Meet The Family – Juliet Archer

Unbeknown to a lot of people Juliet has been a choc-lit author for quite sometime…. Though she has been lurking in the background she is back with a new book in time for CHRISTMAS and I kinda feel like I should be asking a different set of questions to a Choc-lit pro

Welcome to my blog “A Story About A Girl” Juliet

What inspired you to write “Hope, Mistletoe and a Christmas Promise

Hong Kong itself. For me, it embodies the ultimate East-West culture clash – an idea that inspired the first meeting between Ryan Hawke and Pip Smith, the hero and heroine of my book. Juliet Archer

I’ve wanted to set a story in Hong Kong for a long time. My husband spent the first part of his life in Kowloon, and I felt as though I knew the place – or his version of it! – long before we went there in 2018 and 2019.

If you could go back to when you first started writing what one piece advice would you give yourself?

I’d say to myself: ‘Obviously, you care what happens to your characters – just make sure your readers do too!’
What I mean is, I can get so invested in my story that I forget to stand back and get inside the mind of a reader – e.g. ask myself what would make a reader care (or not) about a particular character, or what a particular scene is delivering in terms of their development.

I find it a challenge to be objective and that’s why, at the editing stage, the feedback from Choc Lit/Ruby Fiction’s Tasting Panel is invaluable.

What would you say to someone who wants to write?

‘Go for it!’

Writing is one of the best forms of self-expression I know. However, it is worth thinking about who you’re writing for. Is it yourself, your friends and family – or do you want to reach a wider audience?

9780062720467-ukIf you want to reach a wider audience, then you need to do your research about how best to do that. It’s as much about what you write – that is, what is likely to sell – as it is about the marketing of the finished product. Writing for yourself, or friends and family, brings greater flexibility. And who knows? You might also reach a wider audience with something that you wrote just for you.

Finally, I’d recommend Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. Over the years, I’ve found this an excellent source of wisdom.

 

If you weren’t writing what would you be doing?

My day job is full-on, which means that my non-working hours are precious and tend to get filled with family and friends. So, as with many authors, writing is very much fitted around other things – I just wish there were more hours in the day!

But writing is ‘me’ time and I love it. If I wasn’t doing it, I’d go to the gym more. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!)

How did you deal with rejections when you started out?

It wasn’t easy, but I just kept working at improving my writing – and my ‘sales pitch’.

And these days there’s so much information out there about different people’s experiences – you know you’re not alone!

What made you decide to submit with ChocLit?

I was Choc Lit’s first author!

My first book, The Importance of Being Emma, was their debut title. It was lucky enough to be shortlisted for the 2009 Melissa Nathan for Comedy Romance, and to win the Big Red Read Book of the Year 2011 Fiction Award.

Since then Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction have gone from strength to strength. They have a wonderful team – it was a no-brainer to send them Hope, Mistletoe and a Christmas Promise!

Which authors inspired you to write?

First and foremost, Jane Austen. She was the inspiration behind my first two books, The Importance of Being Emma and Persuade Me, which are updates of two of her novels. I love her witty insights into the human heart.

Another inspiration is Lee Child. Even though he’s writing a different genre, his books are real page-turners with impressive plotting.

The stories I wrote as a child were usually inspired by Enid Blyton, Lorna Hill and Elinor M. Brent-Dyer (Chalet School series) – and are best forgotten!

Who would you want to play the main characters in your book if your novel was optioned for tv / film?

Ooh, lovely question! I’m going with an American to play Ryan and a Brit to play Pip – even though these days many actors can put on either accent.

Matthew McConaughey – at least the younger version! – has the same ‘look’ as Ryan, images

and

I’d go for Vanessa Kirby or  to play Pip. They both have the right height and build – Vanessa would just need to dye her hair, like she did for her Princess Margaret role in The Crown.

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As for Jack, Pip’s brother and hero of my first book about the Smith family, One Summer Weekend, the only possible choice is Richard Armitage. Preferably at the age he was when he played John Thornton in the BBC’s North & South, as that was my inspiration for One Summer Weekend!

 

 

Do you have any writing routines or rituals, if so what are they?

I get up very early, and that’s often my writing time – although I need endless cups of tea to keep me going! If I’m writing later in the day, a glass of wine (or two) has been known to help.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t get as much time as I’d like for writing. When I do, I’m sure I’ll develop lots of routines and rituals!

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

Shorter gaps between books, as I wind down the day job?!

My next book will be my third about the Smith family, the long-promised sequel to One Summer Weekend. This time the focus will be on Jack …

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More About Juliet Archer

Juliet Archer writes award-winning romantic comedy for Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction. She has been known to spend many happy hours matching irresistible heroes with their equally irresistible chocolate counterparts – watch out for the dark nutty ones!

Her debut novel, The Importance of Being Emma, won the Big Red Read Book of the Year 2011 Fiction Award and was shortlisted for the 2009 Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance. Her second novel, Persuade Me, was shortlisted for the 2011 Festival of Romance Best Romantic Read Award.

She has written two books about the Smith family: One Summer Weekend and Hope, Mistletoe & a Christmas Promise. You can also read her short stories: Incense & Insensibility in the Love Match anthology, and Love Rules in the Kisses & Cupcakes anthology (both Choc Lit).

Juliet was born and bred in North-East England, and now lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and temperamental cat. She has two grown-up children, one in London and one in the USA, and has recently discovered the joys of grandchildren. Her non-writing career has spanned IT, company acquisitions, marketing and project management.

