It’s no longer my secret

Up until the last week my, as yet, unpublished novel French Kissing in the UK  had been one of my best kept secrets. The number of people who knew about it didn’t even run into double figures and the number of people who had read the final version was even less, like, two!  However, in just the space of one week that is all set to change.

I have been an Associate Reader with Love A Happy Ending for several months now and have really enjoyed reading and reviewing books through them.  Last week I was invited to ‘swap sides’ and become a Featured Author where they would follow my quest to becoming published.  I was delighted to accept and am very excited, if a little nervous.  Nervous because now it’s all official for everyone to see, there’s nowhere to hide.

Having said that, I am up for the publishing challenge and I have a great support network through Love A Happy Ending & Twitter, as well as my friends and family who are beginning to find out what I’ve been up to for the last twelve months.

Current state of play is : Plan A to get a publishing deal – my manuscript is being considered by a publisher at the moment and Plan B to publish as an independent – my manuscript is being professionally critiqued (was critiqued by RNA NWS originally and since changes now on second critique with a well respected agency). A graphic designer is looking into different covers and I am looking into Kindle publishing.

So hopefully in the new year I will know whether it’s Plan A or Plan B.  In the meantime, a huge thank you to Love A Happy Ending and everyone who has supported, encouraged, advised and critiqued along the way.

I have a Facebook page Sue Fortin Books but this is my second attempt, having failed miserably with my first page which seems to have developed a terminal glitch.

About French Kissing in the UK

French Kissing in the UK is a contemporary romance about single parent, Sadie Barnes, whose estranged husband, Mark, comes back into her life unexpectedly seeking reconciliation. This coincides with her taking a new job through which she meets and, despite her self-imposed rule of never mixing business with pleasure, embarks on a relationship with her client, French chef Laurent Roussell.

For Laurent’s part, since the break-up of his marriage some ten years ago, he has dedicated himself to building up his restaurant business. His restaurant has been his wife and the women passing in and out of his life, his mistresses. However, that all changes when Sadie turns up but how can he be sure her marriage is over?

Naively, Sadie thinks she can keep the two worlds apart but husband and lover are on a collision course. For Laurent it’s simply a case of Sadie divorcing her husband. For Mark it’s simply blackmail; divorce him and he will sabotage Laurent’s new business venture. For Sadie it’s simply an impossible situation. Should she give up love for love? 

Interview with New Talent Award Winner Henriette Gyland

I am delighted to welcome Henriette Gyland to the blog to talk about her fabulous New Talent Award win at the Festival of Romance last weekend.

Big congratulations on winning the Festival of Romance New Talent Award – has it sunk in yet?

No, I keep thinking that at any moment someone is going to pinch me hard, and I’ll wake up to find that it was all a dream. I truly did not expect to win. I’d hoped for a mention, but certainly nothing more than that, and just entered the competition because, well, it was there, and nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say. When my name was read out, I was totally stunned. Still am.

How do you think winning the award will impact on your writing?

It was a fantastic boost to get that kind of recognition, to know that the judges (an agent and an editor – squee!) felt my entry to be a worthy winner. No matter what stage you’re at in your writing career, whether you’re just beginning to submit your first manuscript or whether you’re a multi-published author, writers are their own worst critics. Just holding the actual, physical award in my hands (I still gaze at it from time to time, starry-eyed) has already helped me to be kinder to myself, to simply write and not worry so much whether this or that is wrong or sounds stupid etc. To trust my instinct.

Have you entered competitions before?

Hm, how much time have you got? Loads, is the answer! To list a few, the Cinnamon Press First Novel competition, for which I was short-listed, the Winchester Writers’ Conference writing competitions, as well as the Yeovil Literary Prize, for which I was highly commended and commended respectively. Because I write romantic suspense I’ve also entered the prestigious Debut Dagger competition a few times (run annually by the Crime Writers’ Association), and for 2 years in a row I very nearly made the short-list. The first time was when I’d been writing for 10 years, got nowhere, and was ready to throw in the towel. Then, out of the blue it seemed, I got an email from the then organiser informing me of this.

