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Thursday, 29 August 2013

Twenty Questions with... Kate Hewitt

I am delighted to welcome Kate Hewitt onto my blog today, author of This Fragile Life, released earlier this month by Carina (Harlequin UK).

An established author for Harlequin and Mills & Boon, I already own some of Kate's books - both hard copy and digitally - so I couldn't wait to get to know more about this wonderful author during a round of twenty questions.

ACT ONE – all about you…


Kate Hewitt has been writing creatively since she was five years old. She wrote a lot of angst-ridden poetry in high school, and then moved onto writing and directing plays about the meaning of life while in college. After her first child was born she began to write short stories--the perfect amount of words to complete during nap time. After selling over 200 short stories to various women's magazines around the world, she started to write for Harlequin Mills & Boon, a long-held dream. She has written over 20 romances for Harlequin Presents, and has been both a RITA and Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice finalist. She has also written several historical novels for a UK publisher. After living in both Yorkshire and New York City, she now resides on the remote coast of Cumbria with her husband, four children, and a Golden Retriever puppy.

1) Have you always been a writer or is it something you fell into?

I've always made up stories in my head. I only started writing them down when I was in my twenties.

2) Do you have a particular writing style or ritual?

I like to write fast, and then revise... a lot! I also have a superstition about not making any typos on the first page. If I do, I feel like it's going to be a hard story to write. Nonsensical, but there it is.

3) Is there a book or an author that has influenced you in your writing?

So many! I love Libby Purves, Jane Porter, and Anna Quindlen. I think they all influenced my style when it comes to writing women's fiction.

4) Is there one piece of writing (or life?) advice that has stuck with you, or that you would like to share?

The wisdom that you can't revise a blank page. You need to get the words down. That's the most important thing.

5) Can you tell us three things about yourself that we probably don’t already know?

I'm the youngest of five children, and I have five children myself. I'm also the wife of a vicar!

6) What five luxury items or gadgets would you hate to be without?

I don't know if I have five! Probably my laptop, internet access, my Kindle, and... a deep, hot bath with a glass of wine. That's about as good as it gets!

ACT TWO – all about your new release…



You love your best friend. You trust her with your life. But could you give her the most pre­cious gift of all?
Alex’s life is a mess. She’s barely hold­ing down a job, only just afford­ing her apart­ment, and can’t remem­ber when she was last in a rela­tion­ship. An unex­pected preg­nancy is the last thing she needs.
Martha’s life is on track. She’s got the high­fly­ing career, the gor­geous home and the lov­ing hus­band. But one big thing is miss­ing. Five rounds of IVF and still no baby.
The solu­tion seems sim­ple.
Alex knows that Martha can give her child every­thing that she can’t pro­vide. But Martha’s world may not be as per­fect as it seems, and let­ting go isn’t as easy as Alex expected it to be.
Now they face a deci­sion that could shat­ter their friend­ship forever.

7) Congratulations on your recent release of This Fragile Life, what was your inspiration for writing this story?

I actually had the idea years ago, about two best friends, and one agrees to give her baby up for adoption to the other. I was curious about how that would affect their friendship, their roles as mother and wife, et cetera. I never wrote it, though, until last year, when I suddenly thought of a twist to the story, a kind of 'what if' moment, and then I started writing.

8) Did the story flow from your finger tips or did some scenes take a bit of cajoling?

It flowed, more than anything else I've ever written! I wrote half the book in a week.

9) How long did it take for the initial spark of the story to make it onto the page and then onto the publisher’s desk?

Well, years to the page, and then things happened quickly after that. My editor at Mills & Boon looked at the first 100 pages and accepted it on those. So then I had to finish writing it!

10) Do you have a favourite paragraph or sentence from your story that you would like to tantalise us with?

The first paragraph:

It's not good news. It never has been, so at least I'm expecting it and it's easier to take. Except maybe it isn't, because after I disconnect the call I bow my head and press my fingers to my temples and then I do something I never do. I cry.

11) Over to you, what can you tell us about This Fragile Life to make us rush out and buy it?

If you want a story that will make you think and cry, that will force you to ask yourself 'what would I do if...', then you'll like This Fragile Life.

12) What can we expect from you next? Is there something you are working on right now?

My next Harlequin Presents is out in December, and another women's fiction, The Vicar's Wife, is out in November in paperback.

QUICK FIRE ROUND – it’s pop quiz time…


13) Plotter or pantser?

Pseudo-plotter who ends up being a pantser.

14) Secret Seven or Famous Five? (please tell me you know them!?) 

Famous Five all the way.

15) Digital books or print books?

Digital for pleasure reading, print for books you want to treasure.

16) Tea or coffee?

Coffee although I drink both.

17) Cats or dogs?

Dogs.

18) Extrovert or introvert?

An introvert who likes people.

19) Save or spend?

A bit of both, although my heart is more in saving.

20) Facebook or Twitter?

Both, for different reasons.

And that’s a wrap!

Thank you so much for taking part, Kate, I wish you every success with your new release.

To discover even more about Kate Hewitt, and to keep up with her latest projects, you can visit her at:

Blog     Facebook     Twitter     Website


Buy it now…


Add to Goodreads

ISBN: 9781472017109

Monday, 19 August 2013

Time for an update...

