Tuesday 21 July 2015

Written Fireside - Can't You See? Part 5

Those of you who have followed this blog from way-back-when will be familiar with Written Fireside. These are stories written as a serial with a new part published each week, by a group of authors taking it in turns to write.

Written Fireside is the brainchild of the fabulous and lovely Lori Connelly and this is the fourth time I've taken part. I'm particularly happy to be writing part of this story because it will eventually be published with all proceeds going to the charity Pets For Vets. This is a US charity dedicated to providing a second chance to shelter dogs by rescuing, training and matching them with American veterans who need a companion pet.

Noah Hale is an author suffering from PTSD related insomnia, needing peace and sleep. All he wants is to be left alone. A certain little dog has other ideas.

Amanda Bell, a teacher, is grieving the loss of her sister, Rachel. Caring for her sister’s dog is comforting until a new neighbour moves in the other half of her duplex. Suddenly, the dog starts escaping her yard, running off to the man on the other side of the fence.

Catch up with the story so far here...

PART 1 - Lori Connelly
PART 2 - Elsa Winckler
PART 3 - Angela Campbell
PART 4 - Jane Hunt

And without further ado, here is my PART 5...

     Noah sensed the explosion even before it tore through the armoured vehicle. A sense of something huge, an expanding force beneath him, the air tightening. Then came the explosion, so loud it forced out everything else in his consciousness. The falling, the crashing impact of the ground against his shoulders and back, and a moment of perfect, clear silence before the screaming kicked in. Disorienting blackness, the acrid bite of smoke in his throat and his eyes. Then he became aware, through the darkness, vaguely at first, of a slight weight on his chest and something wet swiping at his face. He swatted at it blindly, his mind focusing on that one small sensation, one thing that didn’t fit with the all-consuming sense-crushing flashback.

     He opened his eyes. Gertie paused mid-lick, then apparently decided he still needed reviving and got right back to it. She was sitting on his chest. The screaming, the smoke, the blackness disappeared as he raised shaking hands to pet the small dog. His body, catching up with his mind, was braced against the hard flagstones of the yard. He relaxed his taut muscles slowly as the pounding of his heart and the beads of sweat on his face began to subside.
     Not the roadside in Afghanistan. His duplex. The cool darkness of his neighbour’s yard.
     His neighbour.
    The sudden memory of Amanda’s scream made him sit up and Gertie jumped from his chest to the ground.
     Amanda was kneeling on the flagstones next to him and as he sat bolt upright she pressed a hand tentatively against his shoulder. Gertie capered around them.
     ‘Are you OK?’ she said gently. ‘You scared the hell out of me.’
     Her worried blue eyes were inches from his own. He fought a mad impulse to just lean that short distance and kiss her, to just block out the horrific past with her reality.
     ‘You can talk,’ he said. ‘I heard you scream and then I lost my footing. No big deal.’ He had no desire to talk through his nightmares with her, to taint her view of him with the baggage of his past. ‘What the hell happened? Are you hurt?’
     She shook her head.
     ‘I’m fine,’ she said. ‘I got through the window alright but then I tried to climb down and fell on the dressing table.’ She held up her wrapped hand a little. ‘Bruised butt and this. I got off lightly except that I broke the mirror. Seven years bad luck, as if I need any more.’ She offered him a small smile.
     He got to his feet and held his hand out to help her up, oversensitive to every touch of her skin against his.
     ‘Let’s get you inside and see to that hand. I’ve got first aid stuff in my kitchen.’
      He had held her hand a beat too long, making butterflies flip in her stomach. His side of the duplex was so military-tidy, almost austere, a major contrast to the girly clutter in her own side of the building. Gertie ran ahead and capered around the floor, as if she thought the place needed livening up too. What had happened in the yard continued to gnaw at Amanda, despite his brush-off assurance that it was no big deal, distracting her for once from the relentless sensation of missing Rachel that plagued her everywhere she looked. Seemingly unaware of her presence, Noah had been thrashing and shouting at something or someone who wasn’t there. When she tried to rouse him, he’d been bathed in sweat and the look in his eyes when he opened them had been one of panic.
     No big deal.
     Ten minutes later and her cut was cleaned and dressed and he apparently couldn’t get her out of the duplex fast enough.

