Monday, 1 December 2014

The Christmas Burn-Up - Free Read!!

Regular readers of this blog will remember that back in August when it was sunny and hot (where does the time go??) I somewhat bizarrely wrote a snow-drenched Christmas short story for the Written Fireside Summer Blog Hop, entitled The Christmas Burn-Up.


The blog hop began with a competition run by HarperImpulse to write the first paragraph of a Christmas story with the theme 'Christmas by the fire'.

Fifteen authors then took the winning paragraph and wrote their own short story (though mine ended up running away with me and using up 6k!). My contribution was a funny and snowy story with a hint of magic, about being single at Christmas. I called it The Christmas Burn-Up.

Two instalments of the story appeared on my blog back in the summer but you can now read the full story along with all the other blog hop stories in Naughty Or Nice? - a lovely FREE anthology published by HarperImpulse and out today! Why not stock up your Kindle and get in the mood for Christmas...

Friday, 21 November 2014

First Fight Friday...

I'm visiting over at the fabulous Lori Connelly's blog today for her First Fight Friday slot, featuring Evie and Jack from Man Vs Socialite. There's always a first fight in every romance - right? Come and join me for the fireworks!

http://loriconnelly.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/first-fight-friday-man-vs-socialite-by.html

Monday, 27 October 2014

I'm Visiting The Pink Heart Society - and there is a Giveaway!

I'm talking about drinking urine, eating goats' testicles and the appeal of Bear Grylls over at The Pink Heart Society today, for their Male On Monday slot! I'm also giving away a copy of my new release Man Vs Socialite. Come and join me if you have a second, I'd love company :0D

http://pinkheartsociety.blogspot.com/2014/10/male-on-monday-roasted-rat-anyone.html

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Written Fireside - Of The Storm - Part 8...

I'm taking part in a Halloween flash fiction with some fantastic writers. If you haven't a clue what I'm talking about, here are links to catch up on "Of The Storm" before reading part 8, my part!

Cover created by Aileen Harkwood

Part 1 by Lori Connelly

Part 2 by Aileen Harkwood

Part 3 by Elise Forier Edie

Part 4 by Paty Jager

Part 5 by Ciara Gold

Part 6 by Traci Douglass
 
Part 7 by Angela Campbell

PART 8...

Amaya followed Makani along the dark passage, her sister’s hand firm on her wrist. Makani held her wedding ring held aloft to fell any guard that appeared before them. As they progressed the air seemed to lose its cold dampness and instead began to spark as if with electricity. The fine down on Amaya’s neck and arms stood on end. They were close. She could feel it. When Makani glanced back at her she could see her sister felt it too.
 Sudden doubt flooded through Amaya.
‘I can’t do this,’ she blurted, shaking her head. ‘I don’t remember how. I’ve spent so long trying to forget the past that I can’t just recall it all at a moment’s notice.’
‘It will come to you,’ Makani said. ‘When you need it.’
The sense of calm she evoked was so un-Makani-like that Amaya found herself shaking her head in wonder. Was this what true love did to a person?
‘Don’t overthink it,’ Makani said. ‘It’s not about reading spellbooks, Amaya, or remembering those childhood lessons. It’s about being yourself. That part of you that you’ve tried so hard to shut out – you just need to let it in.
As they rounded the next corner Amaya felt Tasaria’s presence in the crackle in the air before she saw her. Makani stepped boldly into the room. Whatever Blaike had done to her, it obviously included making her reckless. Tasaria smiled a mocking welcome, as if she’d been expecting them.
‘Not going for the element of surprise then?’ Amaya stage-whispered after her sister. ‘I was thinking maybe we’d approach from behind, move with a bit of stealth…’
‘She already knows we’re here,’ Makani said. ‘What would be the point?’
Amaya looked past her toward the queen. The Torc encircled Tasaria’s neck and a spike of anger rose inside her as she caught sight of it. It was not her property and it was not her right.
Her gaze slipped sideways to the corner of the room and she caught her breath. Blaike and Bri were shackled and surrounded by a line of fae guards. Her heart clenched as she saw Bri’s twisted body on the stone floor, his eyes closed, his silver hair lying limply across his face, its lustre dulled.
Please don’t let him be dead. 
The possibility brought utter despair so complete that she felt its weight would bury her. Only now did she realise her true feelings for him. Now when it was too late.
‘At last,’ Tasaria said. Her eyes flashed coldly. ‘Waiting is so dull. I do believe Brishan is losing the will to live.’ 
She waved a hand at Bri’s prone body in the corner of the room and cackled triumphant laughter.  Amaya’s heart sank like a stone. Then as she watched, as if he had somehow read her mind, his eyes fluttered open and widened as they met her gaze. He was alive. The relief was immense. With it came a burst of angry determination to take back what was hers.
She glanced away as Tasaria beckoned.
‘Now the chant, my dears. If you please.’
‘The Torc is our birthright. Not yours.’
It felt like her voice came from far away. Makani nodded agreement beside her.
‘I’ll take that as a no,’ Tasaria sneered. ‘Good. It’s no fun when people give in.’ In an instant she held up a hand and a surge of power flew toward Amaya and Makani in a glittering blue stream from her palm.
Without thinking, without calling on any childhood memory, acting purely on instinct, Amaya held up her own hand, and from it poured a counter-stream of magic. The fae soldiers scattered, caught off-guard by the speed of Amaya’s reaction before they could intervene. She felt the kickback in her shoulder as her magic hit Tasaria’s head on and then she closed her eyes, the better to focus on inching the burning stream back toward Tasaria bit by bit.
The power had been there all along, just waiting to be picked up. She marvelled how it had come when she needed it. She had suppressed it with human normality, hiding all aspects of her otherness. Yet this was who she really was. She’d been denying her soul. Had she ever felt as alive as she did now? So complete? No, there had always been a sense of something missing. She’d been the one that has shut it out. Just as she’d shut out the connection with Bri, yet on some deep visceral level it had always been there, simmering away.
Makani stood shoulder to shoulder with her, held up a hand and sent her own flash of magic to join with Amaya’s. The queen’s strangled cry of anger and fear only served to spur them on until their combined power held her frozen in a blaze of light. Amaya held up her other hand and the Torc flew from Tasaria’s neck. Amaya caught it neatly.
True to herself for the first time, standing with her sister, victory felt within reach.