I must offer my apologies as I have been somewhat quiet of late when it comes to talking about myself and my projects, so, here's the long overdue update...

Earlier this month I finally managed to do my charity tandem skydive, after an earlier aborted attempted a few days previous thanks to the typical British summer. Once I've got the official pictures along with all of the sponsorship money, I will do a separate post as it was absolutely awesome and deserves a whole blog about it.

The school summer holidays are in full swing so my writing time is virtually non-existent, and my poor purse is crying over the purchase of new school uniforms now that Little Miss is all set to join Widget at 'big school' *sniff*.


Unless you've been hiding a rock, you'll have seen my posts about Popping the Cherry, which is due to be released in less than five weeks and is already available for pre-order - exciting times indeed!! I am now hard at work organising the blog tours - yes, plural - to coincide with its release on September 19th. Hint: there will be all sorts of giveaways ;-)

I was hoping to have Christmas is Cancelled... Again written and ready for release this November, but unfortunately, I am not SuperWoman after all, and have had to make the difficult decision to defer the sequel to Christmas is Cancelled until next year instead. On the upside, it will be very interesting to see how the season affects sales for book #1, especially as it came out so close to Christmas last year, and I am pleased it is getting a full season all to itself.

Up next is the follow-up story to Popping the Cherry and I have deadlines looming, so I am rather glad that I will have both children at school full-time very soon. A Girl Called Malice features many of the same characters, but my hope is that it can be read as a standalone, although reading them in order is recommended. Assuming I can meet my deadlines and produce a decent first draft, I would envisage it to be out sometime around Spring, but don't hold me to it. I also have at least one more story planned with this set of characters, which I will get onto after Christmas.

On a final note, I will need to switch to 'Allie' for a while over Winter in order to get a story completed which is already well underway but got pushed aside when the publishing contracts came in. Ideally, I'll get that one finished and sent out to my publisher for consideration by Spring.

I would talk about craft topics, or about my inspiration, but many of the topics I'd like to share with you will actually be coming up during my blog tour, so keep your eyes peeled. And on that note, that's me in a nutshell.

Thanks for sticking with me :-)


Thursday, 15 August 2013

Twenty Questions with... Natasha Hardy

I am delighted to welcome Natasha Hardy onto my blog today, author of Water, which is being released tomorrow from Carina (Harlequin UK).

If you've been following me for a while, you'll have noticed that the bulk of my guests are either British, American, or Australian. But not today - oh no siree - I have Natasha here on a whistle-stop visit from South Africa to take part in a round of twenty questions.

ACT ONE – all about you…


Natasha Hardy began writing when the adventure of her life had turned dark and gloomy, as all adventures must at some point, if they are to be classified as a true adventure.  It was in the depths of the winter of her adventure that she found a way, through writing, to escape into the sun. 

Like most escapes it turned into an adventure all of its own, where characters have their own problems to solve, albeit far more complex problems involving mythical creatures that aren’t meant to exist, and expect far more than they reasonably should.

Her escapes, for there are many still to come, are sparked by the adventures she has had in the wildly beautiful South African bush, seasoned with the true stories of the explorers who make up her ancestry, and woven through with the intrigue, and sometimes sheer madness, of living in Africa.

She now spends most of her time-happily- in a world of words, and the rest trying to keep up with her part time rock star, full time doctor husband and their two gorgeously mischievous little boys.  

1) Have you always been a writer or is it something you fell into?

Not in the book sense of the word. I previously did a lot of writing as a marketing executive for a credit insurer- press releases, magazines etc. Writing stories is very different and I love it!

2) Do you have a particular writing style or ritual?

I like to write where there is lots of sunshine and fresh air and preferably garden.

3) Is there a book or an author that has influenced you in your writing?

Yes, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight was my first introduction to fantasy, my previous reading being murder mystery or romance and the odd biography. I fell in love with the genre and the style and the ability of the book to transport me to a completely different world.

4) Is there one piece of writing (or life?) advice that has stuck with you, or that you would like to share?

Our former president Madiba quoted this once and it never fails to inspire me.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

5) Can you tell us three things about yourself that we probably don’t already know?

One of my other hobbies is playing drums

I have had the privilege of meeting with and talking to Mr. Nelson Mandela in person (he is as amazing in person as he seems!)

I have been stalked by lions, charged by several elephants and a rhino and dived –sans cage- with sharks. (for anyone wondering none of this happened in my back garden but in a game reserve- I only mention it because I have been asked if I have lions in my back garden by a tourist before *blush on their behalf*)


6) What five luxury items or gadgets would you hate to be without?

My P.C.

My dongle (which is what we call our external model internet connection thingies- )

My GHD

My blitzer

My phone


ACT TWO – all about your new release…



Surrender to the power of the water…

Alex knows she is different. She’s plagued by nightmares that feel shockingly real and an intense restlessness she cannot explain. As the long hot summer holidays stretch before her, Alex seeks out adventure in the rugged mountains of Injisuthi. But during a camping trip to the mystic jade pools, Alex meets Merrick, a boy who tells her the shocking truth about herself, and Alex’s nightmare is about to become reality. Because Alex is no ordinary teenager…she is a half-mermaid and her adventures are only just beginning.

7) Congratulations on your recent release of Water, what was your inspiration for writing Alex's story?

