Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2017 from Choc Lit

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Merry Christmas everyone, Happy Holidays! Thank you for all your fabulous support in 2017. We look forward to sharing more exciting releases and fabulous Choc Lit books with you in the new year.

Love from the Choc Lit Team x
(Lyn, Lusana, Sarah, Jane O, Liz, Jane E, Marie, Jessamy, Paul, Bernie)

And now for some messages from our Choc Lit Santas …

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Santa - Rhoda Baxter Rhoda Baxter: Have a fantastic Christmas and raise a glass to a wonderful year in 2017! May you get lots of joy and chocolate and books.

 

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AnnMarie Santa photoAnneMarie Brear: “As 2016 draws to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all the readers who supported me and my book, Where Dragonflies Hover, this year! Merry Christmas and a safe and happy 2017! ”

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Jan Santa photoJan Brigden: “Thanks for your fabulous support this past year. Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and much joy, peace and good health for 2017 (and the occasional choccie or two, of course …) Enjoy the festivities!”

 

9781781892572 Angela Britnell - Santa!Angela Britnell: “To all our wonderful Choc Lit readers here’s wishing you a peaceful and joyous holiday season and the best of everything for 2017 including all the books you can read and an abundance of chocolate!”

 

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Sheryl Browne Santa!Sheryl Browne: “Wishing all our lovely readers a very merry Choc Lit filled Christmas. Your support over the year has been wonderful. Thank you! I hope Santa is kind to you and that all your dreams and wishes come true. Cosy up and keep safe everyone!”

 

9781781892596Clare Chase - Santa!Clare Chase“Wishing you a very happy, cosy Christmas and a wonderful 2017!”

 

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Valerie Olteanu  - Isabeall Connor - SantaLiv Thomas - Isabella Connor - Santa!Isabella Connor (Liv & Val): Nollaig shona dhaoibh. Wishing all Choc Lit readers and their families, a wonderful Christmas, and a happy 2017.”

 

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Victoria  Santas2Victoria Cornwall: I hope you have a wonderful, laughter filled, Christmas which will leave you with memories to cherish for years to come.

 

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Christina Courtenay - Santa!Christina Courtenay: I wish you all a wonderful Christmas with everything and everyone you love, including of course loads of chocolate and plenty of time for reading your favourite books! Enjoy!”

 

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Kirsty Ferry - Santa!Kirsty Ferry: “Wishing you all a happy, healthy and wonderful 2017.Hope you wake up on Christmas morning to joy, peace and a Santa Sack full of books, chocolate and your favourite tipple!”

 

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Debbie Santa photoDebbie Flint: “Well it’s my first Devon Christmas, helping out at a writing retreat venue in Sheepwash and aiming to get the biggest tree ever! Here’s a xmas joke for you – what do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire? Frost-bite! hehe! Have a lovely festive season!”

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Kathryn Freeman - Santa!Kathryn Freeman: “Christmas – a time to relax, to indulge. Whetheryou’re turkey or goose, chocolate or champagne, Christmas films or a sack full of books, I wish you all a very happy Christmas.”

 

9781781893067Janet Gover - Santa!Janet Gover: “I hope you enjoy the festive season. Take time to be with those you love.And don’t forget to treat yourself to something special – you know you deserve it. Thank you for all your support this year, and may 2017 be filled with peace and joy for you and yours.”

 

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Morton SantaMorton S. Gray: “Have a lovely peaceful Christmas and keep dreaming those dreams. Anything is possible in 2017.”

 

 

9781781890714Henriette Gyland - Santa!Henriette Gyland: “Happy Christmas, or Glædelig Jul which is what we say in Denmark. In the face of tumultuous and terrible events across the world wish to remember that Christmas is the time for love and kindness. And reading. Lots of it!”

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Linn's Santas photoLinn B. Halton: “I’ve asked Santa for snow this year – enough to allow us all to wake up to a white Christmas morn, but I’ve also asked that it doesn’t hang around long! If he can’t deliver a brief winter wonderland treat, then I’m sending you all a Christmas hug. I hope that it’s a time of great joy and happiness for one and all.”

9781781893012Liz Harris - Santa!Liz Harris: “2016 will soon be but a distant memory. Hopefully, it’s been a fabulous year for you all, and is leaving behind it nothing but good memories. And, equally hopefully, 2017 will be even better for you, with all the wishes that you wish for yourself coming true. A happy, healthy 2017 to you and your families, dear readers.”

 

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Laura E James - Santa!Laura E.James: “Wishing all our readers a happy and peaceful Christmas and a wonderful New Year. Thank you for reading, reviewing and enjoying our Choc Lit books. In my opinion, it’s the best gift an author can receive. xx”

 

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Margaret James - Santa!Margaret James:“A very happy, peaceful and contented Christmas to the friends of Choc Lit all over the world who support us in so many ways – by buying or borrowing our books, blogging, Tweeting, leaving posts on Facebook and reviewing, to name just a few. We appreciate all you do for us and hope to entertain you for a long time to come! Very best wishes for a great festive season and a wonderful 2017.”

