A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Part One by Berni Stevens

Halloween Round Robin DAY ONE


It’s that spooky time of year again and what better way to celebrate than a Round Robin written by five talented Choc Lit authors? To start off our Hallowe’en Faerie Tale, we have our very own vampire expert Berni Stevens! Make sure you read right until the end for details on how to take part in a competition too – we’ll be giving out prizes throughout the week right up until Halloween!

I’ve always had a strange fascination for the abandoned church hall at the end of our road. It’s been lying empty and disused for years, shrouded in neglect and secrecy. I’ve never seen any birds in the trees that surround it, and I’ve certainly never heard a bird sing there. The place looks forlorn and unloved.  I think it’s quite sad.

The date engraved on the plaque above the old oak door, says ‘1750’, so I assume the building is protected. Hopefully that will keep greedy property developers at bay.  It has to be the only reason the hall’s still standing, and thirty ‘luxury apartments’ not put up in its place. Real estate in this part of London is valuable and much sought after. The church itself was turned into an academy for the performing arts some years ago, aimed at children aged between eight and sixteen. Know your market. There are plenty of pushy parents in this area, who want their little darlings to be famous. Actually, there’s probably plenty of little darlings who want to be the next pop prince or princess too.

I stopped by the crumbling brick wall that circled the hall. To my surprise I saw a light inside. A trick of the light reflected from the street lamps maybe?

Without thinking, I walked up the path to the front door. Stretching out a hand, I touched the rough wood. It felt strangely warm to my touch, and when the door swung open, I squeaked in alarm. A warm yellow light flooded out onto the path, and I stepped back, not wanting to intrude.

‘Come on in,’ said a deep male voice.

Yeah, like that was going to happen. Impulsive I may be, but I’m not stupid.

‘Who are you?’ Not the best line, but I couldn’t think what else to say.

I could hear someone walking towards me, and moved back to a safe vantage point closer to the pavement. A tall figure loomed in the doorway.

‘I’m called Kalen,’ he said. He sounded vaguely Irish, his voice lilting and pleasant. ‘And you are?’


‘Are you indeed?’ He sounded amused.

I vaguely remembered my grandmother telling me you should never give your name freely to strangers. I couldn’t remember why.

‘Kalen is an unusual name.’

Piercing blue eyes searched my face. ‘It means warrior.’ He said.

‘In what language?’

‘It’s Celtic. You are very inquisitive.’

I flushed with embarrassment. ‘I’m sorry.’ I turned away. ‘I should go.’

He was suddenly standing in front of me. His hand rested gently on my arm. ‘No, I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘That was exceedingly rude of me.’

He looked every inch a warrior, tall and lean with a mane of tawny hair that nearly reached his broad shoulders.  A  contemporary warrior in faded blue jeans and a navy shirt.

‘I shouldn’t be here.’ I made to move around him, but he didn’t move his hand from my arm.

‘I didn’t mean to make you feel unwelcome … Faye.’

The way he said my name sent a little shiver down my spine. Definitely time to go. I looked down at his hand on my arm and he moved it at once.

‘You should take care who you give your name to, especially on these dark evenings.’ He spoke conversationally, but his words scared me.

‘Why?’ I couldn’t help asking the question. Funny how his warning sounded the same as my grandmother’s.

‘You never know who might be listening.’ He glanced over his shoulder as if expecting to see a crowd of people. ‘Or who might be wanting to use it.’

‘For what?’

‘A person’s name is a powerful thing. If the wrong kind take control of it, they control the person.’

Wrong kind?

‘You gave me your name, Kalen.’

He gave me a mocking smile. ‘So I did. But there are not many would control me. Or try.’

I tried for a change of subject. ‘Are you renovating the hall?’


‘I must go.’

He gestured for me to go around him. ‘It was a pleasure to meet you, Faye. Remember what I said about your name. Be careful – especially on All Hallows Eve.’

‘Now you’re scaring me.’

‘Much better to be afraid than to lose yourself.’

I left him standing on the path staring after me, as I trudged home down the hill. I remembered the old stories of the Seelie and Unseelie courts that Gran used to tell. They had always fascinated me. The shining good faeries of the Seelie Court, versus the dark bad faeries of the Unseelie Court. All nonsense of course.  Even to someone called Faye. Although I wouldn’t mind bumping into Kalen the warrior again …

An intriguing start! But who is Kalen, and will Faye meet him again? We hope so! Find out tomorrow when Rhoda Baxter will be taking up where Berni left off. Can’t wait :)  


If you enjoyed Berni’s writing in today’s Round Robin, you might want to read one of her fantastic vampire novels – and this could be your chance! We have one copy of Dance until Dawn and some Halloween chocolate to give away. To enter, simply comment below and tell us what you think of the story so far :)

There will be a competition each day of our Round Robin and all winners will be announced 1st November.