Water was inspired by a camping trip I went on when I was about ten, in Injisuthi, which was a relatively wild part of the Drakenberg (a range of mountains the name of which means Dragons Peak). On the trip we discovered the most incredible natural rock pools of ice cold water, turquoise blue at the edges and midnight in the middle.

8) Did the story flow from your finger tips or did some scenes take a bit of cajoling?

I wrote Water as an escape for myself, so it flowed really easily because I was the only one who was ever going to read it- or so I thought.

9) I see Water is your debut, how long did it take for the initial spark of the story to make it onto the page and then onto the publisher’s desk?

Three years.

10) Do you have a favourite paragraph or sentence from your story that you would like to tantalise us with?

“Coming up for air I floated on my back, relishing the cool water and weightlessness it offered, at peace for the first time in years. I’d drifted to the middle of the pool watching Josh and Luke taking turns to see who could stand under the force of the waterfall the longest, when something long and slippery slithered around my ankle.”

11) Over to you, what can you tell us about Water, to make us rush out and buy it?

Water is a tantalising mixture of adventure, romance and intrigue in which mysterious mythical creatures desperately await the arrival of a seemingly ordinary girl. They have been waiting for her for three years because she is the only one who can save them.

12) What can we expect from you next? Is there something you are working on right now?

Yes I am working on the sequel to Water.

QUICK FIRE ROUND – it’s pop quiz time…


13) Plotter or pantser?

Plotter

14) Secret Seven or Famous Five? (please tell me you know them!?)

Yes and will have to go with Secret Seven

15) Digital books or print books?

Both

16) Tea or coffee?

Coffee

17) Cats or dogs?

Cats

18) Extrovert or introvert?

Extrovert most of the time

19) Save or spend?

Spend

20) Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook

And that’s a wrap!

Thank you so much for taking part, Natasha, I wish you every success with your new release.

To discover even more about Natasha Hardy and to keep up with her latest projects, you can visit her at:

Blog/Website     Facebook     Twitter


Buy it now…


Add to Goodreads
Out tomorrow!
ISBN: 978-1-4720-1807-6

Carina
iTunes
Kobo
Google
Sainsburys


Excerpt…


Prologue


We’d been running for days. The children were exhausted and I was worried that we’d lose some of them if they didn’t rest soon.

I still seethed at the betrayal. How could they?

The fathers of some of these precious little ones who were so trusting and so young!

Slavery at that age would mean they’d never really remember freedom, which of course was what the slave traders wanted. If a person couldn’t remember freedom then freedom was not something they’d long for, not something they’d fight for. They would be happy with their lot in life, content to live as animals, owned creatures.

I didn’t have the energy left to expend on fruitless anger. Anger that I could do nothing with because we were in a hopeless situation and should I have the opportunity to confront these monsters my worst fears would be realised, and all would be lost.

We’d crossed the river sometime around midnight when the moon was directly above us and I was pushing to get to the dark slash of forest that signalled a vague hope of rescue.

Vellamo, love of my life, had promised to meet us there with as many men as he could find from neighbouring tribes. My heart twisted, as the bile rose in my throat, at the certainty of the battle that would follow. The tribe that pursued us was renowned for their ruthlessness. No one left alive unless they wanted them for darker purposes.

“Almost there,” I whispered to some of the women beside me. One of the small babies cried pitifully as its mother shushed it urgently, trying to keep it quiet, and all of us safe.

My heart began to pound with fear as we approached the forest. Our tribe didn’t venture into the forests of these mountains. There was ancient magic here that was not friendly to the mere mortals that lived on its door step.

A rustle in the trees ahead froze every muscle in my body, as I crouched, spear in hand, ready to fight whatever revealed itself as best I could.

A warbling whistle filled me with relief as I recognised our tribe’s greeting. He was here, Vellamo, he’d kept his word. My body trembled with exhaustion as he stepped out of the shadows along with some of the other tribal leaders I’d been hoping would come.

He was so beautiful in that moment, tall, lithe and strong. I was only too happy when he led our little band of vulnerable women, children and babies into the shelter of the mountain.

As we picked our way through the shadowed valley over boulders and around the icy stream I was surprised to hear the rustle and whispered voices. Instantly my senses were on high alert.

This was not part of the plan.

I daringly brushed Vellamo’s arm, challenging his decision with a questioning expression meant only for him to see. Insubordination of this nature was not well tolerated in our tribe, and I was afraid to offend him.

“They are the families of the other tribe’s men, Sabine. They are also worried about the safety of their families.”

I thought this over carefully. It made sense that if the men had agreed to leave their villages to protect us, they would be concerned about the safety of their loved ones too.

Regardless, the logic didn’t completely wash away my anxiety.

I was all too aware how power could corrupt, having watched the chief of our village agree to sell the women and children in exchange for more grazing land and power, women and children, some of whom were his own daughters and grandchildren.

We rounded a corner and I stopped short, my heart in my mouth.

We were at a complete dead end, a massive waterfall in front of us, falling in a white froth into an inky pool.

One entrance.

One exit.

I looked up at Vellamo again, struggling not to question his authority, struggling to follow him into what appeared to me to be the worst possible position. I didn’t touch him, but he must have felt my hesitance, and surprisingly wasn’t offended by my concern.

“This will allow us to defend you more easily without worrying about them coming around from the back.”