 

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Jane Lovering - Santa!Jane Lovering: “Wishing everyone a happy HobNob dunking, marshmallow toasting, Tony Robinson watching day! Although if you don’t like any of these things, I wish you a Happy Christmas anyway…all the more for me!”

 

Emma and her Daughter by Linda Mitchelmore CMYK


Linda Mitchelmore - Santa!Linda Mitchelmore: ”Happy Christmas to you all. I hope you will have a wonderful time, spending Christmas in whichever way you choose. I also hope there will  be a little window of time to curl up with a Choc Lit novel – or two – somewhere warm with a glass of something festive.”

9781781892916Lynda Stacey Santa photoLynda Stacey: ”Wishing all my wonderful friends and readers, a very happy, safe and peaceful Christmas. xx”

 

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Berni Stevens - Santa!Berni Stevens: “Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, a happy healthy 2017, and many fabulous hours of reading.”

 

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Christine Stovell - Santa!Christine Stovell: “Wishing you love, kindness and generosity of spirit, not just for Christmas  but throughout the year.”

9781781890752Sarah Tranter - Santa!Sarah Tranter: “Merry Xmas and a fabulous 2017 to you all!”

 

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Evonne Wareham - Santa!Evonne Wareham: “Good wishes for a happy Christmas, with good food, good company and good books, and some time to read them! I’m aiming to have a fabulous year in 2017 and I wish everyone the same. See you then!”

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ONE AND ALL!

 

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays from the Choc Lit Team and our Santa Clauses!

Merry Christmas from Team Choc Lit!

Merry Christmas everyone, Happy Holidays! Thank you for all your fabulous support in 2015. We look forward to sharing more exciting releases and fabulous Choc Lit books with you in the new year.
Love from the Choc Lit Team x
(Lyn, Lusana, Jane O, Liz, Jane E, Marie, Jessamy) 

And now a message from our Choc Lit Santas: :)

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juliet Santa photoJuliet Archer:  ”As Jane Austen said in Emma, published 200 years ago this month: ‘This is quite the season indeed for friendly meetings. At Christmas every body invites their friends about them, and people think little of even the worst weather.’ I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and New Year, with lots of ‘friendly meetings’ and as little as possible of ‘the worst weather’.”

Santa - Rhoda BaxterPLEASE RELEASE ME_front150dpiRhoda Baxter: “Wish you all a fab holiday season with lots of chocolate, cake and nice warming books to read. See you next year.”

 

Zana Bell - Santa!

Fool's Gold

Zana Bell: Meri Kirihimete (Maori) everyone and many best wishes from New Zealand. May you all have a wonderful festive season. ”

 

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AnneMarie Brear: “Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas, (a perfect time to read good books) and a safe and healthy 2016!”

 

 

Jan Santa photo

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Jan Brigden: “Wishing everyone a joyful, peaceful, healthy Christmas & New Year, with much festive good cheer, happy reading (and chocolate goodies aplenty!). Enjoy!”

 

Angela Britnell - Santa!

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Angela Britnell: “Wishing all of our Choc Lit readers a joyous Christmas and a wonderful New Year filled with good books!”

 

Sheryl Browne Santa!

 

9781781892350Sheryl Browne: Christmas time, mistletoe and wine … If you fancy a gorgeous hero to complete the scene, dip into scrummy Choc Lit book. Perfection. Have a lovely Christmas everyone!


You Think You Know MeClare Chase - Santa!Clare Chase: “Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas, full of warmth and good cheer, followed by a very happy 2016.”

 

An Irish Promise

Valerie Olteanu  - Isabeall Connor - SantaLiv Thomas - Isabella Connor - Santa!Isabella Connor (Liv & Val):  Nollaig shona dhaoibh. Wishing all Choc Lit readers and their families, a wonderful Christmas, and a happy 2016.”

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Christina Courtenay - Santa!Christina Courtenay: “I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Have a peaceful, relaxing holiday hopefully with lots of time for reading! Thank you all for your support this year and here’s to a fantastic year in 2016!  Christina xxx”

Some Veil Did Fall

Kirsty Ferry - Santa!

Kirsty Ferry: “Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a happy, healthy 2016. I hope you enjoy a festive season filled with cake, chocolate and a multitude of good books! Love from Kirsty xxx”

 

9781781892206Debbie Santa photoDebbie Flint: “Wishing you sleighbells and snowflakes, mince pies andmulled wine, silent nights and holly-days, myrrh and magic moments, tinselled tots and festive pets, plus perfect peace, Christmas cheer – and to all a good night!”

 

9781781892466 Kathryn Freeman - Santa!Kathryn Freeman: “Christmas – a time to relax, to indulge. Whether you’re turkey or goose, chocolate or champagne, Christmas films or a sack full of books, I wish you all a very happy Christmas.”

 

Janet Gover - Santa!9781781892688Janet Gover: “May Christmas be a time of joy for you and yours – and I hope 2016 will be a wonderful year filled with love and laughter.”

 

 

The Highwayman's Daughter

Henriette Gyland - Santa!Henriette Gyland: “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May 2016 be filled with love, laughter and good books to read.”