That was a crucial moment for me because I couldn’t possibly give up now, could I? So I stuck with it. A few years later when I had an opportunity to meet this organiser in person, I introduced myself and thanked him for his encouragement. So what I’d really like to say to anyone out there wishing to write, is to enter as many competitions as you can afford – it’s excellent discipline, you may get some valuable feedback, and you never know, you might win…

As a member of the Romantic Novelist Association, what would you say the benefits are?

One of the main benefits of being a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association as an unpublished writer is the New Writers’ Scheme, however, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve been on it for more years than some people have had hot dinners! Joking aside, I cannot praise the scheme enough, it is unique. Without the support, guidance, and generosity of the readers, who are themselves published authors giving up their precious writing time to help others, I wouldn’t be here, still writing. I’d have given up years ago, even before I dared enter any competitions.

Having said that, the NWS is not the only benefit of membership. I wouldn’t for the world be without the friendships I’ve made over the years. No one except another writer truly understands how it feels when you’ve received yet another rejection – it flipping hurts even though we know it’s nothing personal.

In this connection I’d also like to mention the Katie Fforde Bursary, of which I’m a happy recipient. It’s generously bestowed annually by the now President of the RNA, Katie Fforde, who understands how difficult it is to get published and wants to give promising new writers an extra push.

What stage are you at with your writing now?

The novel is finished and at the submission stage. I’m hoping that winning the New Talent Award will help get me noticed, but I’ve been in this game long enough to know that it’s no guarantee I’ll get published. Luck plays an important role too, in other words that my manuscript lands on the right editor’s desk at the right time, and this is something no one can control. Least of all me.

Well, very best of luck with your submission Henriette and thank you for taking the time to stop by.

Many thanks to Ian Cundell for the photograph of Henriette accepting her award.

Below is the prologue from Henriette’s New Talent Award winning entry

 Dead Men’s Fingers

PROLOGUE 

Through a pair of binoculars, the watcher saw the old lady’s bedroom light come on. Her curtains were drawn, but when she stumbled out onto the landing, her white night gown flapping around her like a ghostly shroud, she was clearly visible for a moment. Another light appeared, this time in the bathroom, and it stayed lit for ages.

          Die, thought the watcher. Why don’t you just die?

          At last the woman fumbled her way back onto the landing, and a short sharp bark showed that the little Jack Russell she’d bought only a few weeks before was anxious about his mistress. She seemed not to notice, but headed for the top of the stairs swaying from side to side as if she was the worse for drink. As she disappeared from sight, the watcher ventured closer, leaving the binoculars to dangle from the branch of a tree.

          Next, the light came on in the kitchen where the old lady doubled over, clutching her stomach as if she was attacked by excruciating cramps.

          A grim smile. I hope you suffer.

          The pain must have been severe for her face was twisted with the effort of staying on her feet until she finally had to give in. Her cry of alarm could be heard through the single-paned window, and she fell to her knees on the stone floor. Bemused the watcher saw her retch violently. She was bringing nothing up, which meant she was clearly dehydrated.

          Burn in Hell.

          The old lady forced herself to get up again, but it was only temporary, a final, futile effort. She made it as far as the scullery where she poured herself a glass of water direct from the tap.

          The water never reached her lips, however, merely sloshed down the front of her night gown as their eyes met through the glass. Her evident shock registered, and for one long moment they simply stared at each other, spell-bound and frozen in time as memories of their unwilling bond flashed through both minds.

          Then shock gave way to determination, and as the dog barked and jumped up and down to gain attention, the woman steadied herself against the wall and made her way back to the main kitchen area, staggering, out of control. By the dresser she stopped, presumably to catch her breath, but instead she picked up a yellow telephone directory.

          The watcher frowned. This made no sense. No one, surely, needed the Yellow Pages to call emergency services?

          Suddenly the book slid from the old lady’s grasp, and she brought her hands to her chest. Her mouth opened, her gasp of pain more like a sigh, then she fell, almost in slow-motion, hitting her head on the sharp corner of the dresser. There was a moment’s silence, then the little dog began to howl – a horrible, long drawn-out sound which sent shivers up the listener’s spine.

          The watcher’s glee, so long in coming, was tinged with regret.

Henriette Gyland

When I think of a book I’ve reviewed, I think of this…

Prompted by a little Twitter exchange I had with author John Avery the other day, I thought it would be fun to quote from each of the books I have reviewed this year.  Some are funny, some sad, some great description and some, well, I just like.