Monday, 1 September 2014

Writing A Continuity

Today is the first publication day for my first ever continuity. Sleeping With The Soldier is the second book in the Flat In Notting Hill series and it's released today in the UK under the ModernTempted imprint (publication further afield will happen next year).

Writing a continuity book is an interesting process - quite different to the usual solitary way I write - and I thought it might be fun to look back over the time I spent on this one.

A continuity is a series which is initiated by the publisher - the editorial team provide a basic plot line and skeleton background character details, which as an author you then develop in collaboration with the other authors taking part.

I've always enjoyed reading continuities, I really love the world building that comes from having a story arc take place over more than one book, and the deeper knowledge of characters. I never expected to get the chance to write one, so I was thrilled (and a bit nervous) last summer when I had an email from the Editor of the Harlequin KISS/ModernTempted line asking if I'd be interested in taking part in this year's continuity. At that point all I knew was that it had the working title 'Summer In The City' (this was later changed to 'The Flat In Notting Hill'), that it was based in London, and that it would revolve around a group of flatmates. I loved the sound of it right away, but I would have to wait for another month or so before I received the continuity 'Bible' and got to see how the rough background and plot for the four books would look.

I was very excited to find out that the other three authors in this continuity would be Nikki Logan (whose books I'd loved before I ever got The Call!), Joss Wood (who joined the line just before me and was already a lovely friend) and Louisa George (I could remember reading her call story and wishing it could be me!). All three of them are so talented, and starting out, I was terrified of messing it up or having a mid-book meltdown (not unknown), because this time I had them to let down. What would happen if my book wasn't up to the standard of the others?

The Bible dropped into my inbox towards the end of last summer and it was really fun to read. I had a skeleton background of the overarching story for all four books and then the brief for each of our four stories (mine is the second one in the series). This meant I could get a flavour of all the characters, not just my own, which was important because they would be the supporting cast in my book.

This is what it looked like..


















And this is my timeline plan, with all the scenes for my story on it...

Those of you who've read this blog in the past will know that I'm a plotter - I like to know exactly where I'm going with a story. If I don't plan properly I tend to throw my toys out of the pram about half way through, when I convince myself that what I've written so far is a pile of crap and I haven't a clue how to proceed. Writing a continuity is a bit of a dream for a plotter. No need to stress about how the character conflicts worked together - they were already laid out for me by the brainstorming editors. Settings, relationships and backgrounds? A skeleton description was given of those too. What I did need to do was work out how the plot would develop in terms of scenes. How would these two characters get to know each other? What happenings could I come up with that would best show their conflicts and problems? And how would my plot affect the other books and vice versa.

I started with my characters. I was given basic information - I knew my character's names (although I could change them if I wanted to - none of that was set in stone), and roughly their ages. I started a Pinterest board, which you can see here, and then I swapped details with the other three authors, who needed to know what Lara and Alex looked like for their scenes in the other books. It also meant we didn't end up with two characters looking too much alike. We also collaborated on the appearance of the shared settings in the books - for example we discussed possible interior and exterior photos for the Old Fire Station block of flats, and for Ignite, the cafĂ© downstairs where scenes take place in all four of the books.

Then I looked at the skeleton description of backstory and present day situation that I'd been given.
Lara's background, for example, is a solitary one. She's been through the foster care system as a child and has come out the other side totally self-reliant and utterly focused on making her own security by using her talent for sewing. She runs her own boutique lingerie business and has managed to secure a pop-up shop in Notting Hill. She rents a tiny studio flat in the same building as the other girls in the continuity. I knew all these things about her before I started writing, but I had the freedom to flesh out her character around these bare bones and really put my stamp on the story.

I drew a few key scenes from the details in the Bible, and then added in my own scenes around them to develop the story in my own way. And the funny thing was that for all my angsting before I started out, it actually turned out to be one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had with my writing and one I would jump at doing again if I got the chance. It was great to be able to brainstorm with the other three authors. Writing is quite solitary for me - just my kitchen and my laptop most of the time - and it was fun to play around with the character and story details. When all four of us had finished our full drafts we were able to tie up details across our books so the overarching story worked as well as the four individual standalone stories.

