To London …

I was in London on Thursday and Friday of last week to attend the Romantic Novelists’ Association Summer Party. I was one of eleven contenders for the Joan Hessayon award, a prize for authors who have published a novel after being a member of the RNA New Writer’s Scheme.

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Contenders for 2017 Joan Hessayon Award : Back Row – Lynda Stacey (House of Secrets), April Hardy (Sitting Pretty), Kate Field (The Magic of Ramblings), Vivien Hampshire (How to Win Back Your Husband), Abbey MacMunn (Touched). Middle – Victoria Cornwall (The Thief’s Daughter), Morton S. Gray (The Girl on the Beach). Front – Arabella Sheen (Castell’s Passion), Emily Keer (Who Does He Think He Is?), Terri Fleming (Perception). Not Pictured – Jen Gilroy (The Cottage at Firefly Lake)

Feeling very much the country bumpkin, I travelled to the city with my friend, Susan Wood. My husband travels all over the world with his job and I man the fort at home to look after our sons, in consequence I don’t go very far afield.

It was one of those occasions when a first-class train ticket was little different to second class, so we travelled first :-). When we arrived at the hotel we’d been upgraded :-). I also met for the first time another Choc Lit author, Victoria Cornwall. We have chatted happily online for months, so it was lovely to find that we get on just as well in real life. As the three of us sat having coffee and cakes in the hotel, it already felt like a party.

However, there wasn’t much time to chat, before getting changed for the evening and going to meet our publisher for pre-party drinks. Choc Lit had three authors in contention for the Joan Hessayon award – myself with The Girl on the Beach, Victoria Cornwall with The Thief’s Daughter and Lynda Stacey with House of Secrets. We drank champagne to celebrate.

Unfortunately, it was raining, so we had a rather soggy walk to the Royal Overseas League where the RNA Summer Party was held. On arrival, I immediately felt embraced by the RNA and the contacts I’ve built up during my time as a member. There was a definite feeling of being at home. It is difficult to describe the atmosphere at the parties, friendly, noisy and hot.

The Joan Hessayon contenders had photographs taken as a group and then we lined up at the front of the room. The winner from last year, Clare Harvey with Gunner Girl, gave a speech. It was interesting that Clare had chosen to use her prize winnings to pay for cleaners to free up her time to write her next novel. Then, the spotlight was on the ten people at the front (Jen Gilroy unfortunately couldn’t join us).

As each person was called forward, their face and novel cover appeared on the huge screen and Nicola Cornick, the newly appointed RNA Chairwoman read out the judges’ summary of the novel. When I stepped forward, I was aware that nice things were being said about The Girl on the Beach, but I couldn’t remember them moments later. There was applause and a cheer for me, which was lovely. Alison May, newly appointed Vice-Chair, gave me my certificate for graduating from the New Writer’s Scheme.

The overall winner was Kate Field with The Magic of Ramblings. She was endearingly almost stuck dumb with surprise. I’m reading her novel and it is very good.

Our publisher was, understandably, disappointed not to get a Choc Lit win, but I feel like a winner anyway. My book is published, Choc Lit are currently considering book two and I have loads more in the pipeline.

The trip to London was crowned by a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum. We didn’t have time to see everything, so I need another trip at some point.

If you have read my debut novel, please leave me a short review on the site where you purchased it and if you haven’t read it, maybe it is time ;-). Buying links can be found  here.

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Spotlight on Guest Author Kathryn Freeman

I am joined this week by Kathryn Freeman, who writes for Choc Lit too.

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A former pharmacist, Kathryn is now a medical writer who also writes romance. Some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it’s the reaction to a hunky hero.

With two teenage boys and a husband who asks every Valentine’s Day whether he has to buy a card (yes, he does, says Kathryn), any romance is all in her head. Then again, she says, her husband’s unstinting support of her career change proves love isn’t always about hearts and flowers – and heroes come in many disguises.

I asked Kathryn some questions:-

When and where do you write?

Where is the easy part – in my pink study, with cardboard Jenson Button looking down on me, providing all the inspiration I need. The study is at the top of the house, in the converted loft, so I also have a good view of trees from my window. I painted the walls pink one day when my husband and two sons were out. Since then nobody else appears to want to use it…

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I write every week day and sometimes, if my family are playing cricket, I sneak in a few hours at the weekend. I’m not always writing romance though. I juggle my fiction writing with medical writing. Some days a heart is a powerful symbol of love. Other days it’s simply an organ in the cardiovascular system.