His voice was firm but his eyes gentle as he took my hand and led me and the other weary travellers into the perfect trap.


Chapter One
Abandoned


Brent’s happy freckled face laughed at me as he raced me to the pool. I laughed a delighted giggle from deep within my belly as I flung myself from the edge of the pool and into the water, a few moments after him.

I didn’t hit the water as I’d expected.

The air pummelled out of my lungs as the water closed over my head in a viscous bubble that seemed too thick to be water. It moved over my skin in sickening silky threads, pushing me deeper and deeper.

Brent seemed to move in slow motion above me through the dappled light, the splashing of his arms and legs as he swam creating a halo of bubbles around him.

I was out of air. The surface may as well have been a million miles away, because I couldn’t move to get to it.

Pain seared up the sides of my head, so intense everything around me faded in colour. I screamed, the last of my oxygen bubbling to the surface, as the pain intensified to unbearable.

And then with a sharp jolt, it was gone.


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Cover Reveal: Popping the Cherry


Just a quickie...

The cover for Popping the Cherry has now officially been revealed by Carina UK so check out my 'news' post on my website for all the details: http://www.aureliabrowl.com/2/post/2013/08/cover-reveal-popping-the-cherry.html

I have already made the basic book trailer available to members of Aurelia's Anoraks, and subscribers to my newsletter will get the first look at my extended book trailer, so make sure you sign up today.


Thursday, 8 August 2013

Twenty questions with... Nina Harrington

It gives me great pleasure to welcome Nina Harrington onto my blog today, author of Recipe for Disaster released July 31st from Carina UK and award winning author of Harlequin KISS contemporary romances.

I have grabbed the multi-talented Nina for a round of twenty questions, to get to know my fellow Carina author even better.

ACT ONE – all about you…


Born in Northumberland, I studied and taught pharmacy for many years and travelled widely before settling in Hampshire in 1989 and a role in the pharmaceutical industry. In 2002 I took a career break to give my dream of being a fiction writer my best shot. 

I knew that I had to learn my craft and read and write and then write some more before creating anything worthy of submitting to a publisher. I enjoyed crime and romance commercial fiction and these are the two areas where I knew that I wanted to focus on in my writing.

My best decision was to join the Romantic Novelists Association [ RNA ] and take part in the New Writers Scheme mentoring system. In 2008 my first romance novel which became ‘Always the Bridesmaid’ was bought by Harlequin Mills and Boon after being recommended by the RNA and 16 books later over 820,000 copies [ as of Dec 2012] of my romance books have been bought by my wonderful readers. Some of these books have won international awards.

But the best thing is? Now I have a chance to share my romantic mystery fiction with my first book for Carina UK – Recipe for Disaster, which is part of a 3 book contract.

When I am not writing my hobbies are cooking, eating, enjoying good wine, and talking, for which I have had specialist training. 


1) Have you always been a writer or is it something you fell into?

I vaguely remember writing down short bedtime fantasy stories to tell to my two brothers when they were small, and was reading before I went to primary school so I do believe that I have always been a writer.

2) Do you have a particular writing style or ritual?

Since I am now a full time writer I know how important it is to keep a writing routine so I head to my office straight after breakfast and spend the morning on new words.

The afternoons are for social media, admin and spending time out of the office to let my subconscious brain work on story problems.

If I am on deadline I will probably spend another couple of hours working on the manuscript in the evening but otherwise I love to read for pleasure and watch drama and movies.

3) Is there a book or an author that has influenced you in your writing?

One book or author? Oh what a tough question. Lois McMaster Bujold and her Miles Vorkosigan series.

4) Is there one piece of writing (or life?) advice that has stuck with you, or that you would like to share?

Can I have two?

“Follow your heart but listen to your head” – Steve Jobs.

And ‘Carpe Diem’ – Seize the day. Life is short. This is not a dress rehearsal.

5) Can you tell us three things about yourself that we probably don’t already know?

I love to travel and have had some real adventures along the way, including riding on the back of an elephant and dodging monkeys in Jaipur, India, watching down come up over Everest in Nepal and for my 40th Birthday I climbed an active volcano on the Indian Ocean Island of Reunion.

As a teenager I played the church organ for Sunday services - very badly.

I was vice-captain of the Judo Society at University.

6) What five luxury items or gadgets would you hate to be without?

My constant companion – my Roberts digital radio/CD player/card reader.

The Internet- because when you are travelling you realise how badly you take for granted the fact that you are connected to the world and writing community.

Real ground coffee

MacBookAir – This doubles as my e-Book reader

Digital camera.

ACT TWO – all about your new release… 




Bunty Brannigan makes the best cannoli in London!
London chef Bunty Caruso Brannigan has no time to celebrate her 30th birthday. She is working every hour to create a menu for an award ceremony, and to keep customers coming through the door of the Italian deli she has inherited from her parents.
Bunty’s life was complicated enough when all she had to deal with were her best friends from convent school, and the students in her baking classes, but then reformed bad boy, lawyer and Italian stud Fabio Rossi gives her a birthday present with a difference and things begin to really spin out of control.

What will happen when all of the Caruso family secrets are out in the open?
Will her Italian godmother sort things out from beyond the grave in her special way?
Will Fabio make Bunty change her mind about dating Italians?
Will the convent girls be forced to go back and tell Sister Teresa the truth about the visiting choirboys and the missing communion wine?
And how much chocolate do you choose to create a life size man part?