A Little Sugar, A Lot of Love – are YOU a real-life Katie?


In celebration of the recent launch of A Little Sugar, A Lot of Love in paperback, we have the lovely Linn B. Halton on the blog, chatting about Katie, the main character of the novel …

On the surface of it, as we glance at other people’s lives it can seem that they have cracked it. They found the key that allowed them to unlock their dreams and create a perfect life. But that’s the type of thought that follows a really bad day, when everything seems to be going wrong – and we’ve all had days like that!

Common sense tells us that beneath the exterior façade that the world sees is all of the same turbulent, emotional stuff that lurks everywhere. It lurks in your life and in mine, and no one is exempt.

Fictional stories about life and love can’t really be told without there being a moral to the tale. And A Little Sugar A Lot of Love is no exception. We all have dreams, but how often do we become side-tracked because life and relationships get in the way? Katie’s bakery shop is her dream come true. Ah, I hear you thinking, Katie should be more focused on her business and making a profit, and less on supporting the people around her. The moral being: chase your dream if you really want it to come true. Well, yes and no.


I’m not saying that if you have a dream you shouldn’t pursue it with all of the vigour, enthusiasm and energy you can muster. After all, if you do nothing, nothing happens. Most things in life don’t come easy and usually you have to put in a ton of commitment and work before you see any results at all.

No, the moral I’m talking about is something that is often overlooked in that focused mind set to achieve a specific goal. It’s the old adage ‘be careful what you wish for’ because how can anyone know what will really make them happy until they actually experience it?

The late astrologer and philosopher, Jonathan Cainer, once said in an interview that nothing he had ever purchased had given him much more than a very brief sense of satisfaction. Therein lies a big truth, in that satisfaction usually comes from the feelings of achievement and self-worth of doing, or creating, something. But the whole point about being careful what you wish for, is that in life there is always a need to be constantly standing back to assess the bigger picture. And that’s because life is all about change. The person you are today is someone who will continue to evolve as each day passes and you gain more life experiences.

Katie is like so many of us in that she is working towards her dream of running a successful bakery, but she also carries some weighty responsibilities for the people she cares most about, which at times becomes draining. There is never time for her to do more than simply get through each day, so she ends up being reactive, rather than pro-active. Life simply happens.

And that is what is at the heart of this story. A reminder that we aren’t responsible for other people’s actions and sometimes we have to accept what isn’t within our power to change. Katie is a nurturer, but sometimes the kindest action of all is one of letting someone go. And as for the dream? Sometimes it has to change because we change and that isn’t a bad thing, but a way of helping us avoid having to be careful what we wish for—

Writing is my dream, but life took me in various directions before I was finally able to sit down at the keyboard and write my heart out. For me the dream is holding a paperback copy of A Little Sugar, A Lot of Love in my hands and seeing it on the bookshelves in stores as I browse. That’s not to say it eclipses my other dreams of being a wife and mother, and having had several very diverse, but satisfying, careers. But this happens to be the ‘me’ time in my life and while I’ve never been busier, I can honestly say it was well worth the wait! Of course, it takes a whole team of people to make it happen and that includes the wonderful readers and reviewers! Achieving a dream is a blessing and I’m counting mine.


Wishing you well in the pursuit of your dreams …

Linn x

For more information on Linn:

Website/blog: http://linnbhalton.co.uk/

Twitter: @LinnBHalton FB: Linn B Halton Author

A Little Sugar, A Lot of Love is now available to purchase in paperback and eBook format. Click HERE for buying options. 

SHORT STORY: A Rose Among Thorns by Christina Courtenay

9781781893203 CMYK 300

A charming short story by Christina Courtenay just in time for the weekend! If you’ve read The Velvet Cloak of Moonlight already you might recognise a certain house …