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Hope Mistletoe and a Christmas Promise by Juliet ArcherWhen a Christmas promise becomes hard to keep …

Pip Smith knows she owes it to her family to hold on to the festive traditions that have been a comfort since the year everything changed – but this Christmas she’s going to need a miracle to keep everyone in her life happy.

After she’s dumped by her fiancé, an invitation to visit a friend in Hong Kong in the run-up to the festive season seems to offer Pip the perfect escape – and she’ll be home for Christmas, of course. Except her escape ends up becoming far more complex than she intended, when she becomes involved with arrogant American Ryan Hawke and his niece, Shelby – a little girl whose most heartfelt Christmas wish is for a proper family.

Will Pip keep her Christmas promise – or will it be more of a compromise, with the help of a little hope and mistletoe?

Linked to One Summer Weekend but can be read as a standalone story. This is Pip’s story.

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Quick Fire Questions with Angela Britnell

Decided to catch up with my fellow author on the other side of the Atlantic, for some quick fire questions….

Vodka and Coke or Malibu and Coke?

Neither! I hate Coke and Malibu is too sweet for my taste. Is it all right if I please have a nice, cold glass of white wine, a G&T or a margarita (on the rocks with no salt) instead?

Novella or novel?

It depends what I’m in the mood for – sometimes a shorter story hits the spot and on other occasions I want to dive into something longer.

Series or stand alone?

I read a lot of mysteries and am working my way through two different several detective series at the moment – Kate Ellis and her DI Wesley Peterson series, and Elly Griffiths with the Ruth Galloway stories. I’m also perfectly happy with stand alone books by either new or favourite authors.

Nestle or Cadburys?

It has to be Cadburys – I’m a big fan of Crunchy bars their Fruit and Nut. Also I could eat Galaxy Minstrels by the ton!

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A friend once told me to heat Minstrels over a bowl of warm water and it makes their inside go all running CS

Rock music or pop music?

Generally speaking I’m more of pop music fan – Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, Lewis Capaldi are all on my playlists.

Reality TV or Documentary?

I do watch some reality shows, but I’ve never seen the Kardashians, the Bachelor or any shows along those lines. I don’t think you have the show in the UK but I love The Amazing Race, mainly for the travel aspect. I do enjoy programmes that you could maybe call light documentaries – like Tony Robinson’s walks around the UK, so ones that show what life was like in say a medieval village or Victorian farm.

Christmas or Easter?

That’s a tricky one but I think I’ll go for Easter because the weather is usually better, it involves plenty of chocolate and there’s less cooking and decorating the house involved!

Snow or Rain?

Snow is pretty to look out at but I’m not a fan of actually having to go out in it! Rain I’m far more used to, growing up in Cornwall we rarely saw much of the white stuff but there was never a shortage of rain.

Summer or autumn?

Here in Tennessee it has to be autumn. The colour of the changing leaves and usually perfect temperatures make it hard to beat. On the other hand the long, hot and humid summer weather turns me practically into a hermit!road-gbb742b226_640

Staycation or abroad?

There are plenty of interesting places in the US I’ve yet to see, but I’m not sure I’d call it a staycation as many are as far away, or further, than anyone living in the UK would go when travelling ‘abroad’. We usually come to Cornwall twice a year and have just booked our next trip for the spring.

Sunset or sunrise?

Sunset.

Fly or drive (on holiday)?

I’m not a fan of long car trips, although I’ve learned to tolerate them as the distances you need to travel here to see new places are often a lot further than they would be in the UK. Flying isn’t much fun these days but at least most of the time it gets you there faster.

Brown paper or shiny wrapping paper?

Shiny wrapping paper every time! I might not be as good for the planet but it’s so much prettier.

Early morning or late at night?

I’m a complete morning person and getting more so with age! My days of staying up late and partying are long gone 😊

Neighbours or Home and Away?

I’ve never watched either show. I grew up watching Coronation Street, my mum was a devoted follower and never missed an episode.

A Little Christmas Panto cover

Can a little Cornish village panto convince a troubled Hollywood heart throb to act again?

Oh no it won’t! At least that’s what Zach Broussard initially thinks when the eccentric Anna Teague tries to railroad him into helping out with her community pantomime production in the run-up to Christmas. Zach has his reasons for leaving Hollywood behind, and his retreat to the remote village of Polcarne in Cornwall signals the start of a new acting free life for him.

But when Zach meets Anna’s daughter, Rosey – an ex concert pianist who has swapped Mozart for panto tunes – he starts to wonder whether he could change his mind, and not just about acting.

If nothing else, will the residents of Polcarne ensure Zach has a Christmas he never forgets?

Oh yes they will!

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Quick Fire Questions with Kirsty Ferry

This girl is on fire as the song goes… She has an amazing back catalogue of books with Choc-Lit so I decided to shake things up abit and do some quick fire questions…

Vodka and Coke or Malibu and Coke

Vodka and coke – malibu is for summer and pina coladas!

Novella or novel

I like writing them both – sometimes my novellas increase into novels after edits. I’ll read either, so long as it’s a good story.

Ruby Lit or Choc-lit

Ha ha! Both! Choc Lit is the home of my timeslips and most of my other series, but Ruby is the home of my Padcock series. I’ve really enjoyed writing the Padcock books. They’re a little bit different from my Choc Lit books and I can have fun with first person point of view by really getting into the main characters of Cerys, Edie and now Flora.