Let the mayhem begin. And don’t forget the cannoli!

7) Congratulations on your recent release of Recipe for Disaster, what was your inspiration for writing Bunty’s story?

Italian food. And lots of it. The character of Bunty came first and then of course I had to research all of the wonderful cooking she would have to do as a one woman chef and deli owner.

8) Did the story flow from your finger tips or did some scenes take a bit of cajoling?

The romance scenes and dialogue between Bunty and Fabio did flow, but I confess that the overall story went through several revisions to make sure that the mystery storyline meshed with the romance story in a convincing way.

9 How long did it take for the initial spark of the story to make it onto the page and then onto the publisher’s desk?

The first spark for this story had been noodling around in the back of my brain and scribbled on note pads for a long time, but the draft manuscript was completed during the winter months. My plan was to work on the Harlequin KISS books during the spring and come back to this book with fresh eyes in the summer for final edits before submitting to publishers.

It was the announcement that Carina UK was being formed that made me polish the opening 3 chapters and submit to Carina through my editor in February.

I was delighted when Carina came back to me. They loved the story! Brilliant. My very first single title length mystery had found a good home.

10) Do you have a favourite paragraph or sentence from your story that you would like to tantalise us with?

Ed's note: see the fab excerpt below!

11) Over to you, what can you tell us about Recipe for Disaster, to make us rush out and buy it?

If you enjoy reading Jennifer Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips this book might be just what you are looking for.

12) What can we expect from you next? Is there something you are working on right now?

I’m lucky enough to have a three-book deal with Carina UK to write mystery single titles, so I’m working on my second novel with my editor right now. But this time it is set in the Mediterranean and features hunky coastguards and a heroine who makes Lara Croft look like Tinkerbelle.

QUICK FIRE ROUND – it’s pop quiz time…


13) Plotter or pantser?

Plotter. Nerd girl and proud.

14) Secret Seven or Famous Five?

Famous five. I think I had a full set at one time which I passed on to family.

15) Digital books or print books?

Both. I LOVE print books and embarrass myself and my family by sniffing new books the moment I buy one, especially non- fiction books.

But the closure of so many book shops and the limited range they sell means that the convenience of having instant access to wonderful fiction at the click of a screen from anywhere in the world is like a siren call. Irresistible.

16) Tea or coffee?

Tea. No sugar. Real coffee is my wake-up call in the morning but then it is tea. English Breakfast with a teaspoon of whole milk followed by Oolong and probably white tea in the evening.

17) Cats or dogs?

Neither. Totally allergic to pet fur.

18) Extrovert or introvert?

Extrovert in social situation. When I am working – total introvert.

19) Save or spend?

Spend. Shoes, wine and cake feature a lot. See comment on life being too short. Luckily I am married to a grown up.

20) Facebook or Twitter?

Twitter.

And that’s a wrap!

Thank you so much for taking part, Nina, I wish you every success with your new release.

To discover even more about Nina Harrington, and to keep up with her latest projects and shenanigans, you can visit her at:

Facebook    Twitter     Website


Excerpt...


Bunty sat back in her hard wooden chair and swayed a little from side to side as her whole crew of pals and teachers from the convent school and catering college joined in a very loud and very out of tune version of Mambo Italiana that Elena was playing at full volume in her honour.

Normally the background music would have been Greek bouzouki music or Elena’s favourite classical opera CD with tenors singing about frozen tiny hands, so this really was a special treat. Just for her.

There were wine spillages and salad dressing smears and breadcrumbs all over the tablecloths, and probably the new plum coloured wrap dress Alex had squeezed her into. At some point she had lost her shoe until the table when she sat down after all the toasts had been made.

Then Fran had presented her a crown she had made from gold paper and wire and insisted that she wear it as a party princess. At a jaunty angle of course.

Worse. Her makeup was probably a wreck after a brief but intense crying jag. Her favourite teacher from the convent school knew most of the girls crammed around these tables only too well – good and bad. She could tell some tales of mischief and mayhem.

But instead Sister Teresa had made the sweetest speech about how proud her mother would have been of her and what she had achieved, which had everyone in the room reaching for the tissues, paper napkins, on in more than one case the corner of the tablecloth. There was not a dry eye in the house. Even Alex the strong ‘accidentally’ dropped her napkin on the floor and had to drop out of sight for a couple of minutes to find it.

Bunty glanced up across the tables spread out around the room. It didn’t matter that she looked a mess. Not to her friends and family who had come out on a cold January evening to help her celebrate her birthday.

She grinned across at Maria who was carrying out yet more plates of more lamb and roast potatoes. Her friend replied with a jaunty wink as one of the catering students patted her bottom the second the plate hit the table and Maria pretended to squeal, and then sat down heavily on his lap and wrapped her arm around his shoulders.

These were her real friends. Her real family. Girls from the local convent school she had known all of her life and their husbands and boyfriends, pals from the local shops, students she taught at the catering college. All loud, boisterous and having fun. And that was precisely how she liked it. No false pretences here. Real people who shared her life each and every day.

She was so lucky to have them.