Merrick Court, July 1670

‘I don’t understand why you insisted on bringing me here, Mama. It’s humiliating and utterly pointless!’
Rose Parry swished open her fan and tried to hide behind it. Not that anyone was looking at her – the great hall of Merrick Court was full of people, all talking at once, but the undoubted centre of attention was the dashing heir to the estate – Rupert, Viscount Cadell. His parents, the Earl and Countess of Merrick, appeared to have invited as many young ladies of marriageable age as possible, together with their parents. There were whispered rumours that Lord Cadell was to select a bride from among the girls present today.
‘How can he possibly make a choice when he’s only just met everyone?’ Rose scoffed. She considered it highly unlikely he’d fall in love at first sight, even though she had to admit she’d been instantly smitten with him when they’d been introduced earlier. A silly reaction and one she’d do well to forget.
    ‘It is very odd, to be sure,’ Rose’s mother Anne agreed. ‘His parents are apparently insisting that he choose a wife for himself.’ She sniffed. ‘They claim to have married for love and want their son to have the same opportunity. A lot of nonsense, if you ask me.’   Most parents did not consult their offspring, but contracted advantageous matches on their behalf. Rose thought it kind of Lord Cadell’s parents to give him such freedom, but it didn’t make a difference to her. She had no chance of catching him. The room was full to bursting with pretty girls and there was no way she could compete. With her wild mane of bright red curls and a face marred by freckles, there was simply no point her being here. She watched as Lord Cadell moved away from the group he’d been talking to, then lost sight of him. The room seemed less bright without him to focus on.
‘Perhaps the young man likes redheads,’ Anne soothed, then ruined it by adding, ‘There’s no accounting for taste, you know.’
Rose clenched her fist so hard she almost snapped the delicate spokes of her fan. Her mother meant well, but she could be exceedingly tactless at times.
Taking a deep breath, she concentrated on her surroundings rather than the chattering throng. The dark oak panelling gleamed with polish, there was a rather splendid fireplace with a carved surround, and intricate plasterwork on the ceiling. Several large windows let in the summer sunshine and the double doors had been left open, showing a glimpse of the garden. Rose longed to escape into the cool shade of the trees outside.
‘Mrs Parry, Miss Parry, I understand you have already met my son. I was just telling Rupert you have come from Ewyas Harold.’
Rose turned to find her hostess, Lady Merrick, smiling at them, and next to her stood the heir. The sight of him had the same impact this time – like a blow to her middle – and she drew in a deep breath. He was tall, like his father, and had inherited his sire’s handsome features, but his colouring was all from his mother’s side – hair like golden honey and eyes as blue as forget-me-nots. Combined with a decidedly masculine physique – his broad shoulders filled out his dark silk coat to bursting point – he was everything a woman could wish for.
‘I trust you are enjoying your visit to Merrick Court, ladies?’ he said, giving them a graceful bow.
Rose longed to shout ‘No!’, but of course she couldn’t. Instead, she curtseyed politely and murmured, ‘How could we not?’
When she looked up, Lord Cadell was looking at her with raised eyebrows, as if he’d heard her unspoken thoughts. Rose felt her cheeks heat up.
‘It is rather warm in here,’ he said. ‘Perhaps you’d care to take a turn in the garden with me, Miss Parry?’
   Rose looked around. There were at least a dozen girls nearby, all more beautiful than herself. She frowned. ‘Are you sure you wouldn’t rather walk with someone else? I wouldn’t want to waste your time.’
   She heard her mother draw in a hissing breath, while Lady Merrick’s eyes opened wide before she turned a splutter of laughter into a cough.
   Lord Cadell’s mouth quirked. ‘I’m quite sure, but thank you for your concern. Shall we?’ He held out his arm and Rose had no choice but to put her fingers on it and follow him outside. To her surprise, her mother didn’t follow to chaperone them, but then they would probably stay within sight of the house. Rose imagined a dozen pairs of eyes stabbing her back with jealous fury, but she hadn’t asked to be singled out in this fashion so she pretended not to care. No doubt Lord Cadell would soon become bored and return to the others. In her haste to escape, however, she caught her heel on one of the stairs and her shoe came off.
   ‘Allow me.’ Lord Cadell bent to retrieve it, then helped her put it on.
Rose felt her cheeks flaming – what must he think of her? Not just plain, but clumsy as well. ‘Thank you.’
   But he pretended as if nothing had happened and again gave her his arm. ‘Would you like to see the knot garden? It is my mother’s favourite spot.’
   ‘Y-yes, please.’
   ‘So you live near the old abbey then?’ Lord Cadell asked.
‘Abbey Dore, yes, in the Golden Valley. Our home is not far from there.’
  ‘A beautiful place, I believe.’
   ‘Indeed, but so is this.’ Rose looked around and admired the profusion of roses and other flowers that surrounded them. She noticed Lord Cadell was taking her further away than she’d thought but it was a relief not to have everyone’s eyes on them.
‘I’m glad it pleases you. Do you like it enough that you can imagine yourself living here?’ Lord Cadell had stopped by a small fountain.
Rose let go of his arm and marched over to a stone bench, sitting down rather abruptly. ‘If you are going to make fun of me, you may as well return to the house and leave me here. Thank you for escorting me, but I shall be fine on my own.’ She turned her face away from him, trying to stem the tide of anger that threatened to boil over into even stronger words. How dare he toy with her in this fashion? He’d never choose someone like her when he had all those beauties waiting indoors.