Series or stand alone

Again, I love both. I like picking up a book and really enjoying it, then realising there are other books in the series. Sometimes a book has to be stand alone, though, and I think it spoils it if they do a follow on. I particularly hate where the author spends a novel getting a couple together then splits them up in a sequel. It’s almost like it’s been a waste of a book. This happened to one I was really looking forward to reading last Christmas and when I found out what had happened from my mum who’d read it first, I didn’t bother. It was as if the author didn’t have a way of continuing the story happily and had to completely rejig the spirit of the first one. If I write a series, all my couples will stay together, and I’ll just concentrate on getting another couple together instead.

Nestle or Cadbury’s cadbury_dairy_milk_giant_buttons_chocolate_bag_240g_70421_T596

Hard one – anything chocolatey will find its way into my tummy. I’d maybe have to plump for Cadbury’s if I was pushed, as I love Dairy Milk and I especially love giant chocolate buttons.

 

Aldi or Lidl

Probably Aldi. We have both nearby but Aldi sometimes has great craft supplies in like fat quarters or lovely art sets so I’d probably gravitate there. One a few miles down the road has a lovely artisan coffee shop next to it so that’s another good reason to shop there.

Rock music or pop music

I do like rock music – some poppy stuff is fine too, but I grew up in the 80s when Stock, Aitken and Waterman flooded the market and it all got a bit samey so I preferred the power ballads that were around then and I still love singing along to them!

Reality TV or Documentary

Of the two I prefer documentaries, unless it’s Strictly or The Real Dirty Dancing which was great. I hate the celebrity culture that goes along with people in things like TOWIE and Big Brother and I do make a couple of references to non-entity celebs in the Padcock books. They just irritate me so much.

Christmas or Easter

I love Christmas, but I also love Easter – lots of chocolate to be had and the nights are getting lighter, and I need sunshine, chocolate and light to thrive! Christmas is lovely and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are so special – plus they are after the December solstice, so I can kid myself the darkest days of winter are over by then.

Snow or Rain

Probably rain. Rain doesn’t necessarily stop me from driving or doing anything unless it’s really ridiculous, and although snow looks pretty it can be awful to drive in and makes my anxiety hit the roof. It’s nice if I don’t have to go anywhere. The perfect thing would be snow at teatime on Christmas Eve, and it melting by lunchtime on 25th. My birthday is in February and in 2021 in the middle of lockdown I had a big birthday. It was blizzarding all day, but so many of my friends made me part of their essential travel and stood shivering in my porch to see me on my birthday, and it was so special.

Summer or autumn

Summer. I can tolerate autumn until around Halloween but then no thank you, forget it. I don’t like the months from November until March or thereabouts (except of course Christmas and my birthday!)

Santa-Claus-DRAWING-–-STEP-10Santa or the Easter Bunny

I love Santa – the whole thing is magical. We still put a mince pie and a carrot out for him and Rudolph, and a drink of choice. Sometimes, he likes prosecco. However, the Easter Bunny is extremely cute and I love to think of him hopping around delivering eggs.

Six weeks holiday or end of term holidays

End of term. My son is almost 22 so we don’t have to think about the six weeks holiday, and it’s great as he doesn’t need looking after or amusing any more! I go to work and leave him in bed, and he can get up and make his own breakfast and jump in his car and do stuff without us, rather than me stressing about getting him up and ready and getting him to my parents to be looked after. He still gets Easter and Christmas hols from Uni, but he can stay away and be with his friends if he has plans, rather than the accommodation closing and them all scattering over summer. He does like to be home at Christmas, though.

Staycation or abroad

Staycation I think. There are so many lovely places to holiday in the UK that there is loads for us to still explore. I would like to go back to Amsterdam and do Prague and the Greek Islands amongst other places, so maybe one day we’ll go to somewhere like that.

Sunset or sunrise

Sunrise I think. I made sure I got up and watched the summer solstice at 4am in June from a deckchair in my back garden, but you can get some beautiful sunsets too and I can often be found dashing outside with my camera to try and capture them!

Fly or drive (on holiday)

Drive as we tend not to go abroad and can please ourselves if we have the car. If we go somewhere like Glasgow, though, we’ll get the train. I’d like to fly to Exeter and rent a car to travel around down there as it’s a long way to the south west coast and it’s an area I love and want to visit again and I don’t have a lot of patience with holiday traffic on the motorways!

Brown paper or shiny wrapping paper

I know brown paper is more ecologically sound, but I do love pretty wrapping paper. However, the danger is that super-shiny stuff doesn’t stick with Sellotape and all my Christmas gifts sprung open the other year after I’d wrapped them which made me cross!

Early morning or late at night

Once I’m up and had my first coffee of the day I’m usually ok in a morning. Late nights depend on why I’m late. If I’ve been out at the theatre or been to a friend’s it’s nice to come home after enjoying myself and flop straight into bed. I don’t like lying in bed and staring at the clock until it’s really late if I can’t sleep, though, and have been known to wander downstairs at 2am and either do edits or finish my homework from art class.

Freeview or cable channels

Probably cable. I don’t know how to work Freeview on my TV, but from what I understand, a lot of the channels are the same anyway.