     ‘Thank you for helping me get back in,’ she said.
     He held the door open for her.
     ‘Even if you did pay for it with your hand?’
     She shrugged.
     ‘Without you, I’d still be out there and Gertie would be stuck inside. I’d never get a locksmith out this late. You have to take a risk sometimes, right?’
     He didn’t answer.


        Sleep was the enemy. The terror of the panic attack was still fresh in his mind. Two attacks in these last weeks. I’m regressing. Dread coursed through him at the thought. He’d come so far with his therapy. He’d thought he had some level of control. Putting his negative relationship with Jessica behind him had been another healing step forward.
     Sleep was out of the question.

     From the depths of a kitchen cupboard, he grabbed a six pack of Red Bull that he hadn’t touched in months. His old weapon against sleep from the early days of his struggle with PTSD, from the time before Mary’s counsel, when avoiding sleep had been his go-to course of action.
     Just for this one night, he told himself. He couldn’t face the thought of another night-terror so quickly on the heels of the last one. For this night only, sleep could go to hell. He drank a can of Red Bull off straight, then took a second out to his yard and sat down in the chair, letting the caffeine course through his veins and spike his awareness. The night air was cool and sweet against his skin. He glanced across at Amanda’s side of the duplex, now in darkness, his mind imagining her before he could stop it, asleep in bed in her insubstantial vest and pants, her dark hair fanning across the pillow. He swallowed hard, and took a huge slug of his drink to distract himself. Her gentle concern for him had touched him, but he couldn’t allow himself to be seduced by that. Who knew what she might become if she knew the truth about him. Would her sweet concern transform into exasperated impatience, the way it had with Jessica?
      His eyes felt gritty with tiredness and he rubbed his hands slowly over them. 

      The whining started perhaps an hour after Amanda had finally got to sleep, the painkiller that Noah had pressed on her at last kicking in and diminishing the discomfort from her throbbing hand. She’d tried at first to ignore the racket by squashing the pillow over her head, but Gertie had just turned up the volume and now she’d added door scratching into the mix.
     ‘Gertie, be quiet!’ she groaned, exasperated.
      In apparent triumph that she’d managed to wake Amanda up, Gertie launched into a series of excited yaps.
       For Pete’s sake.
     Amanda dragged herself out of bed, forced one eye open and staggered to the back of the kitchen, where Gertie was now hurling herself at the door.
     She leaned close to the window and frowned, then checked the illuminated numbers of the kitchen clock just to be sure. It was three in the morning and Noah was sitting out in the yard, apparently having a drink.
     She undid the lock, being careful to latch it this time – there would be no repeat performance of the earlier locking-out debacle, thank you very much – and stepped out barefoot into the cool darkness. Gertie dashed ahead, found her way through the dividing fence and threw herself at Noah.   