A warm glow of happiness and contentment spread from deep inside her like a furnace that pumped the heat from her heart to the very ends of her fingertips. She had never felt so safe and secure for years. Protected. And cared for and part of a very special community of friends who looked out for one another.

Maybe turning 30 was not so bad after all when she had friends like these in her life. So what if she didn’t have a mega TV career like her cousin Luca? She had something much better.

Bunty leant sideways and rested her head on Alex’s shoulder. ‘Have I said thank you yet for pulling this all together? It’s amazing and I love it.’

Alex laughed out loud and gave her a one armed hug. ‘Several times. It’s the wine you know. Causes short term memory loss in older women. I have built up resistance over the years so it takes a lot longer to kick in.’

Then Alex started rubbing her hands together and humming the last verse under her breath. ‘Now. Back to the important stuff. What totally outrageous thing have you decided to do before the end of the day? Remember the rules – it has to be spontaneous, the opposite of what you would normally do, and fun! Points will be awarded for the most ingenious solution!’

‘Dance on the table? Bunty suggested then shook her head and waved her arms around. ‘No. Forget that one. The table legs wouldn’t cope with my current body weight and this food is too good to waste and it would only lead to spillages.. Something outrageous. Um…’

Then she looked over Alex’s shoulder back towards the entrance to the restaurant and her breath caught in her throat.

Standing not three feet away from her was one of the best looking men that she had seen in her life. She was 5ft 9ins so he had to be at least 6 feet 2ins in his very shiny slim smart black shoes. Her gaze tracked up his body before the sensible part of her brain clicked in to stop it.

Slim hips. Broad shoulders. A hand made cashmere and silk business suit in a shade of midnight blue which was so perfect it made her drool. A tailored white shirt open at the neck just enough to draw attention to his natural tanned skin at the throat. Dark chestnut brown hair that curled into neat waves which simply begged to be touched.

‘Hello,’ he said in a rich deep male voice which crossed the air space that separated them and reverberated inside her head. ‘I’m looking for a Bernadette Caruso Brannigan. Have I come to the right place?’

He was Italian mixed with a delicious topping of American English. And he had come looking for her.

‘Bunty whipped around in her seat before Alex caught her open-mouthed staring at the top three buttons on his shirt, which were unfastened, revealing a hint of tanned skin with dark chest hair. Taunting her.

If he dressed like this in January, August would be interesting.

For some reason her breathing had become irregular and she suddenly felt remarkably warm.

Oh Alex,’ she breathed in a low hiss of appreciation. ‘I owe you big time.’

‘This is so true? But what particular thing have I done now,’ Alex replied between mouthfuls of garlic bread.

‘You didn’t tell me that you hired a male stripper.’

‘Who? What?’ Alex looked up and whirled her head around like a meerkat before it froze in the same direction Bunty was focusing on.

‘Oh. I see what you mean,’ she coughed. ‘Girl, I don’t know who he is, but I think you have just found your challenge. What are you waiting for? He is all yours. Go get him.’

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Sunday, 4 August 2013

Release Day Blitz and Giveaway: The Singing River by R.K. Ryals


The Singing River


Release Date – August 4, 2013
NA Contemporary
By R.K. Ryals
Cover Design By Regina Wamba of Mae I Design and Photography



In Mississippi, there's a legend about a Singing River, a tragic love story that ended with an entire Indian tribe singing a death chant as they marched stoically into the Pascagoula River to die ...

At eighteen, Haven Ambrose isn't just a high school graduate. In her head, she's an aspiring writer, a traveler, a chef, a slayer of injustice, an astronomer, an archaeologist, and the love child of a famous, rich musician. But reality is harsher. Reality is overdue bills, a crumbling trailer, an absent father, an old addiction, and a hot, crushing summer that may end in disappointment.

For twenty year-old River Brayden, life seems good, but appearances can be deceiving. The oldest son of a wealthy family, he has finished his first year at Harvard to return home for the summer only to discover his younger brother headed down an unforgiving road.

They will be drawn together by a song. For during the late summer, they say the Pascagoula death chant can still be heard near the Singing River. Its call is haunting, its chant a testament of love and sacrifice. It calls to some ... beckoning.

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Add The Singing River To Your TBR List on Goodreads -http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18132842-the-singing-river



Excerpt...


I stepped toward her. “You have a way of making people relate to you.”

She snorted. “I doubt that.”

I was in front of her now, my face peering down into hers. “Really, you do. A few hours of knowing you feels like days.”

“Sounds tiresome,” she teased.

“It’s a gift,” I countered.

There were sudden lines in her forehead, a troubled look in her eye. “Some might call it a curse,” she murmured. “By the end of this trip, you’ll want me gone.”

It was my turn to frown, my gaze studying her face. She had green eyes so dark they could be mistaken for brown and lashes so long they almost touched her brows. True, she was more willowy than curvy, but she was beautiful in an understated, elegant kind of way. The faint freckles on the bridge of her nose drove me crazy.

“Why do you think that?” I asked.

There was something stark and open about her eyes when she answered, “Because I am better at being abandoned than I am at keeping people.”

About the Author...


R. K. Ryals is a scatterbrained mother of three whose passion is reading whatever she can get her hands on. She makes her home in Mississippi with her husband, three daughters, a Shitzsu named Tinkerbell, and a coffeepot she couldn't live without.

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Giveaway...


