The Perfect Christmas Kiss

9781781893234

Today sees the release of Alison May’s Christmas Kisses; a collection of gorgeous festive stories about three girls searching for ‘the perfect Christmas kiss’. But does that ‘perfect’ kiss even exist? Alison asks that exact question in today’s blog post … 

The idea of writing a post about ‘The Perfect Christmas Kiss’ seemed such a good idea as an abstract concept when I agreed to it a week before I had to actually sit down and write anything. It’s such a beautiful romantic idea – surely everyone has an idea of their perfect mistletoe-moment?

You might have a fantasy of meeting your flawless long-distance lover at the top of the Empire State Building as the bells chime to ring in Christmas Day. Or you might prefer a more traditional English Christmas scene – maybe with snow falling over a village green outside a beautiful old stone church, everyone wrapped up in hats and scarves and the love of your life with a sprig of mistletoe and a certain twinkle in his or her eye? Or perhaps you’re not a lover of Christmas and would prefer to be whisked away to a sunkissed beach to forget the festive season altogether and indulge in a little holiday romance whilst you’re there?

But here’s the problem – all of those ideas sound lovely in practice but they’re fantasy, aren’t they? And there’s nothing wrong with a bit of fantasy, but trying to translate fantasy into real-life is a surefire recipe for anti-climax and disappointment. That sunkissed beach sounds lovely, but actually having a frolic on it is just going to lead to sand in your pants and a sunburn in places that the sun really isn’t supposed to shine. The meeting at the top of the Empire State Building is such a romantic idea, but once you actually get there you’ll be sharing the viewing platform with every other lovelorn hopeful in New York city, and there’s nothing worse than having to form a queue every time a eligible-looking singleton appears on the off-chance that they might be the one for you. Even the snow-covered English village sounds frankly off-puttingly chilly, and realistically, you’re going to have a streaming nose and chattering teeth if you stay out trying to canoodle for too long.

So here’s my suggestion for the perfect Christmas Kiss – don’t plan it. Perfect moments are something that happens, not something that can be prepared. You know how nights out where you swear that you’re just going to have one drink and then end up crawling home at 3am are always more fun than big nights that take weeks to plan? Well I think perfect Christmas kisses might fall into the same category. Whatever you think perfection is going to look like, that’s almost certainly not how it would actually turn out. Perfection, where is exists at all, exists in the surprising and the unexpected, in the spontaneous and the organic, rather in those things that have been meticulously planned and preconceived. That’s something that each of the heroines in Christmas Kisses has to learn in their own different way. Perfect is never really what you think it’s going to be. Sometimes you have to open your mind and enjoy the moment that you’re in right now, whether it looks like you expected or not.

Christmas Kisses is now available to purchase in paperback from all good book stockists and retailers. Click HERE to order from Amazon. 

For more information on Alison, follow her on Twitter @MsAlisonMay.

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. ”

 

AnnMarie Santa photo

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.”

 

Linn's Santas photo

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.”

 

Nick santa photo

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! 

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.

 

Alison May’s top 5 Shakespearean Heroes

On Wednesday I ran down my top five Shakespearean heroines. Today it’s the turn of the heroes. Let’s hear it for the boys.

Cue another round of Top of the Pops countdown music…

5. Mercutio, Romeo and Juliet

Mercutio is the cool, impulsive best friend we’d all love to have. The guy who always knows where the best party is and is always at the centre of the action. Now, admittedly, his need to be at the centre of the action does get him a tiny bit killed, but up until then he’s been spectacular. Louder, funnier and more outrageous than anyone else in the play, and to his credit he keeps joking to the end, managing to squeeze out a play on words about being ‘grave’ with his last breath. For commitment to punning alone, Mercutio is number five.

4. Berowne, Love’s Labour’s Lost

Love’s Labour’s Lost is a silly little play where a group of men decide to forgo female company for  year and live in a state of abstemious study. Obviously, that plan goes pear shaped pretty fast when a passing Princess and her ladies-in-waiting rock up at their door. Despite the daft plot, and the fact that the suspected sequel has been lost to history so the play ends disconcertingly abruptly, Berowne, is still a great character. He’s funny and clever, and about a zillion times more realistic than any of his mates about the chances of the whole ‘abstaining from female company’ thing working out. Promising to stay away from women he declares is ‘flat treason ‘gainst the kingly state of youth.’