I really love the way my book turned out and I hope readers enjoy the series.

So what do you think? Are you a fan of continuity stories? What is it about them that you like or don't like? I'd love to know.

Friday, 22 August 2014

The Christmas Burn-Up - Part 2!

Time for my second snippet of The Christmas Burn-Up and a second chance to enter the Written Fireside August Blog Hop Rafflecopter!


The Christmas Burn-Up - Part 2


     The snow had stopped. At last something positive.    

     She turned away from the bus stop and walked the short distance to their house. Correction: her house. If she was going to properly move on she needed to at the very least stop thinking about things in a joint way. Maybe the woman on the bus had a point now that she thought about it. Her single life was still heavily laced with Daniel. Her phone memory was still chock full of his grovelling messages, asking her to give things another try, protesting that they were both at fault in their own ways. The bloody cheek of it. Only one of them had declared he felt like he was wearing a ball and chain. The house was still stuffed with belongings he’d neglected to collect and reminders of their time together.

     Maybe it was time for a clear out. That part of what the crazy old bus lady had said actually made a certain kind of sense. How the hell was she supposed to move forward when she was surrounded by reminders of him everywhere she looked? And it wasn’t as if she had anything more pressing in her social diary for the evening.

     The little house was easily identifiable. It was the only one in the terraced row that wasn’t sporting some kind of flashy Christmas illumination. The Thorp family, three doors down and slaves to vulgar, had a sleigh and reindeer in flashing neon lights on their roof. Next door had attempted tasteful, with a minimalist row of mock candles in the window. End of the row had an inflatable snowman bobbing about in their front garden and brandishing a ‘Santa Please Stop Here’ sign. Charlotte’s tiny house stood in darkness.

     She opened the front door and was immediately tripped up by Cinnamon the cat, launching his assault from the side table in the hall where he’d been staking out the doorway for her arrival, winding his way hungrily between her feet. This time last year, exactly to the day she realised with a pang of nostalgia, she’d found him. A tiny ball of oily, grubby, spiky fur with a high-pitched pitiful mew that tugged at her heart. No collar. Skin and bone. Found sheltering from the snow near the bins at the back of the terrace.

     She’d mocked up a leaflet and dropped it through every letterbox on the street and had put up posters for good measure. No one had come forward to claim him, much to her delight and Daniel’s grouching. She’d talked Daniel into letting her keep him. Of course she had. Didn’t the perfect couple in their perfect home need a pet? It was practically a requirement. It went with the image.

     She swallowed. When it came right down to it, image had really been all they were about. Playing house. Fitting what each of them thought a steady cohabiting relationship should be and clashing like crazy because their expectations were at opposite ends of a very big scale.

     The wistful smile faded from her lips. She was not about to be diverted from her task by a stupid nostalgia trip about a cat. Dodging out of Cinnamon’s way, she whisked through the house like a dervish on a wave of new momentum, picking up anything along the way that reminded her of Daniel, some of it his stuff that he’d failed to pick up, some things they’d bought together. Daniel’s football programmes, a photograph of the two of them on a day trip to London, a cheap painting they’d bought together, a spare jacket of his that he’d left behind.  Since the house was a tiny two-up two-down, it really didn’t take long. At last she held a teetering pile in her arms that she dropped by the back door while Cinnamon watched disapprovingly.

     ‘What?’ she asked him. ‘Where’s your sense of loyalty? He wanted to call you Crimbo. And do you really think you would have been allowed to stay here if I hadn’t been around? Two words: Animal Shelter.’

     She opened the back door. A rush of freezing air swept in and Cinnamon bolted up the stairs.

****

     The garden was as tiny as the house. A square of lawn, a miniscule patio that had just enough room for a small table and chairs and a titchy shed at the bottom corner. Next door had carried the theme of Christmas-meets-Vegas into their back garden too, with a zingy string of coloured fairy lights along the dividing hedge and Rudolph’s reindeer face depicted in lights on the back of their house with a red nose that flashed rhythmically on and off.

   She carried the pile of belongings to the bottom of the postage stamp lawn and carefully built up a base stack of rubbish for a bonfire, adding in some old planks of wood that lay next to the tiny shed and some garden tat she found inside it. She lobbed a few firelighters in the middle, leftovers from a summer barbecue when they’d sat out here with friends and Daniel had wielded the barbecue implements – stereotypical. She pressed her lips together. That’s exactly what their life had been. She’d seen to it, she realised now. That was what you did in summer when you lived together: you had a civilised barbecue with your man turning the burgers while you rustled up a jug of Pimms. Daniel’s mates had turned up, each brandishing a girlfriend and a six-pack, and it had turned into more of a raving party than the sedate grown-up thing she’d had in mind. Instead of having a laugh, she’d felt somehow disappointed, as if she’d failed at the point of the afternoon. It all seemed a bit ridiculous now. Prior to moving in with Daniel, she would have been partying along with the rest of them. Sharing bricks and mortar had somehow made her lose sight of herself in some mad quest to become Mary Berry.