Neighbours or Home and Away

Neither I’m afraid. I don’t like soap operas of any description, and have never watched these beyond the first episode of Home and Away which I remember watching at my aunt and uncles house while we were visiting one day!

 

 

 

Flora coverIt was meant to be a romantic Christmas getaway …
Except Flora’s boyfriend Paul is more interested in whether there’s WiFi in their holiday cottage than he is in the pretty village of Padcock where it’s located. It seems he’s incapable of taking time out from his work for gossip mag darling Maxine Marling – or Maxine Marmoset as Flora not so secretly calls her (well, she does look like a marmoset!) – to spend time with his actual girlfriend.


But as Flora discovers the friendly and festive community of Padcock with its eccentric but lovable locals – including dreamy musician Geraint Davies – she begins to question her London life and lots more besides. Especially as a certain marmoset becomes ever more present on her Christmas break for two …


But luckily Padcock is a village where fresh starts happen – and maybe Flora is in line for her own Christmas of new beginnings.

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Mistletoe Mistletoe and Mayhem at the Little Shopping Mall – Hannah Pearl

Did someone say it’s nearly Christmas? There are only 83 to go!!!!

 

Welcome back Hannah, I’m looking forward to catching up it feels like it was only days ago we were welcoming you as part of the Choc-lit family and now we’re here talking about all things Christmas and of course your new book.

 

han 4 (1) (1)Are you a lover or hater of Christmas Hannah?

I LOVE it!!!!!

What do you love about Christmas?

I love having time together when we’re lucky to all have a break from work/ school. I love seeing my children’s faces when they open their presents.

Do you have any Christmas traditions, if so what are they are they carried on from your childhood or have you created your own?

We’re not massively traditional so nothing much, apart from trying to get together. We did start doing an enormous family Secret Santa a few years ago for nearly thirty of us. I think that’ll be something my children will always remember, so hopefully we can pick that up again this year.

 

Do you think we’ll have a white Christmas this year?

I doubt it. It’s been so hot this year, far too hot for me to cope well! I know in a few weeks time that’ll seem like a distant memory but I can’t yet get my head around it actually feeling cold soon!

What is your earliest Christmas memory?

Playing together with all my cousins at my grandparents’ house. I’m really lucky to have a big family and it was always a special treat in the holidays to be able to get together. I’ve really missed that for the last few years and hope to see everyone more soon.

What was the best present you received as a child?

I can’t remember! Is that awful? We’re not hugely traditional really and so though we always got lovely gifts, it was always more about being together.

What is the one thing you always wanted but never got?

A Mr Frosty slushie maker. Actually, thinking back, I think we did get one in the end and it never worked well after all that waiting!

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Favourite Christmas song pop or carol?

Slade. It doesn’t feel like Christmas until you’ve heard Noddy Holder telling you that it is Christmas 🙂

What would you buy your main characters in “Mistletoe Mistletoe and Mayhem at the Little Shopping Mall” as a Christmas present?

I’d get Caroline some nice chocolates. Actually, anything sweet or food related to save her from cooking!

doughnuts-1868573_640 And for Damian, something simple  but classy, a nice aftershave maybe. Or a hat that isn’t a Stetson 😉

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If you were asked to guest DJ on a national radio station on Christmas day what would you play?

 

Slade of course, Wizzard (I Wish it could be Christmas Every Day), Mariah Carey and Wham , just in case anyone nearly made it through Whamageddon in one piece. Is that mean?  But surely it wouldn’t be Christmas without it!

 

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Count down to Christmas with mistletoe, mayhem, meddling friends and mystery men …
There’s a saying about all work and no play – but there’s never a dull moment for Caroline working at Holly Walk Mall, especially at Christmas.

When she’s not dealing with orders from Ian, ‘the manager who can’t manage’ as her friend Rachel puts it, she’s overseeing the usual late-night shopping sessions, Santa’s grotto construction and, most importantly, the sampling of many delicious festive treats at the Italian café her friends Nina and Marco own.

But when a new jewellery shop moves in and brings ‘mysterious guy with the cute bottom’ to Holly Walk, Caro isn’t yet aware just how much mayhem she’s in for in the countdown to Christmas. With strategically placed mistletoe, revealing cowboy outfits and even a bit of sleuthing, could this festive season turn out to be the liveliest yet for both Caro and her beloved Mall?

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Read my interview with Hannah as part of the welcome to the family series HERE

Horses with Annie Rose

Annie has a new book out Recipe for Mr Super! As part of her Recipes of Life Serise so I caught up with Annie to talk Horses????

 

All my books so far have had dogs in, but in Recipe for Mr Super, I’ve been allowed to indulge my love ofauthor horses. A quick disclaimer – all horses in this book are based on horses I’ve known, but, except for Charlie Brown, the Shetland Pony – that was his real name, names have been changed to protect the innocent!

The names weren’t the only thing I made up, okay, I’ll admit I never evented. I have acted as groom, helped at cross country events, been a dressage writer for many, many dressage tests including some major competitions over a long period of time, but I just couldn’t face competing. So, it’s fair to say the eventing world in Recipe for Mr Super is entirely imaginary, except that one event is held at Tweseldown – a real place, and my absolute favourite eventing venue. A place I have spent happy hours, helping, or watching, some talented riders compete. I’ve even gone cross country schooling there on my own horse several times and loved the experience, but never had any desire to compete at any level.