     He jumped guiltily, then turned to nod a greeting as if it was perfectly normal to sit on your patio in the small hours. There was a long pause as he groped for something to say that wouldn’t make him sound like a total arse.
     ‘What’s wrong?’ she asked softly, and her voice was so kind and gentle that it made his heart twist in his chest.
     ‘Nothing,’ he said, gruffly. He leaned down to pick up his drink so he didn’t have to look at her, took a sip. ‘I’m sorry if I woke you. I thought I was being pretty quiet.’
     ‘You didn’t,’ she said. ‘That pain in the arse of a dog woke me. And you might want to sit outside in the middle of the night on your own but she’s having none of it. She was clawing the door down to get to you.’
     He put the drink on the ground, then pushed his chair back and picked Gertie up. She snuggled against him as he crossed the yard to Amanda.
     ‘What the hell is it with you?’ he whispered to the little dog.
     Amanda’s dark hair hung in loose sleep-waves and her skin shone smooth in the moonlight. He wondered if her cheek felt as silken to the touch as it looked.
     He handed Gertie across the fence. Amanda took the little dog from him but didn’t step down and head back into the duplex. Instead she held his gaze with her blue eyes, making his pulse quicken.
     ‘I’m having trouble sleeping,’ he said, because she was obviously waiting for some kind of explanation.
     ‘I’m not surprised if you’re downing Red Bull at three in the morning.’ She nodded at the can of drink on the ground next to his chair. ‘Are you mad? Most people would go for cocoa and maybe a warm bath.’
     He avoided her gaze. Gertie looked from one of them to the other.
     ‘Well if you think giving her back to me is going to cut the mustard, you’re deluded,’ Amanda said at last. ‘This dog is on a mission. You’d better come round to mine.’
     She stepped down from the fence and put Gertie on the ground.

     ‘Come round to mine. I’ll make us both some warm milk and we can talk it over. Whatever’s bugging you.’
     Her voice was matter of fact. She had not the slightest clue what can-of-hideous-worms a chat with him would open up. He stared after her. He didn’t do talking it over with virtual strangers.

     ‘Come on,’ she said again. Gertie ran from Amanda back to Noah at the fence, yapping madly. ‘She’s not going to quit that until you do. She’ll wake the street.’
     Gertie jacked up the volume, clearly determined that he would not be getting out of any midnight talk with his gorgeous neighbour, no matter how ill-advised it might be.
     ‘OK,’ he said at last, giving in.
      His last relationship had been a train-wreck and now he was apparently relying on relationship advice from a dog.

You can read Part 6, written by Mandy Baggot, on Tuesday 28th July.
Follow the story, and please share xx

Thursday 16 July 2015

You Are Invited To A Wedding...

Who doesn't love a wedding? The beautiful outfits, the glossy locations, the luxury food, the posh drinks, the arguments, the dramas...
It's publication day today for Meet Me At The Honeymoon Suite!! This is the fifth and final book in my Do Not Disturb series for HarperImpulse, five standalone stories linked by the same backdrop - a fictional luxury boutique hotel in London. Perfect for your summer reading list and the ideal length for whiling away a few hours in the sun with a glass of something delicious, this last story revolves around a wedding! 
Happy ever after…?

Fascinated by weddings since her mother was jilted at the altar when she was seven years old, Amy Woods is a brilliantly efficient wedding organizer, thanks to her ability to see past all the emotion and magic of ‘the big day’. Now, after years of being the assistant, she’s landed her dream job as Wedding and Events Manager at exclusive boutique hotel The Lavington. All she needs to do is pull off her first wedding weekend without a hitch…

Unfortunately the groom turns out to be her own marriage-phobic ex-boyfriend, proving yet again that Amy is good enough to be the warm up act but never the real deal. Then she breaks all her own rules and sleeps with the delicious but definitely off limits best man! To pull off the perfect weekend now, she will need to be her most clear-headed and emotionless. But as she gets to know best man Owen outside the bedroom, keeping herself focussed on the task isn’t so easy anymore.

AMAZON UK - http://amzn.to/1RypOjX
AMAZON US - http://amzn.to/1f2B2eQ
iTunes - http://apple.co/1M9V5pX
GOOGLE PLAY - http://bit.ly/1LhLnzT
BARNES & NOBLE - http://bit.ly/1OcBseU

Don't forget, the first book in the series, Your Room Or Mine? is currently FREE - so why not treat yourself to that one too? Click the link in the sidebar for details.

I have had so much fun with this series of books and I admit to feeling a bit sad as I typed THE END on this last one, but onwards and upwards. I will be back soon with news of my next bigger project. 