    The fire was glowingly warm. She held her palms out to it. A melty circle grew outward from it on the frosty lawn as the heat thawed the ground. It was actually cosier out here with the dancing flames than it was inside the house. You could hang up more tinsel and fairy lights than you could shake a holly branch at, but it didn’t actually generate Christmas cheer. You needed people for that. 

     Pretty soon she had a nice burn up going on.

     She settled herself to one side, next to her pile of stuff, and picked up a photo from the top of the stack of herself and Daniel, which had been tacked to the fridge under a magnet when he’d lived here. Since he’d packed his bags it had been stuffed into one of the kitchen drawers so she didn’t have to look at it every time she grabbed her microwave meal-for-one.

     She looked down at the picture. A friend’s housewarming party, the second week they’d met. She’d moved in on week three. Daniel looking impossibly handsome. Herself looking happy. What the bloody hell was happy? Happy had gone AWOL since this relationship had gone tits up. She tossed the photo into the air and watched it flutter into the fire where it curled and blackened, that moment obliterated forever.

     Now didn’t that feel better?

     Well no, actually. She just felt bloody sad. She shook her head lightly. Maybe it was a question of volume. After all, one photograph was hardly enough to cut the mustard, was it?

     Turning back to the pile, she had a good rummage and came up with the perfect you’re-better-off-without-him item: his loathsome 2006 World Cup T-shirt, ‘England’s Barmy Army’ splashed across the front, worn as hell but which he insisted on still dragging out as leisurewear. She held it up. It absolutely typified him: unwilling to let go of lad culture, still always up for the laugh. She should be chucking it on the flames without a second thought but for some reason on impulse she held the shirt to her cold cheek. She breathed in the smell of him: warm and laced with the woody fresh scent of the aftershave he always wore.

     Her stomach turned over softly. Didn’t the shirt also represent the essence of what she’d liked about him when they first met? How much fun he was, how spontaneous, always up for a joke. For some reason living together in her world meant sensible and grown-up. Why did it need to? Why couldn’t his sense of kiddish fun coexist with them being a proper couple?

    It was too late to let second thoughts muddy the waters now. To prove she wasn’t wavering, in a surge of determination she balled the T-shirt up and threw it on the fire, then for good measure she heaved on Daniel’s skanky old dartboard that she’d loathed on sight but which he’d insisted on hanging in the corner of the lounge.     

     The dartboard must have been particularly fusty and dry because the fire really took hold now, spitting and crackling and billowing grey smoke into the darkness. The heat baked her cheeks and she smiled into the glow. Who knew? She clearly had a natural aptitude for fire-building. Bear Grylls had nothing on her. Unfortunately the stab of pride at her outdoor skills suddenly disappeared as she realised the flames were licking up the side of the neighbour’s dust-dry hedge.

     She glanced quickly around, realising that she’d epically failed at fire safety by not having some kind of extinguishing item to hand. She’d been so swept up in the moment that she’d forgotten to bring out a bucket of water or sand in case things didn’t go to plan. Daniel’s voice danced through her mind – Fire can be unpredictable. You have to respect it.

     She dashed to the house, ran into the kitchen and shoved the washing-up bowl under the cold tap. It seemed to take forever for the sodding thing to fill. At last she grabbed it and speed-walked back down the hallway, trying not to slop water onto the floor, out the back door and down the garden.

     She lobbed the bowl of water over the smouldering hedge, causing a massive sizzling sound. Smoke billowed into the air, catching in her throat like pepper and making her cough. Then the air cleared a little and she could see the flames seemed to have died down. She was just congratulating herself on getting the situation back under control when next door’s Christmas lights shorted with an audible bang plunging her into darkness except for the orange glow of the bonfire and an odd blue flashing that seemed to be coming from the front of the house.

     How to make a fresh start?

     Burn everything that reminds you of the past.

     How not to make a fresh start?

     Lose total control of the sodding fire, prompting emergency attendance of the very person you want to forget. The fact Daniel was a firefighter hadn’t occurred to her because she hadn’t intended to set the bloody hedge alight, and now he was here with his firetruck and all its flashy blue lights.
****

Look out for the story in full at the end of the year! Thanks for reading and I hope you've enjoyed these snippets. Don't forget to check out the next author in the hop, the very lovely Romy Sommer!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

It's Written Fireside's August Blog Hop!! The Christmas Burn-Up


Yes, yes, yes, I know it's August!! But the fantastic travelling blog hop Written Fireside is covered in tinsel and wearing a Santa hat and who am I to argue? And as if that isn't exciting enough, there's a monster giveaway running alongside the hop - see the rafflecopter below to enter for your chance to win lots of lovely books, e-books and a $70 Amazon Gift Card.

This time all fifteen authors have been given the same opening paragraph, written by competition winner Georgia Beyers, and challenged to write a Christmas short story with the theme 'Christmas by the fire.'

These short stories will be published later this year as a Christmas e-book anthology by HarperImpulse and I am so excited to be one of the contributing authors. Today and tomorrow I'm sharing snippets from my story 'The Christmas Burn-Up', before I pass the mantle to the next author. So without further ado...