He didn’t leave, however. Instead, he came to sit on the bench beside her and put his hand on her arm. ‘What did I say? I didn’t mean to offend you.’ When she glanced at him, he was frowning, the twinkle gone from his blue eyes.
She moved away from his gentle hold and blinked back tears of humiliation. ‘Must I speak plainly?’
‘Please do.’
‘Very well. My mother should never have brought me here today. She knows my father will find me a husband, someone who will overlook my faults in exchange for a substantial dowry.  I doubt you need one of those so there’s no reason for you to leg-shackle yourself to a freckle-faced redhead. You can have your pick of the county’s beauties.’ She nodded in the direction they’d come from. ‘So please, waste no more time on me.’
He tilted his head slightly to one side and looked at her. Really looked at her. Rose felt a blush creeping up her cheeks and wished he would just go away and stop tormenting her. That handsome face was doing strange things to her insides and she couldn’t stop herself from staring at his perfect mouth with longing. But it was madness. Such a man was not for her, she’d always known that, had resigned herself to a sensible choice. Or she’d thought she had until now.
‘You’re wrong, you know,’ he murmured.
‘About what?’
‘When I look at you I don’t see a freckle-faced redhead, as you said. I see a lady with the most amazing hair I’ve ever laid eyes on – like a fiery sunset combined with molten copper – and a lovely face accentuated by a very few freckles. They do nothing but draw attention to a pretty little nose and a pair of emerald eyes a man could drown in. Are you sure you own a looking glass, Miss Parry?’
‘I … beg your pardon?’ Rose was stunned. Why was he saying these things? What could he possibly hope to gain? ‘If you’re thinking that dowry of mine sounded tempting, I do believe Miss Griffiths has one twice as large.’
Lord Cadell laughed. ‘I see I shall have to speak plainly as well. Are you in love with someone else?’
‘No, of course not! Why would you think that?’ Rose was confused.
‘Because you are doing your utmost to put me off courting you.’
‘Cour– … you can’t be serious?’
‘Oh, I assure you, I’ve never been more serious in my life. Your dowry doesn’t tempt me in the slightest, but you do. Your beauty may be different from the other girls’, but it is unique and appears to be coupled with sense. You are the only lady here today who hasn’t simpered at me, batted your eyelashes or tried in any way to attract my attention. That is refreshing and intriguing, believe me.’
Rose stared at him, trying to see if he was in earnest. The incredibly blue eyes stared right back and then he smiled, a smile that made her feel quite faint.
‘I can see it will take me a while to convince you,’ he said. ‘Just tell me one thing – do you find me repulsive?’
‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ The words were out of Rose’s mouth before she could stop them.     ‘I-I mean … I’m sure you are very aware of your charms.’ If he was fishing for compliments, he wouldn’t get them from her.
He laughed again. ‘Well, there’s no accounting for taste, I understand.’
She frowned up at him. Had he heard her mother earlier? His smile told her he had. ‘My mother didn’t mean …’
   ‘Your mother will need to learn some tact, but I shall inform her she was right in this instance – I find I do like redheads. Or rather, one particular one. And perhaps this will convince you of my ardent regard?’ He leaned over and kissed her, softly placing his lips on hers while gazing into her eyes.
   Rose couldn’t look away, nor could she leave. Her lips moved of their own accord, melding with his, and a tingling awareness spread right through her. When she opened her mouth to gasp in surprise, he deepened the kiss and it was some time before she became aware of her surroundings again. ‘My lord!’ she protested, knowing he shouldn’t have taken such liberties. But it sounded feeble even to her own ears and he grinned as if he knew she didn’t mean it.
To her surprise, he got down on one knee in front of her and brought something out of his pocket. He held out a sparkling emerald ring on the palm of his hand. ‘Miss Parry – Rose – would you do me the honour of becoming my wife? That kiss confirmed what I already guessed – we are eminently suited to each other in every way.’
‘But … we only met an hour ago.’ Rose looked from him to the ring and back again.
‘It only takes a moment to fall in love and I am sure I have found my perfect rose today among the thorns.’
Feeling dazed, but happier than she’d ever thought possible, Rose held out her hand. ‘I do believe you’re right – it only took one look in my case, so yes, I will. If you’re sure?’
He slipped the ring onto her finger. ‘I am.’ And then he kissed her again to prove it.

If you enjoyed Christina’s writing, why not give her new time-slip book, The Velvet Cloak of Moonlight a read? Click HERE for buying options.
For more information of Christina, follow her on Twitter @PiaCCourtenay

Coconut pancakes and a book extract from Rhoda Baxter!


Girl Having a Ball by Rhoda Baxter is now available to purchase from all eBook platforms and, to celebrate, Rhoda is sharing an extract from the book and a Sri Lankan recipe for delicious coconut pancakes. You won’t want to miss this :)  

Extract from Girl Having a Ball 

In the kitchen, Evelyn and Priya were having tea and eating Sri Lankan sweets. ‘Here, try one.’ Evelyn gave her what looked like a rolled up pancake.

Stevie bit into it. Warm, sweet, coconut filling flowed into her mouth. She chewed, letting the flavours mix. ‘That is heavenly. What is it?’

‘Pancakes with cinnamon, coconut and treacle,’ said Priya. ‘One of my favourite things ever. They’re best served warm so we’ll pop them in the oven before we set them out.’