 

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Linn B. Halton: Wishing everyone peace, love and happiness this Christmas time, and a wonderful start to 2016! Linn x

 

 

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Liz Harris - Santa!Liz Harris: ”Wishing you everything for 2015 that you wish for yourself.  May it be a year filled with health, happiness, chocolate and, of course, books!!”

 


The Wedding Cake TreeMelanie Hudson - Santa!Melanie Hudson: 
“Wishing you love, light and oodles of laughter this Christmas.”

 

 

9781781892701Laura E James - Santa!Laura E.James: “Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a 2016 that’s overflowing with good health and great books.”

 

 

Magic Sometimes Happens

Margaret James - Santa!Margaret James: “Merry Christmas, readers and writers, and may 2016 be a wonderful year for you all.”

 


Impossible ThingsKate Johnson Santa!Kate Johnson: “I’d like to wish everyone a very happy festive season and offer my best wishes for the new year.”

 


Dangerous DecisionsMargaret Kaine - Santa!Margaret Kaine: “I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas whether you are spending it with family or friends, or have chosen to be on your own surrounded by chocolates, wine and good books. May I wish you both good health and happiness throughout 2016.”

 

Jane Lovering - Santa!9781781892817Jane Lovering: “Wishing everyone a happy HobNob dunking, marshmallow toasting, Tony Robinson watching day! Although if you don’t like any of these things, I wish you a Happy Christmas anyway…all the more for me! JANE X”

 

9781781892176Sally santa photoSally Malcolm: “Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas, and a New Yearfull of adventure!”

 

 

Alison May - Santa!9781781892947Alison May: “May your festive season be joyful and filled with books, chocolate and all good things. Happy Christmas one and all.”

 

 

Emma - There's No Turning BackLinda Mitchelmore - Santa!Linda Mitchelmore: “Happy Christmas to you all. I hope you will have a wonderful time, spending Christmas in whichever way you choose. I also hope there will  be a little window of time to curl up with a Choc Lit novel – or two – somewhere warm with a glass of something festive.”

Lynda Stacey Santa photoLynda Stacey: ”May your Christmas sparkle with happiness, surprises and above all else, good health. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a fabulous 2016  xx”

 

 

DANCE UNTIL DAWNBerni Stevens - Santa!Berni Stevens: “Wishing everyone a Perfectly Paranormal Christmas and a peaceful New Year! Happy reading! Love Berni xxx”

 

Follow a StarChristine Stovell - Santa!Christine Stovell: Nadolig Llawen! Merry Christmas one and all. Here’s wishing you everything you would wish for yourself.”

 

Romancing the SoulSarah Tranter - Santa!Sarah Tranter: “Merry Xmas and a fabulous 2016 to you all!”

 

 

Never Marry a Politician!Sarah Tranter - Santa!Sarah Waights: “Wishing all Choc Lit readers a fabulous Christmas and as much romance and chocolate as you can handle in the year to come.”

 

Out of Sight Out of Mind

Evonne Wareham - Santa!Evonne Wareham: “Happy Christmas – Nadolig Llawen – and health, happiness and lots of good books for everyone in 2016.”

 

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Nicky Wells:  ”Frohe Weihnachten und ein Gutes Neues! ~That’s “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” in my native German, and I’d like to wish you both of those with all myheart. May your Christmas sparkle and may your 2016 be filled with love, laughter and happiness. Xx”

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ONE AND ALL! 

Merry Christmas from the Choc Lit Santa Clauses!

Merry Christmas from Team Choc Lit!

Wishing all the readers, reviewers, Tasting panel members and bloggers who have supported us this year a very Merry Christmas! We look forward to sharing our 2015 releases with you all soon :) In the meantime, here are some festive messages from some of the Choc Lit Santa clauses alongside a reminder of some of those beautiful 2014 covers …

Doctor January by Rhoda BaxterSanta - Rhoda BaxterRhoda Baxter:
“Have a wonderful Christmas with lots of chocolate. May 2015 be full of laughter and more chocolate.”

 

Zana Bell - Santa!

Fool's Gold

Zana Bell:
“Sending a virtual splash of Kiwi sunshine and ice cream Christmas pudding to all our readers.”

 

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Angela Britnell - Santa!Angela Britnell:
“Merry Christmas from Nashville! I hope everyone’s Christmas stockings are full of great Choc-Lit books and plenty of good chocolate.”

Sheryl Browne Santa!Sheryl Browne:
“Christmas, the perfect time to curl up with mulled wine and Choc Lit. Have a lovely Christmas everyone. I hope all your dreams and wishes come true.”


You Think You Know MeClare Chase - Santa!Clare Chase:
“Wishing you a warm, bright and merry Christmas, and a very happy new year.”

 

An Irish Promise

Liv Thomas - Isabella Connor - Santa!Valerie Olteanu  - Isabeall Connor - SantaIsabella Connor (Liv & Val): Nollaig shona dhaoibh. “Wishing all Choc Lit readers and their families, a wonderful Christmas, and a happy 2015.