I loved your book Before You as I’m an Formula One racing fan. How did you go about your research to make this book feel so realistic?

Firstly – thank you. I’ve enjoyed F1 for a few years now, though I have to confess my knowledge was previously limited to how dishy the drivers were. One in particular (I refer you to my writing inspiration in the answer above!).

I’ve been lucky enough to go to Spa and Silverstone so I had first-hand knowledge of watching a race, which certainly helped with the atmosphere. Most of the facts I gained from the internet and from the excellent book: Formula One Racing for Dummies. It meant for once my male dominated family was interested in what I was writing. I also found a book in a charity shop showing pictures of the paddocks and motorhomes – things you often don’t get to see up close on the television.

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To help with my heroine’s role – Melanie Hunt is the team press officer – I read a book recommended by McClaren (Super Ego by Julia Wurz, who used to run the Press Office for the Benetton F1 Team).

Finally, I made my F1 loving husband read the book.

How do you decide your characters’ names?

First I decide their character and then I start to search for a name. I find it one of the hardest parts of writing a story. I often turn to my family for ideas, though it’s not always a good source. For the racing driver hero of Before You I had the unhelpful suggestions of Justin Pits and Justin Front…!

When the family fail me, I turn to the internet and google names, though it’s crazy how hard it is to fit a name to the image I have in my head. I don’t always get it right. Aiden Foster in Before You actually started out as Arun Foster but my editor didn’t like it – and I’m glad. He’s makes a much better Aiden.

What can we look forward to next from you?

I’m currently editing a book that will hopefully come out in August – around the same time as Before You goes into paperback. The book I’m editing is provisionally called Too Nice? (I’m as bad at deciding on titles as I am on names, so it will probably change).

It features Nick Templeton, a quiet, reserved accountant who can’t remember a time when he hasn’t been in love with his best friend’s younger sister. Not that he’s ever told her. Just as she turned old enough for him to admit his feelings, she flew off to New York to begin a modelling career. Now a stunning supermodel, Lizzie Donavue seems to have it all. A glittering career, a glamorous lifestyle in LA and a parade of handsome boyfriends. But then it all goes horribly wrong. I liked the idea of a reserved accountant and a supermodel. I hope others will, too.

Thank you for visiting my blog, Kathryn. I’ll look forward to your new book.

Before You

 About Before You

When life in the fast lane threatens to implode …

Melanie Hunt’s job working for the Delta racing team means she is constantly rubbing shoulders with Formula One superstars in glamorous locations like Monte Carlo. But she has already learned that keeping a professional distance is crucial if she doesn’t want to get hurt.

New Delta team driver Aiden Foster lives his life like he drives his cars – fast and hard. But, no matter how successful he is, it seems he always falls short of his championship-winning father’s legacy. If he could just stay focused, he could finally make that win.

Resolve begins to slip as Melanie and Aiden find themselves drawn to each other –with nowhere to hide as racing season begins. But when a troubled young boy goes missing, everything is thrown into turmoil, including Aiden’s championship dream.

As I’ve read Before You, I thought I’d add my own review of the book below:-

As a Formula 1 racing fan and a reader of romance, I loved this combination of the two, although you really don’t have to have to follow F1 to enjoy this lovely story. The yearly racing calendar gives the book a pleasing structure.

I have often wondered about how successful racing drivers are sure that their close relationships are genuine and not just women hoping for fame and a rich lifestyle and this book explores that question. Mel, the heroine, has believable angsts about her image and ability to maintain a relationship. Aiden, the hero racing driver, has to deal with racing in the shadow of his successful champion racing driver father and growing up with a mother who followed her father around, leaving him behind much of the time.

I loved the way the author wove some of the incidents I have watched in the F1 races over the years into the story, they made me smile. The love story has as many twists and turns as the race tracks against which the novel is set.

To get in touch with Kathryn or to buy the book please use the links below.