“She looked back.  He was watching as they walked.  She looked back twice during the length of the ward.  He was still watching.  At the door, she turned fully.  He was still watching.  She lifted her arm high in the air and waved to him.  He waved back.  They turned the corner in silence and walked toward the lift.”  Dear Dee, Sue Uden

 “This afternoon she went through everything in her wardrobe until she found something that looked OK, opting for an oversized white shirt and cropped blue jeans.  A wide black eslastic belt pulls the billowing shirt in, and she’s crimped and backcombed her hair so that it’s just like Debbie Harry’s.”  Hurry Up and Wait, Isabel Ashdown

“Turning around, she came face-to-face with a short man of Chinese origin….. He virtually jumped on Ruby.

       ‘Wuby, Wuby, Wuby, Wuby!’ he sang loudly to the tune of the monumental Kaiser Chiefs’ hit, and then carried on in the same loud vein.  ‘So sorry to have kept you waiting.  I am…’ pause for effect or maybe to remember who he was …’Tony Choi.  You will be sitting beside me for the next three weeks, whilst Julia, my usual partner in grime, is shagging her way round world wiv new husband.’ ” Working it Out, Nicola May

“As Harry headed towards her, Carmen’s immaculately plucked and sculpted eyebrows rushed towards each other like two playful tadpoles, and her face darkened.”  Turning The Tide, Christine Stovell

 “And he walked over to me and planted a chaste kiss on my cheek.  “Well done,” he said softly and Tim beamed gratefully, completely unaware that the comment was aimed solely at me.  In fact, he seemed completely besotted by Dan’s manly, famous presence.” Sophie’s Turn, Nicky Wells

“…Cleo had designed a traffic light system in the form of coloured crystals. The green crystal meant you could come in without knocking, the amber coloured crystal meant knock once and proceed with caution, the red crystal mean knock, stop and wait for instructions and the black crystal meant do not enter, knock or even breathe heavily on walking past the door or your life wouldn’t be worth living.  Samantha had named that particular cystral ‘The Bonk’.”  Breaking the Ice, Mandy Baggot

“Then I heard the bleep of his phone from the dining room.

A text message.

My heart thudded.  Was that her?

He’d heard it too because he subtly removed his arm from around my shoulders.  But he didn’t get up, he just carried on watching TV. The after a little stretch and a yawn, he reached for his glass and pretended to be surprised to find it empty. ‘I need another drink,’ he announced, getting up.  ‘”Want one?’

I shook my head silently.  Liar! He didn’t need one at all, he was off to the dining room to check his phone!”  His Other Lover, Lucy Dawson

“Martyn’s face drained of all colour.  She’d read that phrase in books, but she didn’t think she’d ever witnessed it close up, a face turning perfectly white.  He pulled out a kitchen chair and, slowly, as if he were ill, folded into it, his holdall dropping to the floor. ‘Tell me you didn’t agree.'”  Love and Freedom, Sue Moorcroft

“Lucy shifted in her seat.  She wasn’t used to accepting compliments. Come to think of it, it wasn’t often that she really received them. “Oh, stop,” she said.

    “Just say, ‘Thank you, Jackson,'” he grinned.

    She rolled her eyes.  “Thank you, Jackson.”

    “That’s better,” he smiled.  “You were never very good at taking a compliment.  We need to work on that.” Lucy giggled. “You look amazing,” he said.

    She started to roll her eyes again, but a look from Jackson sobered her.  “Thank you, Jackson,” she said.  The erupted into giggles.””  The One Who Got Away, Jessica Strassner

“Fixated on its movement, both of us wondering whether it would begin to spell out a name, it suddenly shot off the table with amazing speed, flew across the room and smashed within a few inches of where we stood, against the door.

   ‘Shit!’ screamed Lucy.  ‘”what the hell was that all about?’