 

Monsoon Mists

Christina Courtenay - Santa!Christina Courtenay:
God Jul – I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a fabulous New Year!  Hope you have lots of time over the holidays to relax and read!”


Some Veil Did FallKirsty Ferry - Santa!Kirsty Ferry:
“Have a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful New Year. And eat lots of chocolate, obviously! Love from Kirsty xxx”

 

Do Opposites Attract by Kathryn Freeman Kathryn Freeman - Santa!Kathryn Freeman:
“I hope Father Christmas brings all our lovely readers a sack full of books – and a stocking full of chocolate. Happy Christmas and very best wishes for 2015.”

Flight to Coorah Creek

Janet Gover - Santa!Janet Gover: “I hope your Christmas is filled with the people you care most about. And that all the presents under your tree are book shaped (except for the ones that are the shape of chocolate or possibly Champagne.)”

The Highwayman's Daughter

Henriette Gyland - Santa!Henriette Gyland:
God Jul og Godt Nytår, which is the traditional Christmas greeting in Denmark where I come from!

 


Liz Harris - Santa!A Western HeartLiz Harris:
Wishing you everything for 2015 that you wish for yourself.  May it be a year filled with health, happiness, chocolate and, of course, books!!”


The Wedding Cake TreeMelanie Hudson - Santa!Melanie Hudson:

“Merry Christmas!”

 

 

Cross Stitch

Amanda James:Amanda James - Santa!
“Have a fabulous Christmas and New Year!  Here’s to a 2015 full of great stories.”

 

Follow Me Follow YouLaura E James - Santa!Laura E.James:
“Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015, filled with love, laughter and literature.”

 

Magic Sometimes Happens

Margaret James - Santa!Margaret James:
“A very happy Christmas to everyone. May magic often happen and 2015 be good to you all in every way.”


Impossible ThingsKate Johnson Santa!Kate Johnson:
“The weather outside is frightful, but our books are so delightful! Here’s wishing you all a merry Christmas and a happy new year.”


Dangerous DecisionsMargaret Kaine - Santa!Margaret Kaine:
“Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones, with lots of books under the tree and even some time to read one! Enjoy!”

 

How I Wonder What You Are

Jane Lovering - Santa!Jane Lovering:
So many books, so little time! Wishing you a happy and peaceful Christmas.”

 

Cora's Christmas KissAlison May - Santa!Alison May:
“Happy Christmas. I hope your festive season is filled with love, chocolate, books and merriment.”

 

Emma - There's No Turning BackLinda Mitchelmore - Santa!Linda Mitchelmore:
“Wishing all my readers – past, present, and future – a wonderful Christmas. May there be love and warmth in your home, food on your table, a glass of something to lift the spirits, joy in your heart, and a quiet corner to sit and read a good novel.”

The Wedding Proposal

Sue Moorcroft - Santa!Sue Moorcroft:
“I hope that you have a joyful and peaceful Christmas … with time to read!”

 

DANCE UNTIL DAWNBerni Stevens - Santa!Berni Stevens:
“Wishing you all a magical Christmas and a wonderful 2015. Happy reading!”

 

Follow a StarChristine Stovell - Santa!Christine Stovell:
Nadolig Llawen!  Merry Christmas from west Wales!”

 

Romancing the SoulSarah Tranter - Santa!Sarah Tranter:
“Have the most wonderful Xmas and may your 2015 be chock-a-full of happiness.”

 

Never Marry a Politician!Sarah Tranter - Santa!Sarah Waights: “2014 will always have happy memories as ‘the year I published my first novel’ thanks to the lovely Choc Lit readers’ panel who were kind enough to like it.  I hope that all you Choc Lit readers have had an equally brilliant year, that Santa brings you everything on your list and that you have a happy 2015 with LOTS of reading and LOTS of chocolate. X”

Out of Sight Out of Mind

Evonne Wareham - Santa!Evonne Wareham:
“I hope everyone manages to find some time over the holiday to curl up with a good book. Happy Christmas!”

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ONE AND ALL! 

Laura E James: Absolute Beginners

As I sit down to write this post on first loves, quite by chance the velvet tones of David Bowie have eased their way into my consciousness and soothed my furrowed brow. I’m listening to Now 1986, and Absolute Beginners is playing. I loved this song. I loved it so much, I bought the vinyl 12 inch. I wanted to spend plenty of quality time with David ‒ something the 45 single couldn’t deliver. In those days, there wasn’t a repeat button, and I had to get up from my comfy red chair to return the arm of the record player to the start of the disc to hear it again. I was up and down like the proverbial yo-yo. I didn’t mind. It gave me the opportunity to linger a while by my bedroom shelf and sigh over the black and white Bowie postcard perched there.

When Absolute Beginners was a hit, I was nineteen; the age Chris Frampton is when he first meets Vicky Paveley, in Follow Me, Follow You. Emotionally and physically, they are each other’s first loves. They know this because their love is that raw, intense, can’t-live-without-you love. The sort that stops you eating, stops you sleeping and stops you speaking about anything other than that boy, that girl, that person, who’s so part of your being, you will absolutely, most definitely, positively die if you don’t see them at least once a day.