‘Mmmm.’ Stevie was barely listening as she took another bite.

‘How are the boards doing?’ Evelyn poured the tea.

‘All done. We’ve fitted the bottom ones. We’re going to need Tom’s help with the top ones.’

‘I’m glad Tom’s been here this week,’ said Evelyn. She absent-mindedly stirred a tea bag round and round a mug. ‘It’s nice to have a man around the house again. There are some jobs that are just more suited to the male of the species.’ She blinked, as though surprised she’d said anything out loud. She fished out the tea bag and flicked it into the bin. ‘I daresay he’s been enjoying himself. Could you be a dear and take a mug of tea for Tom. And one of those pancake things?’

 Recipe for pancakes with sweet coconut filling (poi pani pancakes)

Rhoda: I love, love, love these pancakes. I dream about them sometimes. Once, when I was living in the house in Norham Gardens which I used as the setting for Girl Having a Ball, my mum brought me some of these pancakes. My Ghanaian housemate offered to cook me dinner for a whole week in exchange for a single one. That, my friends, is how delicious these pancakes are.

They are usually made using Kitul treacle – this is a fairly specific type of treacle. The closest thing I’ve found in taste is very dark muscovado sugar with a touch of molasses. I’ve used golden syrup, which works quite well  – it tastes different to the real thing, but it’s still delicious.


Pancakes (I’m assuming you know how to make/buy these already)

100g Freshly grated coconut (alternatively, use fine desiccated coconut)

Half a cinnamon stick

300g Golden syrup

2 cardamom pods


To make the filling, heat the syrup, cardamom pods and cinnamon gently. Then add the coconut, stir until the syrup is all absorbed by the coconut. Leave to cool. Put a dollop of the coconut (which should now be oozing syrup) in the middle of a pancake and roll it up. You’ll need a saucer under it as you eat it to catch the drips of treacle.

To find out more about Rhoda, follow her on Twitter: @RhodaBaxter

Girl Having a Ball is available to purchase as an eBook on all platforms. 

Kindle UK  Kindle US  Kindle AU  Kindle CA

As Weekends Go: Jan Brigden’s most memorable weekends

AWG_hirespackshot 150dpi


As Weekends Go is out in paperback today and, to celebrate, we have Jan Brigden on the blog, chatting about her favourite weekends … 

Whilst writing As Weekends Go, I fondly recalled memorable weekends of my own and how each of them, from the action-packed to the funny to the downright lazy, had benefitted me.

For instance, I always feel a huge sense of achievement when pounding the streets, (or by the end of a long day, dawdling …) taking in the sights and sounds of a new place, exploring its quaint and quirky sides, its glitz and charm, learning its history, sampling its culinary delights and snapping photographs, as with York, (below) the central city in my novel.

Me in grounds of RY Hotel (1) 20160707_150420 (1) Shambles (1) 20160707_150316 (1)

One of my most comical weekends away was spent huddled under four blankets at night, fending off frostbite in a rickety old caravan down on the south coast, in what felt like the coldest March on record. Yes, I know … March? What were we thinking? Alas, it was the only time all thirteen of us could synchronize our timings. Yes, the weather was foul and half the facilities closed, but we made our own fun and have never stopped laughing about it since. That has to be a positive, surely?

Equally beneficial, are those rare weekends where I find myself commitment-free. Should we be lucky enough to have two days back to back sunshine (indulge me!) simply wandering in and out of the garden in my flip flops, towel spread on the grass, radio on low, cool drink beside me, book in hand, refreshes both mind and body no end.


Obviously in winter, the book would remain, but it’d be the sofa I’d be stretched out on, with the pear cider exchanged for a steaming mug of tea or hot chocolate. You get my drift though.

I always think if you’re talking about your weekend on Monday and still talking about it months later, you know you’ve done alright.

Of course there have been less enjoyable Saturdays and Sundays, days I’d happily write off, but all in all, As Weekends Go, the good ones far outweigh the duds!

Love Jan x

As Weekends Go is now available as a paperback and available to order through all good bookshops and stockists. For buying options click HERE

For more information on the author: 

Follow @briggy44 on Twitter.

Liz Harris: How I became an author


Yesterday was paperback release day for Liz Harris and The Lost Girl. Today Liz shares her journey to becoming a writer and a little bit about her latest hero, Joe Walker … 

I give a lot of talks, and when my talk is over, I stay on to chat with the readers there, something I always enjoy doing. During the conversation after my latest talk, which was at the BeaconLit Festival at the end of June, I was asked, as I regularly am, if I’d always wanted to be an author, and who my heroes are modelled upon. Knowing that I was going to talk to you today, I thought I’d answer both of those questions for you.