Here is the starting paragraph written by Georgia Beyers...

     Charlotte sat at the bus stop wondering whether she would make the naughty or nice list this year. Last year she had rescued a stray kitten and therefore considered herself most definitely ‘nice’. This year she had broken Daniel's heart into a million tiny pieces, so ‘naughty’ seemed to be the only answer. There’d be no Santa Claus coming down her chimney anytime soon.

The Christmas Burn-Up - Part 1

     Then again, she supposed it all depended whose side Santa would come down on if he knew the facts. Did Santa realise that for all his repeated claims that she had broken his heart, Daniel had broken hers first?
      And Daniel might have told her, repeatedly, that he was heartbroken when she refused to take him back and give things another chance, but could his heart really be broken into a million tiny pieces when three weeks earlier he’d ended their relationship himself? He’d made a mistake, he said, as if that was somehow a good enough reason for her to take him back. He’d decided the grass wasn’t greener after all. That’s what it boiled down to. She’d broken his heart because she wouldn’t let him change his mind. How the hell was that HER fault?
     She’d stood her ground firmly in the face of his apologies.
     Her stubbornness or his desertion? Whose side Santa would come down on? Santa was a man. She bet he’d back Daniel, just like Daniel’s gang of firefighter mates had closed ranks.
     The air was cut-glass cold as she breathed in and she pulled her coat around her more tightly. The bus stop seat was freezing against her butt. She watched the soft snowfall in the headlights of the early evening traffic. It was the last Friday before Christmas. The cars were full of people free of work for the holidays, full of excitement and Christmas cheer, heading off to visit relatives or to get ready for parties. Her stomach gave a miserable churn. Maybe if she tried really hard to block out all things Christmas and holed herself up at home for the next few days, she could convince herself it was a different month. March perhaps. No big events that time of year, no Valentine’s Day, nothing to remind you that you were tragically single.
     She got to her feet as the bus came to a standstill at the kerbside and the double doors flipped open to reveal an interior festooned with tinsel and a driver wearing a Santa hat.
    Just great.

****
     She deliberately chose an empty double seat near the back of the bus, the better to stare out of the window and deny Christmas. Unfortunately the plan only worked until the next stop, when the doors slid open and an old woman got on. She inexplicably ignored the plentiful empty seats and sat down instead next to Charlotte, parking her shopping trolley-zimmer frame combo in the aisle. She wore a knitted hat with tufts of grey hair above each ear and a massive hairy coat, and her eyes were bright blue in her wrinkly face. Charlotte caught a whiff of gardenia that made her think of childhood visits to her grandmother.
     She stared sideways out of the window thinking that if maybe she just ignored the old dear she could avoid a conversation.
     ‘Looking forward to Christmas?’ The old lady had a crackly voice.
      Oh great. The last thing she needed right now was a cosy seasonal chat with a geriatric. She just wanted to get home and hide until the New Year.
     ‘Not particularly.’
     The woman pursed her wrinkly mouth.

     ‘No big family parties? Turkey and stuffing?’ She waved a fingerless-gloved hand in the air.

     ‘No.’

     The woman raised her eyebrows. The expectant silence begged for an explanation.

     Charlotte sighed and gave in.