Shortly after Gajitman and I became a couple, I was due to jet off for three weeks to Dubai to spend Christmas with my parents. The plans had been made long before I fell madly in love with this tall, gentle, IT man, and as much I was looking forward to seeing my family, the thought of being parted from him hurt.rings

Before I left, I took a photo of him, so I could keep him close at hand. Like my Bowie postcard, the picture was endlessly sighed over. Once in Dubai, I bought a frame, and Gajitman took pride of place on my bedside table. I spoke about him so often to my parents, my mum put a daily restriction on how many times I could mention his name. This makes me smile even now.

Gajitman and I were friends for a couple of years before love took a grip and gave us a good shake. I was twenty-six by this point, and (Gajitman and impressionable children in the James household turn away now), I’d been out with other men.

This brings me to the question: what defines a first love?

Is it those intense feelings you’re experiencing for the cute boy in your maths class who’s helped you understand probability? (What are the chances he’ll go out with me?) Is it the painful, ‘He doesn’t even know I exist but I love him madly’ obsession of a gorgeous pop star? Or is it when the recollection of the dream you had about that person, turns your stomach into Claudia Fragapane and somersaults across the room? If it is, then I’ve had many first loves, especially with those gorgeous pop stars.

Or is first love the complete experience? The reciprocal, full-on, all-encompassing, passionate love you want to last a lifetime even if, as a couple, you don’t?Wedding Photo Cutting The Cake Hands 2

This is the love Chris and Victoria share in their teens. There will have been other girlfriends and other boys, plenty of first hand-holding and first kisses, but this? This is the exciting, painful, wonderful, exhausting, totally absorbing love. This is the real deal. This is their first love.

I’ve reached the conclusion there isn’t a standard answer to my question. I think the only person who can know what it is that defines a first love, is you.

As someone who can spend days giving serious consideration as to what to write in a birthday card, words and their meanings are of great importance to me, so I know my first, true, romantic love was and still is with the only man to whom I’ve said, ‘I love you.’

And that isn’t David Bowie.

*hits repeat*

Can a first love last forever?

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You save me and I’ll save you…

Victoria Noble has pulled the plug on romance. As director of the number one social networking site, EweSpeak, and single mother to four-year-old Seth, she wrestles with the work-life balance.

Enter Chris Frampton, Hollywood action hero and Victoria’s first love. His return from LA has sparked a powder keg of media attention, and with secrets threatening to fuel the fire, he’s desperate to escape.

But finding a way forward is never simple. Although his connection with Victoria is as strong as when he was nineteen, has he been adrift too long to know how to move on?

With the risk of them breaking, will either #follow their heart?

Available TODAY on Google Play, Kobo, Apple and Kindle. Paperback out in September – pre-order here.

Literal Freedom: Laura James on Rheumatoid Arthritis

This week, 16th – 22nd June 2014, is Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Week.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful, often debilitating auto-immune disease, which causes laura handinflammation, stiffness and in most cases, chronic fatigue. I’ve been diagnosed with the condition for near on thirty years. It’s indiscriminate, and not as some may think, restricted to older people. I was eighteen when I first noticed a dirty red hue and swelling to my knuckles. My mother had been diagnosed five years prior, so as soon as I showed her my puffy fingers, we were off to the hospital.

That was a long time ago, and treatment was vastly different then to now. Technology, science and medicine have come on in leaps and bounds, and one of the reasons I am able to type this post is because of the amazing hand surgery I’ve undergone in the last few years. My rheumatology and orthopaedic teams are incredibly skilled, and I consider myself extremely lucky to be under their care.

My debut novel, ‘Truth or Dare?’ started life when my left wrist had been partially fused and plated. I had a minimum of six weeks in a cast, followed by a couple of months in a splint. With a head full of ideas and an unshackled right hand, it was the perfect time to write the novel I’d always said was ‘in me’. I took out my A4 notebook, warmed up my favourite pen and posed the question, ‘Is it ever acceptable for a person to do the wrong thing for the right reason?’ At that moment, Kate Blair and Declan O’Brien entered my world. Declan has the best hands.

Hands 3Technology has also provided me with an alternative way to read. I am not always able to hold a physical book, as much as I love them, so on ‘bad’ days, I switch on my e-reader and lose a few hours living vicariously through the characters. It’s the same when I’m creating and writing books. Distraction is a well-known technique for fighting pain. Lately I’ve been distracted by my new hero in my second Choc Lit book, ‘Follow Me, Follow You’. Gorgeous Chris Frampton bears an uncanny resemblance to Johnny Depp.

I am often preoccupied with the characters in my head.

I’m often preoccupied with Johnny Depp.

It’s pain management, you understand.

I think it’s fair to say that with or without a condition such as RA, the human body has itsphysical limits, but there’s more to us than skin and bone, or in my case, metalwork and plastic. We have our minds, imaginations and creativity, and when inspired, even if it’s for the shortest time, we are free.