IMG_6811People always tell me that the adrenalin high you get from doing well in competition is the ultimate thrill and worth the anxiety of getting ready to compete. I never agreed. Even the clear-round competition at the local show would have me hyperventilating.

I can’t remember when my love affair with horses started. I was very young. I’d ride anything whenever I had the opportunity, but the only person we knew back then with a horse was my godmother.

My first book was Black Beauty. I still have that copy, the colour plates in it are amazing and it would be my desert island choice. I’ve had it so long; I can’t imagine ever being without it. Photos 2 on 8 Jul 2022 at 20_28_28I was 11 years old, when a lady, my mother worked with, who had a pony, which was a bit of a handful, asked her if I’d like to ride it. Her own daughter had outgrown it, so they’d bought her a horse and needed someone to exercise the pony. I’ve always assumed my mother didn’t understand what a bit of a handful meant at the time, rather than she thought she could afford to lose her eldest daughter. The pony was a rig, with a mind of his own – initially I spend a lot of time on the floor, but it was a great learning curve and I loved him to pieces, spending all my free time at the stables. Eventually, I outgrew him too, but was offered the ride on another horse at the same stables, a lot steadier, and a true gentleman, until a permanent home could be found for him.

I’d been married less than six months, when I finally had the opportunity to buy a horse. I’d been having Beziqueriding lessons and hacking out at a local stable for some time, but it wasn’t a considered decision. I didn’t go out that day having decided to buy a horse, but I was told during a lesson that the horse I was riding, would be going to go back to the dealers and not available for lessons the following week. She wasn’t popular with clients other than me, being a head shaker and very green about everything. The deal I struck with my husband was that if I gave up smoking for a month, I could buy her. I never smoked again, I couldn’t, because although I didn’t tell him, I’d already paid for her.

We went on to develop a really special relationship, (both horse and husband). She taught me so much about unconditional love and trust. I like to think I taught her to jump. She’d only ever been driven, until shortly before she came into the riding school, and responded well to simple voice commands like, “left” or “right” and you had to tell her to “jump” if you wanted her to go over, rather than through or round any obstacle!

My biggest problem with her was that she hated being tied up and could untie herself from just about anything and sometimes her mates! She was a real Houdini, but having done it, she wouldn’t move further than the nearest hay net or patch of grass. She just didn’t like to be attached to anything.

Sadly, she was fatally injured in a road traffic accident, which left such a huge hole in my life that I was finally persuaded to look for another horse and found a huge tri-coloured mare. The picture IMG_7917is by the very talented equestrian artist Lydia Kiernan. I’m not aware that she ever met my horse, but this is just the most picture, it hangs on my wall. It has her facial markings spot on and has really captured her expression. This horse and I clicked, and I just knew I’d found somebody special. There were all sorts of alarm bells that should have rung. She had sarcoids, a cracked hoof, an irregular heartbeat, a dust allergy – I could go on, but the vet took one look at her and asked me what I thought I wanted.

I told him, I needed a horse, no bigger than 16 ½ hands to take care of me, to rebuild my trust in riding. A horse I could hack on my own, and maybe occasionally jump.  

The vet turned and said, ‘Then she’s perfect for you. I’m not going to vet her, because she’ll fail. Just one thing, promise me you will give yourself a year with her to build a relationship. There will be times during that year when you’ll struggle – wonder what you’ve done and wish you’d never bought her. You’ll get her home, think she’s perfect, but give it three weeks and she’ll go through that difficult toddler stage. She’ll start testing boundaries. Don’t let her get away with anything. Always be kind, but firm and soldier on. It will be worth it. If after a year, and I really don’t think this will happen, but if you haven’t bonded then you owe it to both of you, to find her another home.’ He issued a passport for her, and in it said she was 16 ½ hands – years later my then vet said, you do know she’s a lot bigger than that – don’t you?

We did bond and had sixteen amazing years together. She put a broken person back together and we both learned to trust each other. She overcame her fears about walking through water and I learned to accept that if something was really frightening, in horse terms, it was better to walk, or trot past it backwards!

I have just started having lessons again and recently met a lovely horse – a real black beauty!IMG_6999

 

 

 

Recipe for Mr Super by Anni Rose

 
Where’s a hero when you need him?
 
In Autumn Rigden’s case, enjoying semi-celebrity status on the other side of the world. Although Nick Flynn is no superman – talented horse rider and Super Sportstar of the Year he might be, but he has a habit of leaving Autumn in the lurch when she needs him most.

Anyway, Autumn is too busy with her new career to care about Nick. Okay, so she’s had to give up her OIympic dressage dream, her childhood home and beloved Shetland pony – and all to the benefit of Gordon, Nick’s money-grabbing father. But Autumn’s new ambition is to become an heir hunter extraordinaire, and with a promising commission and only a few weirdos demanding she prove they’re related to royalty, she’s all set.

But when Mr Super returns, will Autumn find that forgetting about horses and the Flynns is harder than she could have ever imagined?

 

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Doing the Research… Chris Penhall

As Summer starts to arrive in the UK, so do the Summer choc-lit books and where best to start? By talking to Chris Penhall, about the research that goes into her books especially her newest The House on the Hill – A Summer in the Algarve.

 

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The books I have written are all set in places I know very well, and I feel the locations are characters in the stories. So, when I frivolously say I research my books when I’m on holiday, I sort of mean it and I sort of don’t.