3. Macduff, Macbeth

Macbeth is Shakespeare at his most haunting and grisly. It has murder, ghosts, bloody daggers, insanity, witches, and a denouement that depends on your main character’s head being paraded across the stage on a pole. But at the centre of that denouement we also have Macduff. Macduff is the moral centre of the play – he’s the sane man alongside Macbeth’s madness, the good man in a sea of depravity. And when it comes to the crucial moment, he’s the man who does what has to be done and kills Macbeth, avenging his family (who Macbeth had killed) and returning the rightful heir to the throne. Hurrah! Cue the head on the pole, and everyone living happily ever after. All thanks to Macduff.

2. Don Pedro, Much Ado About Nothing

Ok, so Much Ado is by far my favourite play, so it might be a bit of a surprise not to see Benedick at the top of this list, and I do love Benedick, but, for me, the unsung hero of the play is the Prince, Don Pedro. It’s Don Pedro who helps Claudio woo the beautiful Hero. It’s Don Pedro who conspires to get Beatrice and Benedick to admit their feelings for one another, and it’s Don Pedro who ends up alone. His selflessness is only underlined by the hint that he’s more than a little bit in love with Beatrice himself. For services to friendship and the cause of true love, Don Pedro, we salute you.

1. Antipholus of Syracuse, The Comedy of Errors

So picture the scene. You’re new in town. You don’t know anyone apart from the trusty man servant you brought with you. Then your man servant denies knowing you, and perfect strangers start berating you for not paying money owed or delivering goods purchased. Before you’ve had chance to wrap your brain around any of that, a woman, who seems pretty damn sure she’s your wife, accosts you and accuses you of running around with a mistress. It would be enough to mess with anyone’s head, and it’s pretty much what happens to Antipholus of Syracuse within the first half hour of The Comedy of Errors. By the end of the play he’s got a new girlfriend, a twin brother, a shipwrecked father and a long lost mother who’s now a nun to contend with as well. For holding onto some shreds of sanity in the face of extreme plotting, Antipholus is my personal favourite of Shakespeare’s heroes.

And now it’s over to you. Who have I missed out?

 

Follow Alison on Twitter and visit her blog.

Alison May was born and raised in North Yorkshire, but now lives in Worcester with one husband, no kids and no pets. There were goldfish once. That ended badly.
Alison has studied History and Creative Writing, and has worked as a waitress, a shop assistant, a learning adviser, an advice centre manager, and a freelance trainer, before settling on ‘making up stories’ as an entirely acceptable grown-up career plan.
Alison is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and won the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy in 2012. She writes contemporary romantic comedies, and short stories.

Follow Alison on Twitter and snap up Sweet Nothing on Kindle.

Alison May’s Top 5 Shakespearean Heroines

The Cobbe portrait

The Cobbe portrait

It’s Shakespeare’s 450th birthday! And in honour of the occasion I’m getting all Shakespearean and nominating my favourite heroines and heroes who have sprung forth from the Bard’s quill. Today it’s the turn of the ladies.

Cue the Top of the Pops style countdown music…

5. Katherina, The Taming of The Shrew

Ok, so to modern eyes there’s an awful lot that’s wrong with The Taming of the Shrew. Essentially it’s a story about domestic abuse which ultimately breaks the spirit of the main character, but that’s not to say that we don’t love that main character. It’s the fact that we love her so much that makes her humiliation so hard to watch. Katherina is outspoken, bolshy and engaged in a ferocious bout of sibling rivalry with her sister. She’s not a ‘nice’ heroine but she grabs the audience by the throat and shakes them, and she’s inspired a Hollywood teen flick and a classic musical. Straight into my top 5 for Katherina.

4. Hermione, The Winter’s Tale

The Winter’s Tale deserves an honourable mention in any rundown of Shakespeare plays, mainly because it includes the epic stage direction ‘Exit stage left pursued by bear.’ But this is my top heroines, not my top stage directions, so let’s get back to Hermione. She’s a wronged woman. Accused by her husband, the King, of infidelity, she’s thrown out of the palace and her child is dispatched into the wilderness. Hermione doesn’t let this get her down. She bides her time, and reappears years later, pretending to be a statue of herself. The King repents; the lost child reappears; and Hermione reveals herself to be alive rather than made of marble, simultaneously securing one of the least plausible happy endings anywhere in literature, and inspiring generations of fake statue street performers. Kudos to Hermione.

3. Helena, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Helena is a heroine for any girl who’s ever felt that they were destined to always be the sidekick. For all of us who’ve ever thought we were just the plain friend who was never going to get the guy, Helena is the one to watch. Obviously she ends up blissfully in love with her man, with only a tiny bit assistance from fairies and magic potions, and she also gets to participate in one of the best cat fights ever written, where she describes her rival with the classic line ‘And though she be but little, she is fierce.’ It turns out that, once she gets going, quiet, compliant, sidekick Helena can be pretty fierce too.