Firstly, have I always wanted to be an author from the moment I knew what ‘author’ meant? The answer is no! I’ve always loved reading – I’ve read everything I could get my hands on over the years: Enid Blyton, Noel Streatfield, Jane Austen, Mickey Spillane, Catherine Cookson, Agatha Christie, Charlotte Bronte, Barbara Taylor Bradford – everything. And I’ve always loved writing essays, letters, exam answers. However, it was years before I connected my two loves. Books just happened, I would have thought, if I’d thought about it at all.

So how did I come to be an author? Well, when I finished my studies, I set off to see the world. I started in San Francisco and ended in Los Angeles. As you can see, I didn’t get far! I had six fantastic years in California, and then real life intervened and I had to return to England.

During the years that followed, I settled to life in England, which included writing voluminous letters to friends, until one day, a friend, in desperation at having received yet another ten-page letter, phoned up and suggested I wrote a novel. Hmm, I thought. I sat down at the typewriter, slipped in a sheet of paper and started my first novel. Even before the end of Chapter One, I was hooked!

Now, after six published novels and several short stories, I’m still hooked. To spend all day giving birth to new characters and situations makes for a wonderful life. I can’t imagine anything better than being an author.

As for the inspiration for my heroes, the latest of whom is Joe Walker, the ‘star’ of The Lost Girl. Joe is one of a line of heroes who have grown out of my love for Wyoming and the American West, a time when men were men, you might say.

I’m a real romantic and a believer in love at first sight. The morning after I’d met a certain Richard, I went into the school where I taught and told my friends that I’d met the man I was going to marry. The morning after Richard met me, he told his closest friend that the night before he’d met the woman he was going to marry. We married 38 years ago.

And what could be more romantic in a novel than a man who forged his life in the openness of Wyoming, beneath an endless wide blue sky; a man who was lean, tanned, athletic, at ease in the saddle, able to turn his hand to anything; a man who was passionate when he fell in love and fiercely protective of his woman?

So that’s how I became an author. And that’s also an introduction to Joe Walker, a rugged, good-looking man. I think you’re going to like him.

Liz’s new novel, The Lost Girl, is the author’s fourth paperback novel with Choc Lit. Click HERE for purchasing options. 

For more on Janet, follow her on Twitter: @lizharrisauthor

Visit her website: www.lizharrisauthor.com

A tour of Coorah Creek


It’s release day today for the e-book of Janet Gover’s Little Girl Lost – the fourth story set in the tiny Australian outback town of Coorah Creek. To celebrate, Janet takes us on a tour of the Creek.

After four books (and maybe more to come – who knows), I thought it was time I took you to Coorah Creek.

The town is fictional, but in building it, I’ve drawn on the small bush towns I know so well. I grew up in a town just like Coorah Creek – only a fair bit smaller. So come with me now and let me show you around.


This is what you see driving into my old home town. This isn’t Coorah Creek – but in many ways it is. 

Let’s start at the pub. The Coorah Creek Hotel is the heart of the town. It’s the place to get together with their friends and neighbours. A lot of community decisions are made at the pub – decisions to form a bush fire brigade or create a sports ground for the kids at the school. Small towns thrive on gossip, but the  gossip you hear at the Coorah Creek pub is the kind of gossip that will result in everyone pitching together to help someone repair their home, or clear some land.

image 2

This hotel is actually in New South Wales – but this is what the Coorah Creek Hotel looks like – including the wrought iron on the upper veranda. The only difference, this is brick, and Trish’s pub is timber. 

This bar is in my head whenever I write a scene set in Trish’s bar… see that big walk in cold room behind the bar. Can’t you just see Syd and Jack storing the kegs there?

image 3

When I was a kid, I once rode my pony into this bar. I can’t remember why but it must have seemed like a good idea at the time. 

We didn’t have a police station in my town. It just wasn’t big enough so the nearest police station was about eleven miles away. But Coorah Creek does have a police station. In my head it looks like this. This was the post office in my old town, but in some small communities, a one man police station would look a lot like this.


Note the faded and worn paint. Paint doesn’t last long under the outback sun.

Coorah Creek has a hall. It’s where the town Christmas party is held. This is exactly what it looks like.  As an aside, I met my first politician in this hall during a community event when I was a teenager.


The hall was built out of corrugated iron – even the outer walls. It was pretty hot inside in the summer. 

My town had a single garage. It looked like this when I was a teenager, and it still does. Change comes slowly to these little towns.


This is Ed Collins’s garage exactly. 

One of the icons of Queensland – particularly the bush – is wooden houses built on wooden stumps. I guess it had a lot to do with available building material and the need for airflow under the house. Those stumps and the metal caps on them also keep ants and termites out of the house. Most of the houses in Coorah Creek are like this.


Note the water tanks. We had no reticulated water and survived totally on rainwater or water delivered in tanker trucks when it was really dry.