   ‘An angry spirit, I suspect.” ”  Discovery at Rosehill, Kathryn Brown 

“”We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.”” Three Days to Die, John Avery

“In a matter of seconds, he would have his answer.  One word from her – one look, even – would tell him all he needed to know.”  Persuade Me, Juliet Archer

“She even managed to secure his old geography textbook and changed the way she wrote number sevens to continental style.  Even her ‘I’s became loopy because of Johnny Ingleton.  There is nothing like the obsession of a teenage girl!”  Meeting Lydia, Linda MacDonald

“I also longed for the caveat that Bitch Rachel had gained three stone, grown thick, dark, facial hair (and would ‘grown a penis’ have been really sick?).   Fat Girls & Fairy Cakes, Sue Watson

 “Quickly he bent to to give her a swift kiss, chaste but lingering a touch longer than he should have. ‘Please don’t come here again,” he whispered.  ‘I mean it.  It’s too dangerous for you.  Trust me.'”  Trade Winds, Christina Courtenay

Trade Winds – Christina Courtenay

Recently Choc Lit very kindly asked me if I would like Christina Courtenay to visit my blog as part of her virtual book tour for her new novel Highland Storms – as Trade Winds was a prequel to this, I thought it would be good to read it first.  I should point out that up until this point I had never even contemplated reading a historical novel before – just didn’t think it was my ‘thing’.  However, I have the Choc Lit team, Christina Courtenay and  Downton Abbey to thank for changing my mind about all things period/historical – I may well have just discovered something else that is my ‘thing’!

Trade Winds is set in 1732 where the delectable Scotsman Killian Kinross is disinherited and sent to Sweden by his rather harsh grandfather Lord Rosyth. This banishment is much to the delight of his awful cousin Farquhar who Killian hasn’t heard the last of.

Killian’s path is destined to cross with Jess van Sandt, a headstrong and determined young lady who has been exiled by her step-father for some 12 months and only just allowed to return home.  Jess is certain that her step-father’s business dealings and his reasons for dismissing any suitor for her, have been underhand and with the unlikely help of Killian she sets out to try to prove her suspicions right.

As the story moves on at a good pace, it is not without luck that Killian has loyal Adair, a cheeky lad with a great accent, to look out for him as Killian’s past refuses to let him be.

Although Trade Winds is a story telling of the partnership between Killian and Jess it is also the story of a daring expedition across continents taken by the Swedish East India Company and for that part, based on true facts.  I found Killian and Jess’ story both as individuals and as a couple compelling  and the expedition backdrop just as enthralling.

I very much enjoyed Trade Winds and look forward to reading Highland Storms.

Highland Storms is Christina’s third Choc Lit novel. Her debut, Trade Winds and prequel to Highland Storms, was short listed for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Pure Passion Award of Best Historical Fiction 2011.   Her novel The Scarlet Kimono won the Best Historical category in this year’s Big Red Read awards.

Christina Courtenay is on Twitter and Facebook

Author Christina Courtenay Visits

I am delighted to welcome Christina Courtenay to my blog today as part of her Highland Storms book tour, published by Choc Lit.

Highland Storms is Christina’s third Choc Lit novel. Her debut, Trade Winds and prequel to Highland Storms, was short listed for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Pure Passion Award of Best Historical Fiction 2011.   Her novel The Scarlet Kimono won the Historical category in this year’s Big Red Read awards.

For a chance to win a signed copy of Highland Storms,  please see below.

Christina chats:

Thank you for inviting me to be your guest!  I have to say that the title of your blog, Love Reading Love Books, perfectly describes me as well – I’ve loved reading and books ever since I first learned how to and a birthday or Christmas without receiving at least one book as a present would have been inconceivable!  I also noticed you support something called ‘Love a Happy Ending’, and I couldn’t agree more – I absolutely hate sad endings and usually check to make sure before I buy a book!  So it will come as no surprise if I tell you all my own novels always end happily.

I’m here today as part of my blog tour for the upcoming release of my third novel, Highland Storms.  Here is a short synopsis to hopefully whet your appetite:-

Who can you trust?

Betrayed by his brother and his childhood love, Brice Kinross needs a fresh start. So he welcomes the opportunity to leave Sweden for the Scottish Highlands to take over the family estate.

But there’s trouble afoot at Rosyth in 1754 and Brice finds himself unwelcome. The estate is in ruin and money is disappearing.  He discovers an ally in Marsaili Buchanan, the beautiful redheaded housekeeper, but can he trust her?

Marsaili is determined to build a good life. She works hard at being housekeeper and harder still at avoiding men who want to take advantage of her.  But she’s irresistibly drawn to the new clan chief, even though he’s made it plain he doesn’t want to be shackled to anyone.