    ‘I live alone,’ she said.
     ‘No one special?’
     She shook her head.
     ‘We broke up.’ Maybe that would put paid to twenty questions. Surely the old lady wouldn’t want to pry. It was basic politeness after all.
     ‘Sorry to hear that. What went wrong?’
     It seemed the basic politeness rule didn’t apply to old people. The woman sounded genuinely interested and sympathetic and Charlotte brightened up a little. If they had to have a conversation, it was unexpectedly nice to have a fresh person to offload to. She’d bored her friends rigid with the Daniel debacle over the last six months. Any mention of him now was perceived as a refusal to let go of the past.
     ‘He decided he felt tied down,’ she said. ‘Didn’t want to be with me anymore. I’d thought everything was fine between us and then out of the blue he packed his bags.’
      Not strictly true. Describing their relationship pre-walkout as fine was bending the truth bigtime. But you didn’t throw in the towel just because things were difficult, not in Charlotte’s world anyway. She threw up a hand.
      ‘No staying power. He just chucked it all away and then…’ she leaned in towards the old woman, warming to her subject now ‘…a month or so later, he grovels to come back. He’d made a mistake, he says. Didn’t realise what he’d had. Blah, blah, blah.’
     ‘And you said no?’
     Was there a hint of surprise in the woman’s tone? Charlotte choked amazed laughter.
     ‘Are you insane? Of course I said no. Take him back as if nothing had happened and wait for him to hurt me again? No chance.’
     ‘Did he leave you for another girl?’
     She shook her head.
     ‘No. As far as I know he’s still living the single life with his firefighter mates.’
     ‘And he apologised and tried to explain?’
     ‘Oh constantly. I had to unfriend him on Facebook and turn off my phone until he gave up.’
     Being the one in the right had its own satisfaction. It was only once the attention stopped that she’d realised how bloody lonely the moral high ground was. Since then she’d held onto her pride for grim death.
     ‘You don’t think that was a bit hasty?’
     In terms of what she wanted to hear, it was all a bit pants. Where was the female solidarity?
     ‘No I don’t,’ she snapped. ‘It was never going to work anyway. We moved in together after three weeks. Big mistake. It was doomed to failure from the start.’
     The woman shrugged.
     ‘If you’re right for each other, it shouldn’t matter whether you marry or move in together on day one or day one thousand and one. You’re the same people. Life is short.’
     A surprisingly liberal attitude from a woman who made Charlotte’s own mother look like a spring chicken. Her mum had made it clear from the outset that moving in was madness. But then she would, wouldn’t she? When you had a thirty year successful marriage under your belt you could claim that your relationship advice had merit. Irritatingly, it had turned out she was right.
     ‘It’s not that simple,’ she said, channelling her mum. ‘On day one you don’t know each other. You don’t know each other’s expectations. It stands to reason that if you uncover all of those BEFORE you move in together, the whole thing has a much better chance of working.’ She sighed. ‘At least I got to keep the house.’
     ‘Really?’
      She nodded.
     ‘It’s only rented and it’s tiny, but at least I didn’t have the hassle of finding somewhere else.’
     Daniel had offered to move out, even though it had been his place, probably to salve his conscience. She’d moved in with him, not the other way around. She shook her head lightly. A lease did not make up for a lack of trust.
     ‘In actual fact everything worked out well. I’m feeling really healthy. Looking forward to the future, dealt with all that old baggage. Onwards and upwards.’ She punched the air to make her point.  
     ‘You think you’ve moved on?’ There was a definite sceptic edge to the woman’s voice.
     ‘Have I moved on?’ Charlotte heaved out a massive sarcastic laugh. ‘Are you serious?’
      The old lady examined her gnarly fingernails.
     ‘It’s just that this Daniel is all you’ve talked about since I sat down.’
     ‘You brought him up! And have you heard a single positive syllable about him pass my lips?’
     ‘He let you keep the house.’
     ‘Apart from that.’
     ‘It sounds like he’s apologised until he’s blue in the face.’
     ‘And that.’
     ‘He’s a fireman.’
     Oh for Pete’s sake. Was there no member of the female species who didn’t have a firefighter fantasy? Age was clearly no barrier.
     ‘That’s a negative,’ she snapped. This conversation seemed to be getting way off-topic. ‘It’s a closed-off boys-only group. Trust me. They’re a species all their own. It’s all about their social life, their boys nights out, male bonding, flirting with firefighter groupies.’

     The woman held up a hand.

     ‘And still…’ she said ‘…we’re talking about him.’ She leaned in as if imparting a great secret. ‘Trust me. I’ve been there and I know. There’s only ever one way to really move on. You have to cut all ties, make a proper and total fresh start. Purge your life of all references to him. Clean sweep, removal of all reminders. And when you’ve done that, there’ll be nothing left to make you look back.’ She sat back and clasped her hands in her lap as if her work was done. ‘You’ll be free.’
     ‘I. Am. Over. Him,’ Charlotte said.
     ‘Of course you are, dear,’ the old woman said in a voice that screamed the opposite, an if-you-say-so smile lurking around her wrinkled lips.
     Charlotte stood up gladly as the bus trundled into her road.

      ‘This is my stop,’ she said, squeezing out into the aisle in relief to be free of the mad old bat who clearly had herself pegged as some kind of relationship guru – I mean, honestly.
      ‘Merry Christmas, then,’ the woman called after her.
      My arse.
      Charlotte waved a vague hand over her shoulder.

      She glanced up at the bus as it pulled away, expecting to see Daniel’s new biggest fan gurning at her out of the window. Maybe the old dear was Daniel’s mad great-aunt or something. That would explain the total lack of female support.

     She did a crazy double-take.

     She could clearly see her own recently vacated seat on the bus through the wipe mark on the window that she’d made with her glove. Empty. Nothing surprising about that, except that the seat next to it was empty too. The doddery old woman with the zimmer trolley had either moved seats like a dynamo the moment Charlotte left the bus, or she’d never been there at all.

     Oh for bloody hell’s sake. She really was losing it.

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Tuesday, 8 July 2014

What's Next...?

Bit of a long time, no blog, I know and I'm sorry. I've had a lot going on this last couple of months and not all of it has been as I expected.

This blog has very much been about my writing journey - I started it way back after New Voices, when the elusive Call was still a dream, and reading back through it I can really see the ups and downs of my writing career. (I seem to have been particularly moany and vocal about the 'downs' - apologies!). Even post publication there are bumps in the road - books that are teeth-pulling to write or horror reviews. And then there are the big and unexpected setbacks.

A couple of months ago I got the news that Harlequin KISS/ModernTempted, the line I've been writing for since I was signed (although it's had a few name changes and relaunches in that time) is being discontinued from early next year. My initial reaction was to feel really sad. I absolutely loved the KISS stories and I felt like I fitted in there so well. I had tons of fun writing them, despite the head-crashing-on-desk moments. I was working alongside some of my own favourite authors. It really was a dream. And then suddenly it was over with. Since I'd literally just handed in the last book on my current contract, it really did end just there for me. I was able to look at other options within Harlequin, but having checked out all the choices available to me it became clear pretty quickly that my voice really doesn't fit any of the other series lines at Harlequin right now.