That’s Coorah creek for you. There are not a lot of bright lights. There’s no shopping centre or movie theatre. But there are a lot of good people.  That’s the strongest memory I have of growing up in my small town. People would be there whenever help was needed. That’s the town I have tried to capture in Coorah Creek. I hope you’ll go and visit and meet some of my friends.

Janet’s new novel, Little Girl Lost, is the fourth book in her Coorah Creek series and is now available to buy as an eBook. Click HERE for purchasing options. 

For more on Janet, follow her on Twitter: @janet_gover

Visit her website: www.janetgover.com

Thoughts from a vampire


I really enjoy writing from two points of view, especially when the characters are as diverse as Ellie and Will. Ellie is a modern young woman at ease with the 21st century and its technology. Will, however, is a product of the 17th and 18th centuries, and although he’s ‘lived’ a long time and seen many changes, there are some things he isn’t keen to embrace. (Like mobile phones for example – he has a real problem with those). He can drive a car, but ‘chooses not to’, preferring instead to be driven by Luke or to take a cab. It must be the ‘Duke’ coming out in him, even after three centuries.

There would have to be times when Will, much as he adores Ellie, would want to be on his own. He would need to be somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of modern life – somewhere quiet and peaceful. Where better than Highgate Cemetery?  Then I wondered what he might be thinking as he walked around the mausoleums and graves late at night. Would his thoughts be serious or romantic? Possibly reminiscent? I’d like to share them with you …


The Circle of Lebanon is a favourite ‘haunt’ of mine. I say this, tongue firmly in cheek, because of course a vampire must haunt as surely a ghost must haunt? How I love the peace and solitude of this place at night. The circle of vaults and mausoleums that were dug into the hillside decades ago, stand in their brooding silence, defying mere mortals to encroach their peace. The huge Cedar of Lebanon that gives the Circle its name, towers above the mausoleums, sheltering them – I like to think – from the worst of the elements.

Highgate is where I have lived for more than two centuries, not as some would suppose, actually in the famous Cemetery, but in a fine Georgian mansion. Popular fiction and films always like to have vampires living in mouldering coffins in dusty cobwebbed mausoleums. Personally, I enjoy the finer things in life; comfortable living, expensive wine, a good malt Scotch and the love of a beautiful woman.  Although I have to admit this particular beautiful woman has very nearly been my downfall on a couple of occasions. Elinor. The love of my life. Or should that be death? I am never sure.

Unsurprisingly, Elinor’s arrival caused a lot of anger and jealousy at the time. My own maker, Khiara, arrived with a grisly assortment of … back-up … I believe is the correct term. Things did get ugly for a while. Things always get ugly when Khiara is around. Life returned to a semblance of normality once she left. Or more correctly, was advised to leave. Some of her minions did not survive the trip and, unfortunately for them, never did make it back to Italy.

Elinor and I often take a walk in the cemetery late at night. It was one of the first places we visited when she was a new, and very frightened, fledgling vampire. She very quickly developed an affinity with the place, and it has since become our solace in a city teeming with life and noise.

Elinor still has an aversion to feeding in the time-honoured way of the vampire. She simply cannot feed from a person. I respect her decision, although it does amuse me. So I hunt and feed alone. This walk around the cemetery can be thought of as my ‘after dinner stroll’ and is the reason I am alone.  Sometimes I need solitude. Almost certainly that is a male desire – not necessarily a vampire one. Three hundred years-plus makes one a little selfish, and I need to separate myself from the madness of the twenty-first century sometimes.

Elinor appeared content to soak in a bath with more bubbles than I have ever seen, reading a favourite paperback. I doubt she will miss me for a while. Not until the water is cold at least. Although temperatures mean little to us, soaking in hot water is still preferable. Thinking of Elinor makes me smile. Thinking of Elinor naked makes me want to return home with all swiftness.

I sit on a convenient grave and listen to the sounds of the night. Even that phrase partially echoes the infamous Mr Stoker’s ‘children of the night’ quote. No wolves here of course, unless you count Stevie.  I light a cigarette and watch the plume of smoke curl upwards and disappear into the night. It would be amusing if someone called the fire brigade thinking the cemetery to be on fire. Possibly not very amusing for me, should I need to explain my presence.

A bat swoops nearby, and I smile again, thinking of Elinor’s question over a year ago. ‘Can we turn into bats?’ She had asked me. I shuddered and said absolutely not. I think perhaps she felt a little disappointed that we could not. The thought to me, is quite repellent.

I finish my cigarette and stand up. Hopefully Elinor should be out of the bath by now. She wants to go to my club, Dusk, tonight, so that is exactly what we will do. Whatever my lady desires …

You can follow Will on Twitter @austen_will

You can also follow Berni Stevens on Twitter! @Berni_Stevens1

If you enjoyed reading about Will, why not try Berni’s books, where you can read much more about him!

Dance until Dawn

Revenge is Sweet


Where does fiction meet real life?