And the young laird has more than romance on his mind. His investigations are stirring up an enemy.  Someone who will stop at nothing to get what he wants – including Marsaili – even if that means destroying Brice’s life forever …

I put some questions to Christina which she kindly answered:

What influenced your decision to write historical novels?  I’ve always loved history as a subject and once I discovered the novels of Georgette Heyer, I was hooked.  When I started writing myself, I knew that was the sort of thing I wanted to write too.  I still read mostly historicals, so my taste hasn’t changed, although nowadays I am more open to reading other genres.

How long did it take you to write Highland Storms?  The first draft I wrote in a couple of months, but then I spent ages polishing it.  I always write very quickly in order to get the story down on paper (or screen I should say), but it’s very rough and needs a lot of work afterwards.  In this case, it took less than a year from start to finish, but some of my other novels have taken a lot longer during the polishing stage.

Did you always plan a sequel to Trade Winds?  No, sequels just seem to happen by themselves.  I guess it’s like when you read a really good book and you feel sad to have to say goodbye to the characters.  If you’re the author, you don’t have to – you can just carry on with another family member or the next generation.  Sometimes certain characters cry out to have their own story told, but that wasn’t the case here as Brice was only a baby in Trade Winds.  However, I knew already then that he was special – not many foreign babies were born in China in those days and he had to be tough to have survived the journey back to Sweden so he was obviously good hero material!

The covers are very beautiful – do you have any input for the designs?  Yes, Choc Lit authors are consulted about the cover designs and it’s a fascinating process.  I’ve been very lucky with mine, I love them all, but since lilac is my favourite colour, I have to admit the Highland Storms one is my favourite.

Author’s Book Shelf

What is your favourite book you have read? 

I really can’t give you just one I’m afraid, how about five? Midnight is a Lonely Place by Barbara Erskine, Shadow of the Moon by M M Kaye, Possession by A S Byatt, Cotillion by Georgette Heyer andSophia’s Secret (aka The Winter Sea) by Susanna Kearsley.

What are you reading at the moment? 

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

What book should you have read, but haven’t?

War and Peace or maybe Anna Karenina ?

Win a copy of Highland Storms

Would you like a chance to win a signed copy of Highland Storms courtesy of Christina Courtenay and Choc Lit?  To enter just leave a comment as to why you would like to win a copy and I will randomly select a winner.  Competition closes at 10pm GMT Sunday 16 October.  Check back to see the winner on Monday 17 October.  Thank you!

A big thank you to Christina and the Choc Lit team.

Fat Girls & Fairy Cakes – Sue Watson

As an Associate Reader with Love A Happy Ending, I was kindly sent a copy of Fat Girls & Fairy Cakes by author Sue Watson.  Having already seen many rave reviews  of Sue’s debut novel, I couldn’t wait to get stuck into it.  What an absolute joy – I was hooked all the way – from page one to the end.

We begin the story with Stella Weston, working in the TV industry, married to Tom, mother to Grace.  Stella is always rushed off her feet, pulled in every direction and as many a working mother is weighed down by guilt for not always being there for her family.

Life for Stella is turned upside down when she has to deal with problems both at home and work.  The novel follows Stella’s path to dealing with, accepting and overcoming these life changing events.  With the help of her best friends and colleagues, Lizzie and Al, Stella gradually discovers that another love of her life, cake, could actually be her salvation.

I really enjoyed reading Fat Girls & Fairy Cakes, not only was it funny with some lovely colourful characters, Al being a favourite of  mine, but it was touching and sometimes sad.  However, the less happy themes are dealt with in keeping with the overall light hearted tone of the book. Stella is great and you can’t help cheering her on as she gradually discovers and rediscovers herself.

The supporting cast were fun too, MJ loved hating her, Tom who made me sad, best friend Lizzie being a real BBF, Al funny, catty but lovely, Seb pragmatic and reliable, sweet little Grace who has an old head on young shoulders and not forgetting Stella’s dizzy mum.  This is the sort of book you could easily envisage seeing on the big screen.

I would have no hesitation in recommending Fat Girls & Fairy Cakes to anyone who wants an entertaining read and for all cake lovers; there are some great recipes at the end of the book.

Sue Watson’s blog is Fat Girls & Fairy Cakes and she is also on Facebook and Twitter