The landscapes, sounds and smells of Portugal and the south Wales coast are so imprinted on my mind that I call on them when I want to for a particular scene. In my new novel, The House on the Hill – Lagos, where its set,  is very much a part of the action. I feel it’s my second home, and as with all of the places I write about, because I only visit for short periods of time, my experiences when I’m there are always intense and very vivid.

There is a lot of yoga, meditation, Zumba and a bit of dancing in this particular book too, and although not an expert in any of them, I do all of them regularly. So, once again, I have used my own knowledge of participating in classes, although I have never taught any kind of sport, exercise or dance. I’m just there to enjoy myself…

There is also one small scene set in a radio station. I cannot reveal what it’s about, but suffice to say that most of my working life has been involved in working in radio in some way or another, so something was bound to seep into one of my books at some stage. This particular bit is entirely fictional, but, honestly, it really could happen.

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When I’m writing – and I’m sure this is true of many authors – things that are going on around me can also find their way into the story. For instance, I did sunset beach yoga for the first time in October 2021 in Lagos, and after experiencing the real joy of watching the sunset on Porto Do Mos Beach, with only the sound of the gentle rolling of the sea next to me, It fed into the book somehow. Not in a big way, really, but that’s often what happens – these things often add extra layers to the story.

I think what I’m trying to say is that I subconsciously gather images and ideas wherever I go, and when I allow my imagination to run free, some of those memories find their way onto the page. So, I have been accidentally researching my novels for a very long time, and I never even knew it.

 

 

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Layla is calm, in control and is definitely not about to lose her serenity for the man next door!
Surely it can’t be hard to stay peaceful at one of the oldest yoga and mindfulness retreats in the Algarve, surrounded by sea, sun and serenity? Mostly, owner Layla Garcia manages it – with the help of meditation and plenty of camomile tea, of course.

But keeping her grandparents’ legacy alive is stressful, and Layla has become so shackled to the work that, for her, The House on the Hill is fast becoming ‘The Fortress on the Hill’.

Then writer Luke Mackie moves to the villa next door, bringing with him a healthy dose of chaos to disrupt Layla’s plans, plus a painful reminder of a time when she was less-than-serene. But could his influence be just what Layla needs to ‘dance like no-one’s watching’ and have the fun she’s been missing?

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Which Books… Joanne Boden

Joanne is back with her next book and it’s about a village vet! I wonder if she’d be able to help me with my cat issues…

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There are so many books to choose from. I love Nora Roberts, so it would have to be all of her books! If I had to choose one book by another author it would have to be The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I still have no idea how that book was her debut. It’s my all time favourite book and I remember buying it when it was first published in 2003. I can’t quite believe it’s nearly twenty years old.

Which book cover have you looked at and gone that’s amazing.

Again, there have been so many. And I have to admit I am a bit of a cover buyer. The hardback of Joanna Cannon’s Three, Things About Elsie, is a firm favourite as the cover is decorated in battenberg cake. It’s just so pretty. The cover of House of Sky and Breath, Crescent City Book 2, is also beautiful as is the harback of Sarah Winman’s Still Life. As a side note I love all the clothbound Penguin classics. They are all beautiful. My husband bought me David Copperfoeld and Middlemarch for Christmas.

Which book character/s would you protect from the world?

Ooh that’s an interesting one. I would love to put the characters of Martha and Patrick from Sorrow and Bliss in a bubble. I also have a fierce need to protect Feyre from A Court Of Thorns and Roses as she goes through so much at such a young age. Then there are Kaz and Inej from Six of Crows. I’d love to pluck them out of the world they are in and keep them safe.

Which was the last book that broke your heart.

Colleen Hoover’s, It Ends With Us. Loved that book, but oh my, I had a serious book hangover for a week afterwards.

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Which book would you make your child/ren read.

I have never made my boys read anything. It is their choice. But they have been brought up in a house full of books and they love to read. Anything goes!

Which book would you rewrite in a different genre.

It would still have to be romance because that’s what I write, but I would tweak it. I’d love to take The Hating Game and make it a cowboy romance, set on a ranch.  I can just imagine Josh as a tall and brooding cowboy and Lucy as a cowgirl in pink cowboy boots.

If you could write any genre which one would it be?

It would have to be romance. I can’t imagine writing in any other gentee to be honest.

If you could redesign any book cover which one, would you choose?

Ooh that’s a difficult one. I have no idea and it’s all down to personal taste isn’t it? I am also not a cover designer, so I think it’s best left to the professionals.

 

Which book taught you the largest lesson about life.

Different books teach you different things, don’t they? But I suppose the one book that stands out to me as it had a profound effect on me at such a young age is Little Women, and it is still one of my all time favourite books. It taught me about female friendship, about the strength of family and featured such fabulous female role models.

Which three books would you take on holiday in 2022?

 

We’re not going away this year but usually I take my Kindle when we go away. It’s just easier than carting around a stack of books. So, three books that I have on my kindle that I would love to read this summer are:

Breathe by Nicholas Sparks

Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts

The Cheat Sheet by Sarah Adams

I also have a selection of cowboy romance novels that I need to work my way through.

 

 

A Vacancy for a Village Vet by Joanne BodenFrom big city high-flyer to little village vet …


Hannah and Daniel were teenage sweethearts, but then Daniel left their sleepy village of Middlefern and his grandfather’s veterinary practice behind for the bright lights of London.
 