Contact details

Website:  http://kathrynfreeman.co.uk

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/kathrynfreeman

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/KathrynFreeman1

UK Amazon link Before You:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Before-You-Kathryn-Freeman-ebook/dp/B01FB6MM08

US Amazon link Before You:

https://www.amazon.com/Before-You-Kathryn-Freeman-ebook/dp/B01FB6MM08

 

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Update

I thought it was useful, for me as well as you, to post a short update blog this week.

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My debut romantic suspense novel The Girl on the Beach was published by Choc Lit on 24 January 2017. It has zig-zagged around the charts and I still don’t understand the algorithms that lead to its ranking on any one day. I do know that reviews make a big difference, so if you’ve read The Girl on the Beach and liked it, please post a review for me on the site where you bought it. A one liner will do nicely.

On Amazon.co.uk, I now have 61 reviews, mainly 4 and 5 stars, of which I am immensely proud. Thank you, readers. I got to 106 in the romantic suspense chart at one point and would love to get higher.

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On Kobo, the highest I reached was 2 in the romantic suspense chart and I stayed there for a couple of weeks. Could do with a few more reviews over there if possible.

My book is also available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Apple iBooks and Google Play.

Next week, I will be in London, along with the other ten contenders for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon Award – see my blog post about this here. Wish me luck. I’ll report back soon.

Meanwhile, my second novel, working title Rock, Paper, Scissors, another romantic suspense set in my fictional seaside town of Borteen, has been sent to my publisher Choc Lit for consideration.

I’m now busy working on number three, which tells the story of Nick, my schoolboy artist, and Mandy, both from The Girl on the Beach. I had an interesting research trip on Sunday, accompanied by my husband, to learn more about the job of the hero in this book. Watch this space for a blog post about that sometime in the future.

Next week, I have Choc Lit author Kathryn Freeman joining me on the blog.

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Spotlight on Guest Author Margaret James

My blog guest this week is fellow Choc Lit author Margaret James. I’ve just re-read that sentence, as I was reading and enjoying Margaret‘s books long before I ever dreamed that I could be a Choc Lit author too!!!Margaret James 1 Smaller

I asked Margaret to tell us about herself:-

I’m a British writer of historical and contemporary fiction. I’m also a journalist working for the UK’s Writing Magazine and I teach creative writing for the London School of Journalism. I was born in Hereford, but now I live in Devon, which is great because it means when I am stuck for a plot I can always go for a walk along one of our gorgeous beaches and be inspired!

Margaret‘s newest book Girl in the Red Velvet was published on 23 April 2017 by Choc Lit and it has a gorgeous cover. I asked her to tell us about her writing and her latest novel.

Hello Morton,

Thank you for inviting me to be a guest on your blog today. It’s lovely to be here chatting about writing with you.

I’ve been a writer for quite a long time: since 1988, in fact, when my first novel A Touch of Earth was published. Over the years, I’ve had a variety of jobs, got married and had children, but I’ve always managed to fit writing into my schedule, although sometimes I’m not sure how!

I write about the kinds of women I admire – women who are courageous in many ways, physically, morally and emotionally. I’m not very brave myself.  But, strangely enough, my two daughters are amazingly courageous. They’re both devoted to extreme sports and they both have very demanding careers.

When I’m planning a new story I talk to my characters all the time, asking them questions and sometimes even arguing with them. I realise that saying things like this makes me sound completely mad, but I’m also sure plenty of other novelists would agree with me. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t make up stories about people who don’t really exist. But this means that even when I’m by myself I’m never alone, and I’m never lonely, so that has to be a plus, doesn’t it?

The cover of Girl in Red Velvet was designed by the wonderful Berni Stevens. My heroine Lily looks exactly as I had imagined, so I am delighted. I haven’t owned a red dress myself since I was a teenager like Lily, when I had a pretty raspberry-red mini-dress I made myself: like Lily, at that age I made most of my own clothes. I wouldn’t buy a red dress now because, unlike Lily who has jet black hair, I’m fair-haired and fair-skinned. So red all over would be rather overpowering on me.  But I do own red tops, red shoes and a red coat. I like a bit of red here and there!

The inspiration for this novel was the set-up in Wuthering Heights, which has always been one of my favourite reads. I don’t warm to any of the central characters, but the story situation involving these three people – Edgar Linton, Catherine Earnshaw and the ghastly but charismatic Heathcliff – is endlessly fascinating. I wanted to see if I could write a story in which there would be hopeful resolutions for my own threesome.