To celebrate the release of 'The Singing River' there's a giveaway!! Don't miss out!


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Thursday, 1 August 2013

Off Topic: Embrace Life

Every now and then, I come across something that touches me deeply.

Today was one of those days.

Never can I recall being so affected by an advert, especially one that lasts less than ninety seconds. I cannot stop watching it, even though I end up covered in goose bumps and in tears every single time. And if you've seen Tangled, I also do that teary-smiley-sob-sigh-thing that both Rapunzel and her mum do at the very end when they're reunited.

Prepare to be enthralled...and embrace life.

Twenty Questions with... Kimberly Kincaid

I am delighted to welcome Kimberly Kincaid onto my blog today, author of Outside the Lines, the third book in the 'Love on the Line' series.

If you haven't already discovered Kimberly online, they you really must - especially on Fridays, when Kimberly and her comrades-in-arms launch into a delicious vicious game of Man Wars. Yes, that really is as visual as it sounds. Now that Kimberly is back from her road trip to the RWA conference in Atlanta, I've hoodwinked her for a round of twenty questions.

ACT ONE – all about you…


Kimberly Kincaid

Kimberly Kincaid writes contemporary romance that splits the difference between sexy and sweet. When she's not sitting cross-legged in an ancient desk chair known as "The Pleather Bomber", she can be found practicing obscene amounts of yoga, whipping up anything from enchiladas to éclairs in her kitchen, or curled up with her nose in a book. Kimberly is a 2011 RWA Golden Heart® finalist who lives (and writes!) by the mantra that food is love. She has written two digital novellas, Love On The Line and Drawing The Line, about hot cops and sexy chefs, with a third novella, Outside The Lines, due this summer. She is also thrilled to have collaborated on a Christmas anthology with Donna Kauffman and Kate Angell, titled The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap, to kick off her Pine Mountain foodie series with Kensington this October. Kimberly’s first full-length novel, Turn Up the Heat, will follow in February 2014. She resides in northern Virginia with her wildly patient husband and their three daughters. Visit her any time at www.kimberlykincaid.com or come check her out on Facebook (www.facebook.com/kimberly.kincaid1) and Twitter (@kimberlykincaid).

1) Have you always been a writer or is it something you fell into? 

Yes, and yes! I’ve always loved to write, but becoming an author was something I kind of dove into and fell into all at once. I wrote a fan letter to author Wendy Corsi Staub five years ago, and she wrote me back herself to say thank you. It showed me that authors are real people, and it was then that I decided to sit down and write a romance novel. I vowed right then that if I ever got published, I would always answer my fan mail, too J

2) Do you have a particular writing style or ritual?

Tons of them. I need total quiet to write, so that rules out a lot for me. I’m kind of a homebody with my space, so I like being in my awful, old, creaky desk chair and my yoga pants. But once I’m set, I put my hands on the keyboard and go, go, go!

3) Is there a book or an author that has influenced you in your writing?

The Lost Recipe For Happiness, by Barbara O’Neal, changed the way I look at food and writing and, well… everything. I would never be the writer I am today if it weren’t for that book, and every time I re-read it, I get new little gems of inspiration. It’s truly brilliant. I highly recommend Barbara’s work!

4) Is there one piece of writing (or life?) advice that has stuck with you, or that you would like to share?

PERSEVERE. It deserves the caps. If you want to be a published author, you must persevere, even when you think, “Nope! This is it! I quit!” (and here it is: every single writer on the planet has thought that at one time or another. Some of us have thought it *lots*). You can quit every single day if you want to, but only if you get up the next day and put your butt back in the chair. PERSEVERE.

5) Can you tell us three things about yourself that we probably don’t already know? 

Ooooh, secret time! Let’s see. My favourite color is purple, my favourite place to read is in the bathtub, and I am ambidextrous.

6) What five luxury items or gadgets would you hate to be without?

I’m assuming sentient beings don’t count—but I really couldn’t live without my husband and kids! As far as gadgety things go, my Kindle, my laptop (must… write… every day…) my car (I bought a supremely fun little red Audi when I sold last year. Not gonna lie. I love that thing!) my stove (foodie!) and my fridge (wine snob!)

ACT TWO – all about your new release…


As an Ivy League ER doctor who eats double shifts for breakfast (and lunch…and dinner), Blake Fisher has little appetite for anything other than work. Being on the staff at Brenstville Hospital means taking care of people, a need Blake understands all too well from losing his brother to cystic fibrosis eight years ago. When he’s asked to coordinate a carnival fundraiser for the cause, he jumps at the chance to help others with the disease…until it lands him side by side with the one woman he never thought he’d see again: his ex-fiancée.
Streetwise and rough around the edges, Jules Shaw is no stranger to earning a living through hard work. But when her job as the restaurant manager of Mac’s Diner puts her shoulder to really broad shoulder with Blake Fisher, she nearly balks. She’d rather dodge and deflect than admit the real reason she broke things off, but the catering contract for the carnival means big business for Mac’s, and feeding people is Jules’s lifeblood.
As Blake and Jules join reluctant forces, they quickly rediscover the spark between them. But the possibility of a future together hinges on coming clean about the past, with potentially devastating consequences. Can Blake and Jules overcome their drastically different backgrounds and learn to love again, or will they always be outside the lines?