Now, fifteen years later, the prodigal grandson has returned to temporarily take over the village practice with a veterinary qualification and his dog, Sammy, in tow. Daniel is ready for rabbits with tummy aches, guinea pigs who’ve lost their squeak, plenty of cow complaints and a whole lot of memories – both good and bad. But is he ready to see Hannah again?

Of course, a high-flying city vet like Daniel was never planning to stay in Middlefern for good – especially given his history with the place. But could another, even more important, vacancy convince him to change his mind?

 

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A Day in The Life Of…. Kirsty Ferry

As you may have gathered from the Blog Post Anni Rose posted as part of the blog hoop in for new book A Burning Lie. My life evolves around Football training, Air Cadets, The Fire Service and the occasional novel writing. I was looking forward to hearing about what Kirsty does with hers days….

 

This is quite a hard piece to write – each day is different, and contrary to what people might believe I do Kirstyas an author, I can’t drift around in a haze of creativity, writing all day as I have one of those things called a ‘life’. By that, I mean I have other commitments like a family and a day job and can’t always devote time to writing, much as I’d like to. I haven’t written anything substantial, really, since September – part of that was a decision I made after releasing three books in one year. I wrote them in lockdown and just thought that was enough really for the time being. I have released two more this year and one is coming out at Christmas – and that’s a lot of lockdown writing. Thankfully, now restrictions have eased a bit I can do other things. I have, for example, started an art class, which is something I’ve wanted to do for years, and we had three days in Glasgow which was lovely. Maybe I should write about one of those days!

Coffee is vitally important and I will start each day off with a one. I’m a monster without it! So our second day in Glasgow we visited the Willow Tea Rooms on Buchanan Street for coffee and a square sausage sandwich for breakfast; then we found our way to the Clockwork Orange subway and went to, variously, the Kelvingrove Museum, the Hunterian Museum, the Rennie Mackintosh House, up to the Cathedral and had a pit stop at a donut place before the Museum of Modern Art. My donut and coffee was much needed

donutI had taken my trusty notebook and pen to Glasgow in case inspiration struck – I refused to cart a laptop up there, even though I usually would take one on holiday as writing is a pleasure and a nice way to settle in for the evening in a holiday cottage. But as we were on the train and limited luggage-wise it wasn’t practical and, from experience, I knew I wouldn’t write when it was such a short, busy break. Well, I didn’t even open my notebook, even though there was lots to inspire me (some of the artworks were incredible and told such stories – the portraits at the Hunterian, and the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists were fantastic – and I saw some Pre Raphaelite works, some Impressionists work and even a Van Gogh) so I was pleased I hadn’t taken my laptop. On the train coming back, though, I got one of those lovely emails from the publishers that ping in and tell me edits are ready to be worked on, and I couldn’t wait to get home and settle down to them. I might have worked on them under the influence of a glass of wine and a takeaway, but it was a really nice end to the holiday.

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I am still writing, and being ‘an author’, but slowly! I am a little way through a novella but had to put it to one side to do edits on Edie’s Summer of New Beginnings, and then I was working on expanding Holly’s Christmas Secret (the train edits!) to make it novel length and appropriate for trade paperback. I will have the third Padcock one lined up to edit soon, which is another Christmas book, so new material isn’t happening very quickly but I’m working on other things. I’m squeezing some time in to do this blog at Costa, for example, before I head to work as I’m back in the office more, whereas I spent lockdown working from home.

So I don’t really have a typical day as an author. Things seem a little chaotic right now, but when I am in the writing zone, I do like to set aside some time either in the afternoon if it’s a non-work day, or in the evening to write, and I can get quite a lot of work done in those sessions. But right now I’m struggling to fit it in. But I will get back to it – it’s like my coffee. I have to do it, otherwise I’m a monster and all the characters in the stories I have yet to tell will get really, really cross at me!

 

 

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Can Edie rediscover her artistic mojo and become a ‘Watercolour Wonder’?

Edie Brinkley went from rising star on the London art scene to hiding out at her gran’s cottage in the little village of Padcock after a series of unfortunate circumstances leave her almost too panicky to pick up a paintbrush.

When celebrity artist Ninian Chambers rocks up in the village to film Watercolour Wonders, a new TV art competition, Edie is horrified – especially as he played no small part in her decision to leave London.


But, with the support of the Padcock community, and one very special fellow contestant, could Ninian’s show ultimately offer a fresh start for Edie and her art career? Or will Annabel the sixties’ style stealer, along with make-up artist Tallulah and her ‘Caravan of Hell’, sabotage her summer of new beginnings?

Part of the Padcock Village series but can be read as a standalone story.

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Meet The Family – Hannah Pearl

 Something a little bit different this time round as Hannah talks to us about living with ME and how much she related to her character’s in her new book “Meet Me On the Buddy Bench” Which I myself can’t wait to read…

Hi, my name is Hannah Pearl and I’d like to thank Claire for inviting me on to her blog to talk about my new book, Meet Me on the Buddy Bench.  This book is a romance at heart, but it includes issues of grief han 4 (1) (1)and chronic illness. It is the story of Sam and Ava. Having both experienced huge changes in their lives, they question whether they can build a new life together and just what this might look like when it is not what they would ever have expected.

This book felt very personal to me because, like Ava, I also suffer from ME. I experience huge amounts of fatigue, balance problems, and brain fog. One of the hardest aspects to manage though is the post-exertional malaise. This is the key identifying symptom of ME. It means that if I overdo it, then all of my symptoms get worse, I feel awful, and it can take quite a bit of time for it to lift again.