The news about KISS came at a time when I had a lot going on at home too, and it's made me realise that perhaps it's time to reassess my priorities. I'd spent the last six months really pushing myself to get two books done for Harlequin (as well as writing my HarperImpulse Christmas novella, Kiss Me...), at the expense of other areas of my life.

I still have a contract with HarperImpulse for two more novellas to complete my Do Not Disturb series, and I subbed the first of them a few weeks ago. And so now I'm going to take a proper break for the summer (with the exception of taking part in HI's Written Fireside short story competition, which doesn't really count because it's so much fun!). I'm going to do mum stuff for a change without thinking about deadlines and I'm going to turn my neglected hovel back into a house. And then I will make a decision about what I want to do next. That could be a single title - I always dreamed of writing one, and maybe it would have been an easy dream to put off indefinitely with that comforting rolling Harlequin contract.

Maybe this will turn out to be less of a bump in the road than it felt at first. What I can say is that I've learned tons, had amazing fun, got a book in print with a dedication for each of my gorgeous family members and I got to work with some wonderful authors. Who knows what will come next? I will keep you posted. In the meantime, click here for details of how to take part in Written Fireside with me!

Friday, 2 May 2014

I'm Having A Giveaway!!

When I was on my (long and bumpy) journey to publication one of my favourite Harlequin authors was Heidi Rice. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard that one of my stories, The Plus-One Agreement, is being released as part of a duet next month with Heidi's book Beach Bar Baby!

To celebrate, I'm having a Giveaway for US and UK readers - 2 paper copies of the duet are up for grabs. To enter and for all the details click on the lovely Goodreads widget on the sidebar.

The duet is part of Harlequin's Wedding Party Collection...


These two stories prove that wedding guests can have as much fun as the bridal couple! 

BEACH BAR BABY 

After some bad news, Ella Radley jets off to Bermuda for a bit of solo R & R. But by day six, surrounded by honeymooners and smug marrieds, she has to admit the solo bit is getting a teeny bit boring. Introduce ripped, tanned and enigmatic Cooper Delaney, and suddenly boring is nowhere in sight!

THE PLUS-ONE AGREEMENT 

Emma Burney has a very practical solution for not having a guy: the Plus-One Agreement. The problem? Her date is the gorgeous Dan Morgan, the man she has lusted after for years. Time to put an end to her torture. But when she tries to break the arrangement, Dan raises the stakes…with an offer she can't resist!

Entries close 20th May.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Nikki Moore's Blog Hit! - New Release - CRAZY, UNDERCOVER, LOVE



The day has finally arrived!! Nikki Moore's debut novel with HarperImpulse - Crazy, Undercover, Love - is released as an ebook today, 24th April 2014.

 If you like pacy, sexy romance and fancy a long weekend in Barcelona with a smoking hot guy this one's for you!  Want to know more...?
 
When uber-feisty career girl Charley Caswell-Wright takes on the assignment as PA to the gorgeous Alex Demetrio, CEO of Demetrio International, she's there under entirely false pretences; to get her life back on track. Having lost the job she worked so hard to earn, she’s determined not to give it up so easily, especially when she didn’t deserve to lose it in the first place.

Mr Dreamy CEO is her only chance of clawing back her career – and her reputation. So she has to keep things strictly professional… boy, is she in trouble!

To buy Crazy, Undercover Love as an ebook:-

 Amazon – http://amzn.to./1gdpOxb

Google Play - http://bit.ly/1rTMrQw


Kobo - bit.ly/QlpKpC

Sainsbury's - http://bit.ly/1hoD1bj

 
Or to buy it as a paperback on pre-order, released on 26th June:-


 
What people are saying about Nikki's other stories...

 
The Love Letter and A Day in the Life... HarperImpulse short story collection Be My Valentine, with Teresa F Morgan and Brigid Coady, attracting 4 and 5 star reviews.

 'I loved all 5 stories and will look out for more books by each author.'

CometBabesBooks, Amazon

 'Whilst I enjoyed all of the stories, I particularly liked Nikki Moore's … her voice as an author really resonated with me and I can't wait to read more of her work.'

Kate Beeden, Goodreads

Nikki's short story A Night to Remember in the Mills & Boon/Romantic Novelists Association anthology Truly, Madly, Deeply which has also attracted 4 and 5 star reviews.

 'My favourite story was A Night To Remember. I think what drew me to this … was its resonance with real life. I'm not going to spoil the story but I could feel the emotions spilling out of the page - it was beautiful.'

Beckie, www.beckiesbookmix.blogspot.co.uk

'A Night to Remember - Beautiful, devastatingly so.'

Cheryl M-M, Goodreads & http://mmcheryl.wordpress.com/

 

Nikki Moore lives in beautiful Dorset and writes short stories and sexy, pacy romances. A finalist in several writing competitions including Novelicious Undiscovered 2012, she graduated from the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers' Scheme after four years and and has contributed to their magazine Romance Matters. She has far too much fun attending the annual RNA conference and has previously chaired a panel and taken part in a workshop at the Festival of Romance.