7) Congratulations on your recent release of Outside the Lines, what was your inspiration for writing Blake and Jules’ story?

Originally, I was supposed to only write the first two. I had Noah and his detective partner, Jason, and those were gimmes. But when I was done with Jason’s book, something just didn’t feel quite “done”. I kept going back to Blake and thinking, “Wow, he needs a book.” Thankfully, my amazing agent is willing to let me take on these projects of imagination! But once I started writing it, we knew Outside The Lines needed to be told!

8) Did the story flow from your finger tips or did some scenes take a bit of cajoling?

This one flew out! I love the “one who got away” stories, and I already had a great idea of who Blake was from the other two books. I wrote the whole thing start to finish in about 4 weeks. It went really fast!

9) How long did it take for the initial spark of the story to make it onto the page and then onto the publisher’s desk?

Planning and outlining and plotting (I am such a plotter!) took about three days, then 4 weeks for the story, give or take a few days. Very different than Drawing The Line—that Jason gave me FITS.

10) Do you have a favourite paragraph or sentence from your story that you would like to tantalise us with?

Oh, this is a fun one. Blake is an ER doctor in charge of coordinating a charity event at his hospital, and he thinks he’s going to work with Jules’s boss, Serenity, on the catering. He’s about to get the shock of his life:

Blake’s eyes flashed, the same stormy green as the ocean in a thunderstorm, and he pinned her in place with his stare. “I came here for something else. In fact, it’s something that has nothing to do with you and me.”
“Okay,” Jules said, extending the word by several syllables to form a question as she belatedly recovered her wits. “What’s that?”
“The Brentsville Hospital Carnival For A Cure.” He pulled a crisp, dark blue folder from the laptop bag he’d propped over the bar stool next to him. “I’m the event coordinator, and Mac’s is the catering restaurant. I came to see Serenity so we can get a tentative schedule set since it looks like she and I will be working pretty closely together for the next six weeks.” 
Jules white-knuckled the edge of the apron around her waist, her heart doing its level best to vault clean out of her ribcage. She was so far past this-can’t-be-happening, and yet…“You…you’re the event coordinator for the Carnival For A Cure?”


“Yeah.” Now it was Blake’s turn to draw the word into a question. “Why?”

“Because I wrote that proposal. I’m in charge of all the catering and planning for that event on our end.”
Jules shifted her weight to stand as tall as her five-foot-nine frame would allow, her palms going slick with realization as she finished, “You won’t be working with Serenity for the next six weeks, Blake. You’ll be working with me.”

11) Over to you, what can you tell us about Outside the Lines, to make us rush out and buy it? 

It combines an quietly intense ER doctor, a rough-around-the-edges restaurant manager, a kitchen full of sparks and a bedroom full of sizzle!

12) What can we expect from you next? Is there something you are working on right now?

I’m working on the fourth Pine Mountain book, series coming from Kensington starting in September with The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap. I love them all, but book #4 might just be the hottest one yet!

QUICK FIRE ROUND – it’s pop quiz time…


13) Plotter or pantser?

PLOTTER (again, it deserves the caps)

14) Secret Seven or Famous Five? (please tell me you know them!?)

Ohhh, good one. It’s been a while, but probably Famous Five!

15) Digital books or print books?

Yes J 

Seriously, I do love both.

16) Tea or coffee?

Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon or on cold days. But if I had to pick, coffee.

17) Cats or dogs?

Sadly, my kids have such bad allergies that all we can manage is fish. But we love them!

18) Extrovert or introvert?

Big, fat, giant extrovert!

19) Save or spend?

Hehehe, save a little, but spend a lot.

20) Facebook or Twitter?

Another “yes”. I love social media! But if I had to pick one, I’d say FB. I’m too wordy for 140 characters in the long run.

And that’s a wrap!

Thank you so much for taking part, Kimberly, I wish you every success with your new release.

To discover even more about Kimberly Kincaid, and to keep up with her latest projects, you can visit her at:

Website     Facebook     Twitter


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Giveaway…


There is one free digital copy of the first book, Love On The Line, up for grabs. Be warned though, you may find yourself hooked on the series!

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Violet Morgan puts the personal in personal chef, catering to clients who want the full cooking experience rather than a culinary drop-and-dash. But when her brother’s police detective partner is injured in the line of duty and needs help during recovery, she makes an exception. Violet lost her father to the job seven years ago, and worries for her brother’s safety every day. The last thing she wants is to get up-close with her brother’s career-cop partner…again.

For Noah Blackwell, being a detective isn’t just a lifestyle, it’s a legacy. So when he’s forced to take mandatory leave and deal with the trauma amnesia keeping him from identifying his shooter, it’s a literal case of adding insult to injury— and now he’s got to deal with an unwanted culinary caregiver on top of it. Never mind that he and Violet shared a steamy, secret kiss last New Year’s Eve. She rejects everything related to the job, and Noah’s not about to be distracted from recovering his memory and getting back to what he does best. No matter how pretty Violet is.

Despite their differences, Violet and Noah share a surprising bond in the kitchen that grows into something neither of them expect. But as Noah heals and their feelings for each other extend from the kitchen to the bedroom, Violet knows she must make an impossible choice. She may wear her heart on her sleeve when it comes to food, but can she risk it all to put love on the line?