It was really important to me to write this book for a few reasons. I wanted to take the opportunity to raise awareness of ME. We don’t yet have a blood test for ME, it is diagnosed on the basis of symptoms that don’t seem to have another cause, and so it can take quite a while to get a diagnosis, and then it can because it is poorly understood by doctors, it can be very hard to receive up to date information or advice. There are at least 250000 people in the UK who have ME, many of whom are even more severely affected than me. A quarter of people with ME are housebound or bedbound. Because of my health it can be very difficult to do the things you might do normally if a cause is important to you, like meet others or attend events. The online ME community though has been a source of enormous support and information.

I also wanted to write about ME within a romance book because when I first got ill (with symptoms much like Ava’s), reading gave me such an important way to escape from how awful I was feeling, if only for as long as the book lasted, and so I would finish one book and immediately start in the next. Romance books don’t shy away from covering difficult and emotive topics, and reading about people who had to start over but found new ways to live and to love helped me to stay positive at a time when my life changed so dramatically.

I’m lucky to be surrounded by supportive family and friends. I do hope that awareness of ME improves and that one day there will be better treatments available. There is so much of my old life that I miss and so many things I wish I could do again, especially with my children. Until then, I remain massively limited, but, like Ava, I try to find joy in the small things. It isn’t the life I expected to have but it is filled with love and I am very grateful for that.

I loved writing this book and hope that people enjoy finding out more about Sam and Ava as they try to rebuild their lives together.

You can find out more about ME The ME Association

More About Hannah Pearl

Hannah Pearl was born in East London. She is married with two children and now lives in Cambridge.

She has previously worked as a Criminology researcher, as a Development Worker with various charities and even pulled a few pints in her time.

In 2015 she was struck down by Labrynthitis, which left her feeling dizzy and virtually housebound. She has since been diagnosed with ME. Reading has allowed Hannah to escape from the reality of feeling ill. She read upwards of three hundred books during the first year of her illness. When her burgeoning eReader addiction grew to be too expensive, she decided to have a go at writing. In 2017 she won Simon and Schuster’s Books and the City #heatseeker short story competition, in partnership with Heat magazine, for her short story The Last Good Day.

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When an ordinary park bench becomes a lifeline …

As a primary school teacher, Ava Lam is familiar with the ‘buddy bench’: a rainbow painted bench where sad or lonely children can sit to show they need a friend.

But are buddy benches just for kids? Ava might have assumed so – until she finds herself sobbing her heart out on a park bench and a kind stranger sits down next to her.

The stranger, Dr Sam Stone, has a house, an impressive job and he’s even training for a marathon – all things that have become painfully out of reach for Ava in her new and scary circumstances. But whilst Sam appears to have everything figured out, it seems he needs a sympathetic ear just as much as she does.

Is the encounter a one-off, or could the ‘buddy bench’ begin to represent a source of comfort and support that will become precious to them both?

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A Day In The Life of: Helen Buckley

So this morning I got up, tried to get a child up, shouted at said child, husband went to work, shouted at child a bit more and broke the land speed record getting said child to school on time… Though I can’t help wondering what Helen’s day was like….

Signing contract photo further cropWhat do you imagine when you think of an author? Someone getting up late, perhaps sitting at a desk in their PJs with a large mug of coffee, spending the day typing away, or possibly staring out of the window, seeking inspiration?

Sadly, that’s not my experience!

My day usually starts around 5ish. I’m up to make my children’s breakfast and lunches. Then if I’m lucky, I get time to write before the kids wake up. I have two boys, one is nearly 3 years old, and the other is 15 months, so life is very full on.

My husband and I get the boys up and deliver them to their childcare places. Then I start work – my job is being the communications officer for a disability inclusion non-profit called Shaping Our Lives. Fortunately I work from home, so there’s no commute apart from the short drive to drop the boys off at the childminder and nursery.

I work 9-5pm and then the boys come back and chaos is unleashed till they are asleep.

Around 7 or 8pm, all being well, I might try to do a little writing, or update my blog/ social media.

Then I crash into bed at 10pm, exhausted!

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So my life definitely doesn’t fit the relaxing image I conjured up in the first paragraph, although I do always have a cup of coffee or tea on the go. But I wouldn’t change things. I’m very lucky to have my two boys (both IVF-miracle babies), and I know one day I will have more time to write when they are a little bigger. Till then I grit my teeth and drag myself out of bed before it’s dawn, and hope to have another book completed soon!

 

 

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What do you do when your life becomes more dramatic than reality TV?

As the devoted carer for famous antique expert Harold Kershaw, Karrie Morgan was always happy to keep a professional distance from his four spoilt grown-up children, who rarely made time for their father. But then a surprise involving Harold’s Will means Karrie is flung headlong into a press scandal, and into the chaotic world of the surviving Kershaws.

With the support of her trusted childhood friend Andrew, mild-mannered Karrie must face down ruthless ice queen Portia, master manipulator Gabriel, Botox fanatic Arabella, and ladies’ man Rafe, star of reality TV show Raised in Richmond … although perhaps not as fake and flashy as he initially seems?

As vicious rumours circulate and Karrie’s past comes back to haunt her, she struggles to know who to trust. Can she keep up with the Kershaws’ schemes?

 

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