For further information on rheumatoid arthritis, please click on the link for the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society. https://www.facebook.com/nationalrheumatoidarthritissociety?fref=ts

http://www.nras.org.uk/stories/writing-with-rheumatoid-arthritis

9781781891872

And the nominees are …

With Kathryn Freeman, Laura James and Alison May all in contention for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers, we caught up with our lucky Choc Lit Three in advance of the awards party to see how they’re feeling.

All three are ‘graduates’ of the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme, through which unpublished authors receive feedback on their manuscript from an experienced writer.

So firstly how did the New Writers’ Scheme help you develop your debut novel?

Too CharmingKATHRYN: Too Charming was the second novel I’d submitted to the scheme. When I look back now, I believe that reading this second report was probably the turning point for me in terms of understanding the difference between writing a collection of words and writing a story. Specifically for Too Charming, the main feedback was to develop my heroine further – to show more of her internal struggle. I also had a habit of changing point of views at the drop of a hat, which confused the reader – oh and I used far too many cliches!

 

 

TOD_FRONT largeLAURA: ‘Truth or Dare?’ went through the scheme two years running, receiving two reads on the second pass. That provided me with three reports in total, and all raised pertinent points, some to do with the actual story, others of a more technical nature. I took the time to read and absorb the comments, and made the necessary changes. I had and still have great respect for the readers’ knowledge and experience, and I took their suggestions seriously. I confess, I didn’t agree with everything within the reports, but the fact the questions were raised meant I gave the manuscript further consideration. The reports were encouraging, positive and helpful, and I always felt supported.

 

SN_Kindle75dpiALISON: Like Laura, ‘Sweet Nothing’ went through the scheme twice. At the time I thought the first reader was evil and the second was completely lovely, but that essentially was down to the fact that the first reader found a lot of faults with the book, and the second really liked it. With hindsight, I realise that the first year I submitted Sweet Nothing it simply wasn’t ready. After a lot more revision and work I re-submitted it in year two. Much as it pains me to admit it, the first reader wasn’t evil; she was right. Damn her and her cleverheadedness.

 

 

2. What advice would you offer to anybody receiving their New Writers’ Scheme critique report at the moment?

Laura: The readers are experienced in their field, and they are willing us to succeed. The advice they offer is there to nurture us as writers. Read the report, set it aside for a week, and let the ideas percolate. You don’t have to agree with the reader’s suggestions, but why not give them a try? I did and ‘Truth or Dare?’ improved no end. It was published by Choc Lit under their Lite imprint, in October 2013.

Kathryn: First, take a deep breath before you open it. Once you’ve read it, allow feedback to settle in for a while before launching straight into revisions. My first instinct was to defend my manuscript – after all, I wouldn’t have submitted it if I hadn’t thought it was the bee’s knees (oops, cliches again – sorry). It is only when I re-read the manuscript months later, through fresh eyes and with the feedback next to me, that I started to see what the reviewer meant. I didn’t change everything – but they are scarily wise. Lastly, and most importantly – make a conscious effort to highlight the positives. There will be many, but they can be overlooked in the face of all the other suggestions. It is those positive comments that will inspire you to tackle your story again with a renewed sense of purpose and optimism.

Alison: Yes, absolutely, everything that Kate and Laura have already said! And simply remember that rejection and criticism and suggestions for change are part of the career you’re working towards. It’s too soon for me to tell you whether they get easy to deal with, but they do get easier. Try to think about everything your reader has said. Whether you act on their advice or not is absolutely up to you, but try to resist the urge to get defensive and reject ideas simply because you didn’t think of them (which is just the sort of daft immature thing I would do!)

3. And how are you preparing for the big night? Frock? Hair? Shoes? Acceptance speech? Practising the magnanimous loser face in the mirror?

Alison: I had my frock picked months ago. Then about six weeks ago I accepted I was never ever going to fit into it in time, and picked a different frock from the back of the wardrobe. Then last week I accepted that I’m really not going to fit into that one in time either, so I bought a new dress in the size I actually am, and it was only £9 in the sale so that’s totally fine, isn’t it? I shall head mirrorwards right now to practice my magnanimous loser face. For the full party effect I might just pour a glass of wine to hold while I’m doing it.

Kathryn: I have the ‘frock’ – I bought it last week for a wedding I’m attending in June, and think it might just do for this evening as well. Of course on the day I’ll try on many more outfits, discard them all, tell my husband I have absolutely nothing to wear. And then settle for the first outfit I tried on. I still need to buy some shoes that will not only provide some glamour, but will also take me across London on the tube. No speech, no mirrors – I’m just delighted to be amongst such amazing company.

Laura: I bought two dresses last time I went shopping, so my frock is sorted. It’s silver and black. I haven’t seen it since before Christmas, and all I can imagine is chain mail. It’s not chain mail, but if I found a dress I really liked in chain mail, I would wear it. Shoes are another matter. I struggle with footwear as my feet have been affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis. Sadly, my Go-Go boots don’t suit the dress. Finally, I shall be checking the integrity of my hold-ups, following a let-down at the 2013 Festival of Romantic Fiction. In fact, I’m tempted to not wear any, so as to avoid the Nora Batty look.

