards - the RoNAs - in the historical category!

This is ery exciting and I'm in good company - also shortlisted for this are my fellow RNA members Jean Fullerton with Perhaps Tomorrow, Rachel Hore with A Gathering Storm, Christie Dickason with The Noble Assassin and Marina Fiorato with Daughter of Siena. I'm sure these are all great stories and I'll be reading them as soon as I can.

There was more great news though as two of my fellow Choc-Lit-eers were shortlisted in other categories - Jane Lovering with Please Don't Stop the Music in the romantic comedy category and Kate Johnson with The Untied Kingdom in the contemporary category - congratulations to them!

The winners will be announced on 5th March at the RNA Awards Eent.

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I'm really pleased to be able to show everyone the cover for my next book, The Silent Touch of Shadows today!'It's going to be a slightly different story compared to my previous novels. It's a time slip with some paranormal elements, set partly in the present and partly in fifteenth century Kent.

The heroine in the present is harassed by a ghostly presence when she moves into an old Kentish manor house. Being a genealogist, she decides to do some research to solve the mystery and slowly unravels the story of the house's previous owners and a six hundred year old love story.'Just a bit more editing to do before it's ready…

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I'e just been told about a great reiew for 'Highland Storms' by RT Book Reiews and I'm doing a little happy dance here 😀 There's also an extended reiew here which I'm absolutely thrilled about - great start to the weekend!

I'e been reading RT (or Romantic Times) for many years and when I was unpublished, I used to dream of one day being reiewed by them - well, the dream has come true! I think this calls for a celebration - where's the chocolate?!

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Yesterday I was in Rochdale, north of Manchester, for a wonderful Regency event celebrating Lord Byron's 224th birthday! It was held at Rochdale Town Hall and I hae to say I would have travelled all that way just for the pleasure of seeing such a wonderful building, all Victorian Gothic and unbelievably ornate! I tried to take some photos, but they really don't do it justice - you have to see it in order to feel the grandeur of the place. The stained glass windows alone are worth a visit and I particularly liked the gargoyles all round the walls (indoors)!

The brilliant organizer of this event, Suzanne Heslan, had laid on a varied programme, starting with talks on George, Lord Byron (who was also Baron Rochdale) by Dr Jonathon Shears of Keele Uniersity and my friend and fellow author Sarah Mallory, both very informative and interesting.

This was followed by a dancing performance by a troupe of dancers called Regency Re Jigged, all dressed in lovely Regency clothing and with a group of musicians playing authentic 18th and early 19th century music to accompany them.

When they'd finished their demonstration, they attempted to teach the rest of us a couple of dances and I did my best - although I'm not sure that was quite good enough! It's amazingly difficult to remember all the steps and I think I need a lot more practice. A big thank you to my dance partner for his patience!

After tea I did a short talk about Regency scents (and odours/malodours) in the adjoining Court Room. This was another grand place with more stained glass windows (this time in brilliant hues of red/scarlet) and my faourite decoration - all round the walls was a thick frieze painted with gold-coloured greyhounds, very pretty!

There was a costume demonstration, soldiers from the 22nd Regiment of Foot (one of whom kindly let me try on his tricorne hat - I now want one!) and a performance of clog dancing. All in all, a really enjoyable day so huge thanks to Suzanne for inviting me to take part!

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Image of rochdale gargoyles 001 <h2>2012-01-22 - Byron's Birthday</h2>Image of rochdale organiser byrons birthday suzanne 001 <h2>2012-01-22 - Byron's Birthday</h2>Image of sarah mallory christina rochdale byrons birthday 001 <h2>2012-01-22 - Byron's Birthday</h2>Image of dancers in costume rochdale byrons birthday 001 <h2>2012-01-22 - Byron's Birthday</h2>Image of regency musicians rochdale byrons birthday 001 <h2>2012-01-22 - Byron's Birthday</h2>Image of christina tricorn hat rochdale byrons birthday 001 <h2>2012-01-22 - Byron's Birthday</h2>Image of courtroom rochdale byrons birthday 001 <h2>2012-01-22 - Byron's Birthday</h2>Image of courtroom windows rochdale byrons birthday 001 <h2>2012-01-22 - Byron's Birthday</h2>