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Girl in Red Velvet is a romantic drama. The action starts in the 1960s, and writing this novel involved a fascinating trip down Memory Lane for me.

The story is set in Oxford, and when it begins it’s 1966 and Lily Denham is seventeen, all set to begin her studies at Oxford University. On her first day she meets best friends Harry Gale and Max Farley and is enchanted by their mischievous charm.

But Lily soon realises she is falling in love with both her new-found friends, men who might offer Lily two very different futures. Harry is generous and kind, hardworking and ambitious: he would probably make a dream husband. Max embodies the spirit of the sixties, being adventurous, rebellious, madly attractive but a little bit dangerous, too.

Does Lily want a dream husband or does she want a life of adventure? Perhaps she could have both? But maybe making the wrong decision might have devastating consequences for them all?

Thank you, Margaret. I found this interview fascinating as I like to understand the inspiration and thought processes of other authors. Girl in Red Velvet is next on my reading pile and now I can’t wait to start it.

To contact Margaret:-

Facebook : www.facebook.com/margaret.james.5268

Twitter : www.twitter.com/majanovelist

Blog : www.margaretjamesblog.blogspot.co.uk

Buying links for the Girl in Red Velvet can be found on the Choc Lit website here

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Exciting News

Saved my blogging until Tuesday this week to coincide with the announcement of the contenders for this year’s Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon Award. The list includes little me!!!!

Fellow Choc Lit authors Lynda Stacey and Victoria Cornwall are contenders too, so I’m sure we will have a fun time on 18 May 2017 in London, when the winner is announced.

The shortlist is made up of authors whose debut novels have been published after critique by the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers Scheme. Each year 250 places are offered to unpublished writers writing romantic fiction. They can submit a complete manuscript to one of the Association’s published authors for comment, as well as being able to attend RNA events.

The Award will be presented at the RNA Summer Party on Thursday 18 May at The Royal Over-Seas League, Park Place, London SW1A 1LR at 19.15.

The Joan Hessayon Award is sponsored by gardening expert Dr. David Hessayon OBE, in honour of his late wife Joan, who was a longstanding member of the RNA and a supporter of its New Writers’ Scheme.

The full list for 2017 is:

Victoria Cornwall – The Thief’s Daughter – Choc Lit

 Kate Field – The Magic of Ramblings – Accent Press

Terri Fleming – Perception – Orion

 Jen Gilroy – The Cottage at Firefly Lake – Forever, Grand Central, Hachette

              Morton Gray – The Girl on the Beach –  Choc Lit

Vivien Hampshire – How to Win Back Your Husband –  HQ Digital

April Hardy – Sitting Pretty – Accent Press

Emily Kerr – Who Does He Think He Is? – Crooked Cat

Abbey Macmunn – Touched  – Tirgearr Publishing   

Arabella Sheen – Castell’s Passion – Beachwalk Press Inc

Lynda Stacey – House of Secrets – Choc Lit

All eligible books are judged by a panel of experienced RNA members who are already published authors.

Good luck girls! See you in London on 18 May 2017.

Maybe my blog readers could read all of the books and see if you can predict the winner! Having said that, in my eyes we are all winners – we did it, we got a book written and published. I hope that all of the contenders have a successful publishing career. Yay!

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Spotlight on Guest Author Sheryl Browne

My blog guest this time is fellow Choc Lit author, Sheryl Browne. She writes edgy, sexy contemporary fiction and psychological thrillers.

A member of the Crime Writers’ Association, Romantic Novelists’ Association and awarded a Red Ribbon by The Wishing Shelf Book Awards, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing.

Recommended to her publisher by the WH Smith Travel fiction buyer, Sheryl’s contemporary fiction is published by multi-award winning Choc Lit.

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I asked Sheryl some questions :-

When and where do you write?

I have a Georgian Bureau which is my actual writing station. I absolutely love it. It makes me feel like a proper writer and has so much history in its bones. It even has an ink stain (no, I won’t be renovating it).

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However, I’m currently working in my lounge at tiny a repro French antique dressing table. The little guy lying next to it is the reason why. Little Snoops is recovering from two strokes and is more settled when he can keep an eye on me!

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Do you scare yourself when you are writing your thrillers?