Wednesday 20 May 2015

It's Release Day for Access All Areas!!

It's publication day today for Access All Areas - Book #4 in my Do Not Disturb series - hurrah!!

Can you hold onto the past without living in it...?

After losing her elderly parents, portrait photographer Anna will do anything to avoid losing the family home – the only thing she has left of her perfect childhood.
When a friend who works at the exclusive boutique hotel, The Lavington, provides a hot tip – an A list film star is staying there with her rumored toyboy lover – Anna comes up with a plan. A photo of them together could be the answer to all Anna’s money problems.
Unfortunately, she’s the worst paparazzi photographer on the planet and Joe, the hotel’s new head of security, back in England after globetrotting as bodyguard to the stars, isn’t about to allow a picture on his watch. No matter how cute the photographer might be…

'Fast, fluid and funny writing...' www.chicklitlove.blogspot.co.uk

'Full of fun and sexual chemistry...' Rachel's Random Reads

AMAZON UK - http://amzn.to/1CVwRdP
AMAZON US - http://amzn.to/1yJNV6t
iTUNES - http://apple.co/1EiWJCV
GOOGLE PLAY - http://bit.ly/1DsxHdG
BARNES & NOBLE - http://bit.ly/1FZCRPX

I had such fun writing this book and I just can't wait to share it. And if the blurb and the first reviews aren't enough to tempt you, here's the link to my Access All Areas Pinterest Board. (Pinterest is the worst timesuck in the universe but it's so much fun I can't give it up!)

Don't forget, the first book in the Do Not Disturb series - Your Room Or Mine? is FREE right now, and since all the books are the perfect length for idling away the Bank Holiday weekend in the garden with a book and a glass of Pimms, there is absolutely no reason not to treat yourself!

Hope you all have an amazing weekend xx

Friday 10 April 2015

At last I have news!

I am back with exciting news after a looooonnnnngggg break in blog posts, hope you're still with me!

To quickly recap... towards the end of last year the line I was writing under for Harlequin/M&B (KISS/ModernTempted) was withdrawn. There were two ways of looking at this - one was to crash my head on the desk and despair after all the work that went into getting The Call in the first place (I may have done a bit of that). The other (which took me a while to get around to) was to see it as a positive step forward instead of a setback.

While I reassessed my priorities, I also threw myself into finishing the remaining two books in my Do Not Disturb series for HarperImpulse. These are five standalone stories all centred around a luxury fictional boutique hotel in London. (The first in the series, Your Room Or Mine? is currently free, click on the sidebar picture for buy links).
I'm so excited to announce that book four and five will be published in May and June this year, and I can't wait to have the full series finally available - perfect for summer!

Access All Areas - released 21st May 2015

Can you hold onto the past without living in it..?

After losing her elderly parents, portrait photographer Anna will do anything to avoid losing the family home, it's all she has left of her perfect childhood. A hot tip from a friend raises her hopes - an A-list film star is secretly staying at the Lavington Hotel, London, with her rumoured toyboy lover. A photo of them together could be the answer to all Anna's money problems.
Unfortunately Anna's the worst paparazzi photographer on the planet and Joe, the hotel's new head of security, back in England in his first permanent job after years of globetrotting as a bodyguard to the stars, isn't about to allow a picture on his watch. No matter how cute the photographer might be...

Pre-order here - http://amzn.to/1CVwRdP

Meet Me at the Honeymoon Suite - released 25th June 2015

Happy ever after..?

The Lavington Hotel's new Wedding Co-Ordinator, Amy Woods, doesn't believe in happy-ever-afters, and that's exactly what makes her super efficient at her job - she can see past the magic. She is determined to pull off her first wedding in post perfectly.

Unfortunately the groom turns out to be her own marriage-phobic ex-boyfriend. The story of Amy's life, she's good enough to be the warm-up act but never the real deal. To nail the perfect wedding weekend now she will need to be her most clear-headed and emotionless. But as she gets to know best man Owen, keeping herself coldly on task isn't so easy...