It’s paperback release day for Kathryn Freeman and Search for the Truth today. In celebration, Kathryn is here on the blog exploring the connection between the fiction she writes and her own life … 

A question I’m often asked is whether I base any of my fictional characters on people I know or have met. This question has been asked even more frequently  about my latest paperback, Search for the Truth. The reason? Search for the Truth is based in the pharmaceutical industry – an industry I worked in for over twenty years.

‘Am I in it?’ Is the most common question from former colleagues. The answer is no.

‘Is the romance based on your romance?’ I met my husband at work, but while I love him dearly, he is to romance what McDonald’s is to haute cuisine. Hence sadly, the answer is no.

‘Is Jim based on me?’ Is the question asked by my male colleagues. Jim is my hero, the head of Research and Development (R&D) and a George Clooney look alike. Clearly the answer is … no.

As I pointed out, the whole thrill of writing fiction is making things up. And the thrill of writing romantic fiction in particular, is dreaming up, okay, fantasising, about a fictional hero. Jim Knight is, I confess a combination of quite a few of my fantasies …

But while the people I write about only ever live in my imagination, some of the things they do are based on what I’ve seen or experienced in real life. For example when she’s at the airport Tess, my heroine, always likes to get to the gate the moment the flight is called. My husband is like this, and it does drive me slightly nuts. After all, they put all those duty-free shops in the departure lounge for a reason, don’t they?

I’ve also experienced the same dilemma Tess experiences when she finds herself in New York on a business trip; relax in the hotel for a few hours before the meeting, or do a mad shop/sightsee dash? Like Tess, I chose the latter.

Helix pharmaceuticals is a fictional company, but some of the dubious things it’s accused of doing are based on activities the industry has been criticised for in the past, like entertaining doctors too lavishly and not publishing all of its study results. I’ve never seen any lap dancing, I hasten to add (umm, you have to read the book for that to make sense).

So yes, even though Search for the Truth is a totally fictitious story about fictitious people who work for a fictitious company, nuggets of real life have helped to feed my imagination. What I hope I’ve done is build on those nuggets, twisted them and shaped them, so the end result is a lot more entertaining, more exciting than another day at the office :)

Search for the Truth is now available as a paperback from all good book stockists and suppliers. Click HERE for purchasing options.

For more information on Kathryn:

Website:  http://kathrynfreeman.co.uk

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

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/KathrynFreeman1

Before You: The inspiration


Kathryn Freeman’s new novel Before You was released this week. Here she chats about the inspiration behind the book … 

Writers are often asked where they get their ideas from. For me, in nearly every case it starts with my hero, though it’s not always obvious where he comes from. My husband thinks it’s him and while I usually nod my head and say of course dear, in Before You, he could just be right (for once). Panic not, Aiden Foster, my outwardly cocky, fabulously sexy racing driver, bears no resemblance to my husband. He was however inspired by the gift my husband gave me for Christmas several years ago. A life size cardboard cut out of Jenson Button, which sits next to my desk.*

Jenson Button cut-out: worth straining your neck for ;)

It’s very hard to have JB twinkling down at you and not want to write about a racing driver. So that’s how Before You was born.

I’ve been lucky enough to go to a couple of Formula 1 races (Spa and Silverstone) but it was only when I started researching more on the subject that I realised how much these sportsmen lend themselves to being romantic heroes. For a start, they are phenomenal athletes. Between the g-forces they experience and the heat in the cock-pit, each race is likened to running a marathon in terms of the physical endurance required. Every time they corner, a racing driver experiences forces up to four times their own weight. In fact in terms of the effect on their necks, they are said to experience three or four car crashes every lap!

Then there is the fact that while they’re coping with these g-forces, heat and inevitable fatigue, they’re hurtling round a track at two hundred miles an hour – with twenty other drivers all vying for position around them. Racing must take incredible mental strength, courage and nerves of steel, especially when you consider one momentary lapse in concentration could send the driver spinning dangerously off the track.

Aiden Foster, hero of Before You, doesn’t just have all that thrown at him, either. When he gets out of the car, his life doesn’t get any easier, what with trying to live up to his father’s racing legacy, the arrival of a troubled boy and the distractions of a pretty press offer … but perhaps I should leave you to read about all that ;)

* In case you’re wondering, my husband works for one of the companies who sponsor Jenson Button’s team, McLaren. They were doing a promotion in the coffee area and he spotted the cardboard figure and asked if he could take it home. He might not feature in my books, but a man prepared to walk through work with a cut out of Jenson Button under his arm because he knows his wife will love it, is my type of hero :)  

For more on Kathryn:

Follow her on Twitter @KathrynFreeman1

Like her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/kathrynfreeman

Visit her website: www.kathrynfreeman.co.uk 

Kathryn’s new book, Before You is out now and available to buy as an eBook from all platforms. Click HERE to view purchasing options.