I do a bit. In writing psychological thrillers, I’m exploring the darker psyche of some of my characters, looking at the nature vs nurture conundrum. Is badness in the genes? Is it brain function or childhood experience that creates a monster? A combination of all three?

The driving force linked to most murders, I’m reliably informed by a former DCI, is humiliation. How many of us haven’t felt humiliated at some point in our lives? Who hasn’t wished for revenge, even if only in the form of hoping someone gets their comeuppance? As a writer, in order to create a believable character, you have to live, eat sleep and breathe them, almost become them, as it were. I think I may have succeeded as, apparently, I have a scary insight into the mind of a psychopath. Thank you Rachel at Rachel’s Random Reads. I’m flattered … I think.

What part of you is included in your books?

My heart. Seriously, my writing tends to gravitate towards family and family dynamics and just how strong a family unit can be. My latest thrillers feature DI Matthew Adams, who is a family man, and the core of the stories is his need to protect his family. Personally, I am fiercely protective of those I love and this is a trait I think I bring into my writing.

What can we look forward to next from you?

The Edge of Sanity! No, I’m not balancing on the brink of, honestly. This will be the third in the DI Matthew Adams thrillers series. A harrowing story of hope amid loss and betrayal, The Edge of Sanity pushes the Conner family to the absolute limits of what a person should be able to cope with. The story is “remarkable, dark, emotionally charged” and already a Northern Crime Reviews Recommended Read.

The book is currently in edits so … watch this space.

Thanks so much for sharing my book news, Morton! Can I just take this opportunity to also thank readers and book bloggers for their fabulous support? It really is so hugely appreciated. I honestly wouldn’t still be writing without it.

That’s great, Sheryl. I hope Snoops continues to improve. Details of the first two DI Matthew Adams thrillers are below.

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After She’s Gone

He’s killed your child and kidnapped your wife. What would YOU do?

There’s evil and then there’s Patrick Sullivan. A drug dealer, pimp and murderer, there are no depths to which Patrick would not sink, and Detective Inspector Matthew Adams has found this out in the most devastating way imaginable.

When Patrick’s brother is shot dead in a drug bust gone wrong, the bitter battle between the two men intensifies, and Matthew finds it increasingly difficult to hold the moral high ground. All he wants is to make the pimping scum suffer the way he did … the way Lily did.

But being at war with such a depraved individual means that it’s not just Matthew who’s in danger. Patrick has taken a lot from Matthew, but he hasn’t taken everything – and now he wants everything.

SOTF Sins of the Father

What if you’d been accused of one of the worst crimes imaginable?

Detective Inspector Matthew Adams is slowly picking up the pieces from a case that nearly cost him the lives of his entire family and his own sanity too. On the surface, he seems to be moving on, but he drinks to forget – and when he closes his eyes, the nightmares still come.

But the past is the past – or is it? Because the evil Patrick Sullivan might be out of the picture, but there’s somebody who is just as intent on making Matthew’s life hell, and they’re doing it in the cruellest way possible.

When Matthew finds himself accused of a horrific and violent crime, will his family stand by him? And will he even be around to help when his new enemy goes after them as well?

Buying links:

After She’s Gone: http://getbook.at/DIMatthewAdams

Sins of the Father: http://getbook.at/DIMatthewAdams2

Author Links for Sheryl Browne

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon | Amazon US | Pinterest

Choc Lit

Trailer Link for DI Matthew Adams series: https://youtu.be/0MqZ5TpBwGk

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Delight in New Places

I recently visited the Powerscourt Estate near Dublin and discovered a new favourite place. I love the Avoca café’s in Ireland and that was what initially drew me to the location, but the gardens and the views are superb.

The house was commissioned in 1730 by the 1st Viscount Powerscourt and a 68-roomed mansion was completed in 1741. It was designed around a medieval castle with Palladian architecture and had baroque dome-roofed towers on either side. An extra storey was added in 1787. In 1961 the Slazenger family bought the estate from the 9th Viscount Powerscourt.

Tragically, like one of my other favourite places, Witley Court in Worcestershire, UK, a fire gutted the house in 1974 leaving a roofless shell. In 1996, it was re-roofed and now houses gift and interior shops.

The gardens have a wonderful view of Sugerloaf mountain and have a very peaceful energy. I thought I’d share the delight my visit produced. I shall be going back.

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