I’m now reconsidering the Go-Go boots …

Alison: And finally, Congratulations from all three of us to ALL the Joan Hessayon Award Contenders, and a huge thank-you to Melanie, the RNA and all the New Writers’ Scheme readers for their hard work supporting new writers. We salute you.

 

The Round Robin Round-Up

In recent months, the authors at Choc Lit have produced unique short stories to celebrate special events such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. What’s fascinating is that we’re not producing a story each, but a contribution to one entire story, which is then posted day-by-day on wonderfully supportive book blogs. It’s a fascinating process. We don’t know what will arrive in the inbox or how the next author will progress what we’ve set up. It’s like tag wrestling, but without the leotards or catapulting off the ropes to floor the opponent.Mothers Day Round Robin

I was interested in how we approached our particular sections and asked for my fellow ChocLiteers thoughts.

Valentine’s Round Robin

Kathryn Freeman

I found it harder than writing a story by myself as I was very conscious I shouldn’t give away too much, too soon, but I already had in mind how I wanted it to end!

- I also found it more rewarding in a way, as I was so intrigued by how those after me would pick up the reins.  I felt proud to be part of the final result – but in awe of the ability of my fellow writers who managed to kick it off so well and then keep the suspense and so neatly tie the ends up at the end. I was very glad I went early!

Evonne Wareham

I did the Valentine one. It was great fun and also scary! I was day 4 of 5. The 3 previous instalments had set up some lovely leads, it was a responsibility to live up to them and also leave the story in a good place for the final instalment. Making a villain out of the character who would normally have been my alpha hero was interesting.

 Mother’s Day Round Robin

Alison May

I actually found writing part 1 quite intimidating. Normally the beginning of a story would be one of the last bits that I’d still be tweaking with and revising. This time I didn’t have that option. I had to write an opening that set up enough possibilities for the six writers that followed to apply their imaginations but wasn’t so vague as to be completely irrelevant to what came later. I think I stared at the blank screen for longer than I ever have before, feeling the pressure of not letting the later writers down. I ummed and aahed particularly about whether to introduce a potential hero in part 1. I do have a discarded paragraph where a mysterious stranger appears, but in the end I decided to leave the hero for the writers who came later. I’m now really happy with Kelly and sort of in love with little Lucas. I just hope that the writers and readers who came after me ended up feeling the same.

 Laura E. James

Alison wrote a great introduction, and that allowed me to take the story in any direction. Conscious of the fact it was a Mother’s Day story, and we at Choc Lit write romance, my focus was on developing a love interest and a father for Kelly’s baby son. I left it for the latter writers to decide if this man was one and the same. It was liberating not having to make that decision, however, now the story is complete, I have to say, I found what followed, and the conclusion extremely satisfying. I loved this experience.

 Berni Stevens

I was so relieved not to be given the first slot, and I take my hat off to Alison for doing such an amazing job. I still remember my own first day back at work after maternity leave, so writing Kelly’s feelings came easily to me. I loved the way Laura and Henri set up new possibilities for the story, but I couldn’t resist throwing in my own curved ball! I truly couldn’t wait to see how it all panned out.

Beverley Eikli

I was caught between a rock and a hard place with such excellent instalments having gone before. Now, with the story having only two more instalments after mine, I knew that it was time to explore the motivations of some of the characters who may (or may not) have a larger role to play and begin the process of tying up the threads my predecessors had left me :)

Unexpected plot twists are what I love best, though of course that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. However since it seemed to be ‘at that point in the story’ I thought I’d just go for it. I wrote most of it while travelling through Norway but had to think long and hard to come up with the direction I was going to take it. There were so many!

 Amanda James

I found it really tricky coming in at the penultimate section. I couldn’t end it obviously, but I wasn’t sure where to go either because of what had come before. Of course I knew we should probably have a happy ending, so worked towards that. The problem was that a couple of the stories before mine had said that Damien had wanted nothing to do with Kelly and his son, another had said that Kelly had ignored all Damien’s attempts to contact her by phone and text. Gulp. I realised that this was to set up intrigue and conflict and I eventually got it sorted  … I hope! It was great fun to write and I would love to do it again.

 Margaret James

I enjoyed writing the ending.  It was fun to read everything which came before it, seeing how the previous writers had developed the story, set traps for the unwary reader, suggested various directions in which the story could go, and also suggested various resolutions. I decided early on who the bad guy in this story was going to be and I wrote my ending to reflect this decision.

***

From a personal point of view, what’s struck me reading these comments is that as writers we’ve used our knowledge, experience and instinct to know how to start the story, when to add a hint of romance or betrayal, where to introduce the twist and turns, and how and when to start wrapping it up to bring it to a satisfying conclusion.

Beyond my contribution at Part 2, I was reading and discovering along with all the other readers and was captivated by the unfolding story.

I’m already looking forward to the next Choc Lit round robin.

Laura.

Here are the links to our Mother’s Day story, which can now be read from start to finish:

Part One by Alison May on Chick Lit Reviews and News

Part Two by Laura E James on Jera’s Jamboree

Part Three by Henriette Gyland on Laura’s Little Book Blog

Part Four by Berni Stevens on Cosmochicklitan

Part Five by Beverley Eikli on Chick Lit Uncovered

Part Six by Amanda James on Love of a Good Book

Part Seven by Margaret James on One More Page

Resolved

Happy 2014! I hope she’s handled you with silk gloves thus far.