She blogs about some of her favourite things – Writing, Work and Wine – at www.nikkimooreauthor.wordpress.com and believes in supporting other writers as part of a friendly, talented and diverse community.

You can find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NikkiMooreAuthor or on Twitter @NikkiMoore_Auth and she invites you to pop in for chats about love, life, reading or writing!

Monday, 17 March 2014

My Writing Process...

Thanks so much to the very lovely Eve Devon, who tagged me in this blog hop. Eve writes Romantic Suspense for Entangled Publishing and Contemporary Romance for HarperImpulse, and you can read all about her writing process here and find out about her new release, Her Best Laid Plans.

What am I working on?

I'm currently two thirds of the way through my latest contemporary romance for Harlequin KISS/Mills & Boon ModernTempted, working title Reality TV War. My heroine Evie is a rich socialite, star of reality show Miss Knightsbridge, up against ex-soldier Jack Trent's survival skills documentary-style show in the ratings. When a stray comment from Evie to the effect that Jack is actually sleeping in hotels and scoffing a la carte when he's supposedly sleeping under the stars and foraging for food is made public, she is invited to take part in his show so she can eat her words on-screen and restore his reputation. Cue river crossings, hiking through the great outdoors and food challenges with nature's bounty. Can Evie prove herself to be more than vacuous party girl? Jack and Evie find that although they are from different worlds, they have more in common than they think. You can see some of my story inspiration by checking out my WIP Pinterest board here.

I've also just finished the final touches to a continuity, again for Harlequin KISS, due out later this year. I LOVED writing this book. The series is called The Flat In Notting Hill, the stories revolving around a group of flatmates in London, and my story will be the second in a series of four, with the amazing Nikki Logan, Joss Wood and Louisa George having written the other three. Lots more details about this later in the year!

After I've finished with Evie and Jack I will be writing the fourth novella in my Do Not Disturb series for HarperImpulse. These are funny, romantic, steamy stories linked by the same setting - a chic London boutique hotel.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I think the unique slant that all writers bring to the table is voice, your own unique way of telling a story. Particularly with category romance, where many tropes and themes have been done many, many times, voice and character is what keeps them fresh and new. All my books have a fun, light-hearted feel about them, - if I can brighten someone's day with one of my stories, that's good enough for me.

Why do I write what I do?

Mainly because I love the escapism of it. I read widely across all genres, but there are times when the sheer, delicious, happy-ever-afterness of romance is exactly what I want. The romance reading/writing community is also fantastic- there is a real buzz of support and interaction on social media and I really value that, because a lot of the time it's just me and my laptop.

How does my writing process work?

Erratically, is the unfortunate answer to that question. You'd think I'd learn from my mistakes now I've got a few books under my belt, but I still have some books that write like a dream (almost as if they're just flowing through me), and other books that are hateful marathons of teeth-pulling, and make me wonder why the hell I put myself through it!

I keep a running notebook of story ideas - these are mainly just interesting hooks at this stage. Then when I've decided to run with a particular idea, my process starts with a week of planning. First I develop my characters - I use goal, motivation & conflict charts for this, as well as Pinterest and some general character questionnaires to work out their background. One character is normally much more clear to me than the other (usually the heroine, they feel like my best mates!) and I ask myself, who would be the worst person for her and why? And then I look for something about him that would make him perfect for her if she could just see past that initial prejudice. I think about external conflict - how are these two people going to be thrown together? And then I start plotting.

I use a three-act structure, based around Blake Snyder's Save The Cat beat sheet, to come up with the main scenes - turning points, pinch points and a general idea of what the black moment might be - and then I brainstorm events that might happen in between to get the characters from one point to the next. I concentrate hard on keeping them in character - every move they make MUST be in character and relate to their goal/motivation. I might write a loose synopsis at this point to keep me on track. Even with all this planning, things can still go awry along the way - in this current WIP I just realised that the hero's conflict isn't quite right and I'm going to have to go back and rework it. Hopefully it won't take too long!

Once I have all this, I start writing. I write at least 1000 words every weekday and anything extra I get down at the weekend is a bonus. If on a roll I can easily write 10k a week. Other times just squeezing out that 1k a day takes forever. I've learned that Chapters 1-3 usually take me a while to get sorted, but once done they are usually pretty much on the money. I struggle at Chapters 4-6 every single time. This is where most of my revisions and rewrites have been in the past. The second half of the book is usually a bit easier again. I try to just keep pushing on, even when it's really tough, and then I go back and fix later on.

Depending on the book, all this can amount to days where I feel absolutely brilliant and love what I do, interspersed with head-crashing-on-desk days where I loathe the book and drive my family crazy. So far it's always worked out OK in the end!


I was last to the table for the Writing Process blog hop and I have tried to find someone who hasn't yet been tagged to pass the mantle on to, but have epically failed. So unfortunately the chain ends with me! But if you are reading this, haven't taken part yet, and would like to pick up the gauntlet, consider yourself tagged! Just leave me a comment so I can link to you :0)