Pre-order here - http://amzn.to/1BROztG

Having written these last two books, for the first time since 2012 I had no deadlines left. You'd think that would be a relief (I am, after all, a headless chicken when it comes to deadlines) but it was actually a bit scary. What to do next... more novellas? Or should I write more 50k category style romances and sub them elsewhere? Would anyone even want them? Most scary of all, should I take a bit of a leap and aim for my long-term ambition? I've always wanted to write a single title, you see. I just saw it as this vague might-have-a-bash-one-day idea way on the distant horizon while I was busy doing other things.

Would I ever have reached this point with that easy rolling Harlequin contract keeping me busy? Questionable. But when I thought it through I realised I was excited by the challenge. So I've come to see last year's nightmare as the push I needed to take that next step in my writing career, and after meeting with my amazing editor (who I love to bits and who believes in me when I don't), I am about to start work on my very first single title. Blog posts may therefore move back towards the erratic when I reach the inevitable tear-my-hair-out stage, but I am hoping to document the process a bit as I go along, so I will be around.

I'm also planning a few blog posts about writing process, tips and tricks that I've picked up and that work for me, that kind of thing. I will be back with those in the next month or so - watch this space!

Thursday 19 March 2015

New Release! Cocktails In Chelsea by Nikki Moore

Today I'm thrilled to be hosting the very lovely and talented Nikki Moore, as she releases the fourth story in her gorgeous #LoveLondon series...

Cocktails In Chelsea
Released 19th March 2015
#LoveLondon Series - eBook #4 (short story)
by Nikki Moore

Read this exciting romance series set in London, which has attracted four and five star reviews and been in the Top 100 Short Story and Holiday charts on Amazon and Kobo.

Made In Chelsea?

Nathan Black is on a mission to prove himself. His family may be upper class and his cousin Matt might be a famous music producer, but he's going to make it on his own. So as soon as he has enough money set aside, he's quitting his bartending job on the King's Road and opening his own cocktail bar. He hasn't got time for love, and definitely not with the spoilt Chelsea Princesses who flirt with him shamelessly every night. But is there something a bit different about the pretty blonde who's just walked in?

Bournemouth girl Sofia Gold is reluctantly visiting old childhood friends in London for Easter weekend. Keenly aware she's not part of their glamorous world, she's more comfortable riding a surfboard than wearing designer dresses and towering heels...although she's always had a soft spot for cocktails.

It's never really bothered Sofia that she's 'one of the boys', and that her romantic experiences have been amazingly unspectacular, so when she meets gorgeous Nathan why does she find herself faking an accent and pretending to be a London socialite? It can't be anything to do with impressing him, can it? After all, she's only in the capital for a few days...

But one impulsive kiss later, they both find themselves wishing for things they didn't know they wanted.

Spring in Chelsea - will love blossom?

Advance review, 'A fun, short read, 4 stars,' Kim, Goodreads via Netgalley

Get it from only 49p!

Amazon - http://amzn.to/1Fk51GH
Kobo - http://bit.ly/1G6fzsZ
Google Play - http://bit.ly/1zzQ9ir
iTunes Books - http://apple.co/1zUxgr5

Praise for the #LoveLondon series...

Valentine's on Primrose Hill

'Uplifting and at the same time thought-provoking too. I guarantee you'll be hitting that button on Amazon to order the fourth book in the #LoveLondon series as soon as you've finished this one.' Dawn, Crooks On Books

New Year at The Ritz

'A sweet and flirty short story, I really enjoyed it. I can't wait to see what Nikki comes up with for the next book in the series.' Simona Elena, Sky's Book Corner

Skating at Somerset House

'A warm hearted winter tale that had me engaged from the very beginning. I genuinely cannot wait to read the rest.' LJ Bentley, Amazon

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!