I’ve learned that January 6th is the day many give up on their New Year’s pledges. How have you got on?

I’m not one for making resolutions on the 1st of January. I’m more of an anytime resolver. If something needs to happen, why wait? Of course this is personal preference, and probably a symptom of impatience. That’s me.

My current statement of intent is to write Book 3 within nine months, starting from today. With my left arm encased in an above-elbow cast following wrist surgery, it’s more of a dare than an anytime resolution, but the truth is I love a challenge.

In some respect, every time we make a resolution, we’re playing truth or dare, aren’t we?TOD_FRONT large

In 1989, twenty-two-year-old Kate Blair, the heroine in ‘Truth or Dare?’, resolves to change by welcoming passion and romance into her life. She believes that with stability and love as her foundations, everything in her chaotic and testing world will settle into place. And Kate needs order to survive.

It’s a huge ask, but with Rosie Jenkins, her best friend, spurring her on, Kate is optimistic she’ll reach the new decade a changed woman. It’s the degree of change she doesn’t calculate.

Is Kate up to the challenge? Or should she have taken a more manageable, bite-sized approach? Will her friend support her, whatever happens?

When I resolved to ‘write that book that’s in me’, I received, and continue to receive, amazing support from family and friends, and although by nature I am a determined, some say bloody-minded woman, I wouldn’t want to be without their belief. It inspires me to keep going. Cheering from the side lines and waving of the team pompoms is always welcomed, and greatly and genuinely appreciated.

So, here I am, wishing you a wonderful year and cheering you on in your endeavours. If you’ve resolved to take up spinning classes, ease up on the ale, or eat less chocolate, keep going. You can do it. I’m waving my pompom with my good arm. You know I am.

And so we’re clear, eating less chocolate is not an option. Not for me.

That’s the truth.

Laura James_author pic copy

Trick or Treat? Truth or Dare?

A week on from my debut novel, Truth or Dare? going ‘live’, I find myself wondering which of the risen dead will come knocking at my door and speak those immortal words: ‘Trick or Treat?’TOD_FRONT large

In my experience, it’s usually a skeleton no taller than my knees, an infant vampire in desperate need of his two front teeth, and a very cute, very round, padded pumpkin with arms perpendicular to its body.

My children are excited about Halloween – the moment the bell rings, they rush to the front door, ready to dish out to their friends jelly dummies, foam shrimps, and fruit chews that take a year to break down. It is an event with which I have only recently become accustomed, as trick or treating wasn’t as popular in England in my youth.

As children of the seventies, it’s unlikely Kate Blair and Rosie Jenkins, the two friends in Truth or Dare?, would have ventured out on a cold, October night on the off-chance of bagging free chocolate from their neighbours, and the thought of tricking an elder would have horrified and perplexed Kate to the point she’d have turned as white as a ghost – an upshot Rosie would have used to her advantage, given the chance.

Even as an adult, studious Kate wouldn’t dream of taking on a mystical persona and bang on the door of a poor, unsuspecting soul on All Hallows’ Even. But don’t be fooled. Should she choose to cast the spell, she possesses the magic to enchant Declan O’Brien.

Rosie, on the other hand, is a cheeky devil, whose charm bewitches and bewilders every unsuspecting soul in to dishing out all sorts of wonderful treats and delights, and should she choose to use it, she has the power to mesmerise computer wizard, Josh Willis.

Now, here’s spooky … Halloween falls the night before All Saints’ Day, and it is in All Saints’ church, at the beginning of 1989, where Kate and Rosie pledge to bury their past, unveil their true selves, and enter in to the spirit of a new life.

What does their future hold?

There are no crystal balls here, but my future is clear. It will involve sweets. And chocolate, which is the best defence against deflated car tyres, flour-bombed windows, and mummified trees, wrapped in a hundred miles of toilet paper.

So, as the ghastly ghouls and the walking dead come knocking on your door, here’s a thought with which to conjure: Trick or treat? Truth or dare?

Whichever you choose, take care out there. And chocolate.

Always take chocolate.

Laura.

 

Truth or Dare?

Love’s a dangerous game … 

Kate Blair’s sick of unrequited love. She’s quietly waited for Mickey for the past six years and finding a compass-carved heart, with their initials scratched through the middle, only strengthens her resolve: no more Mickey and no more playing it safe.

It’s time to take a chance on real love and Declan O’Brien’s the perfect risk. He’s handsome, kind, and crazy about her so it’s not long before all thoughts of Mickey come few and far between.

But old habits die-hard. Kate may have started to forget … but has Mickey?

 

Truth or Dare?  is available on Kindle now.

It has been nominated for the Festival of Romance Best Romantic Ebook, with the winner to be announced in Bedford on November 9th 2013.

 

You can follow Laura at www.lauraejames.co.uk and on Twitter @Laura_E_James and on Facebook.