2. Juliet, Romeo and Juliet

Oh Juliet. Poor unfortunate Juliet. You’ve made it to number two on this list for your appealing mix of impulsiveness, passion and quite a sensible head. Although when I say ‘sensible head’ that’s only really in comparison with Romeo, who is all passion and impulse with hardly a moment’s thought. Anyway, for passion, pure romance and taking a chance on love Juliet makes it into my top five. If she’d only had the good sense to think a little bit harder about the practicalities of the whole ‘faking her own death’ plan, she might have made it all the way to the number one.

1. Beatrice, Much Ado About Nothing

No competition for the top spot in my list. For me Beatrice is the funniest, cleverest, and most passionate of all Shakespeare’s heroines. She’s a brilliantly loyal friend, and a very modern woman. She advises her cousin not simply to marry in line with her father’s wishes, but to find a husband who pleases her, and she out and out rejects the idea of getting married herself, which makes her confusion and horror when she realises that she is actually completely, utterly, irredeemably in love with Benedick all the more endearing.

So that’s my top five heroines. Come back on Friday when I’ll be running through Shakespeare’s top leading men.

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“I think this is a marvellous updated retelling of [Much Ado About Nothing] … fresh and modern.” – Dear Author

Sweet Nothing by Alison May is available on Kindle.

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

An interview with a hero: Ben Messina

So Ben Messina, noted mathematician and romantic hero, welcome to the blog. Thanks for coming along. First things first, tell us about that name – I’m guessing you’re not originally from Yorkshire.

Actually I am. I lived in Whitby for eighteen years and then moved to York. My mum and dad are Italian though.

So the Italians have a reputation for being a very passionate nation. Do you think that applies to you?

Well, erm, I’m not sure.

[At this point Ben starts to look around a bit nervously.]

Erm, what’s this interview for?

It’s for the Choc Lit blog – about the book you’re in.

Yes. About my book. It’s about zero. Zero is the most fascinating number you know. It’s completely different from any other integer. Do you know that the Romans didn’t even have a concept of zero? Neither did the Greeks. Pythagoras, himself…

The triangle guy?

That’s right – he never accepted that nothing could be a thing.

I did not know that. But that’s not what the interview’s about. It’s about the book you’re in.

What?

The book you’re in – Much Ado About Sweet Nothing. You’re the hero.

What do you mean, hero? Like the men on the front of those books they have in the library – the ones with worrying hair and no shirt on.

Well not exactly like that, but it’s about love and romance and, well, you.

No. You must have got that wrong. Now my brother, Claudio, he’s more the romantic hero type. He’s completely smitten in fact with this girl Henrietta. It’s sickening. I’ve tried to explain to him that infatuation is all just a matter of brain chemistry, and it’ll inevitably pass given time, but he won’t listen. He even has the romantic hero tall, dark look. He goes to the gym and everything. It’s not right.

So you’ve never been in love.

Nope.

Not even when you were younger. There wasn’t ever a girl who got away.

Well, there was one girl. She was different, I suppose. Anyway, that was a really long time ago.

And you never wonder about going back?

You can’t go back. Deciding whether to be with someone is an all or nothing thing. You can’t just flip and change. It’s nothing or everything. [He laughs.]

What’s funny?

Nothing or everything. That’s what my book’s about. I’m much happier talking about that to be honest. Love and romance aren’t my thing. I could tell you about infinity, if you want. Infinity is all encompassing. You can’t break it or make it smaller whatever you do to it. Infinity is everything. It’s bigger than all of us.

A bit like love then?

Well no. I mean love is just a neurological or psychological response to a specific human mate, based on the evolutionary imperative to reproduce and…

[Ben keeps talking. I wonder if he’d notice if I sidled away.]

Follow Alison on Twitter and add her on Facebook.

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What makes a hero?

A good hero is essential to a good romance. Popular wisdom would have it that writers need to be a little bit in love with their hero, and that, ideally, your reader should feel the same. So what do you do if the classic romantic heroes leave you cold, if you feel Mr Darcy would benefit from a slap round the chops with a wet fish, and suspect, therefore, that your taste in heroes might be a little bit off?

 

Well, I started by making my romantic hero a mathematician, because I know that absolutely every girl likes a side order of quadratic equations alongside their tall dark and handsome. But actually, being clever scores definite hero points in my world. It’s why generations of girls, myself included, grew up obsessing over Doctor Who. The idea of a hero who can save the world, not with muscles or guns, but by thinking faster than the bad guy definitely does it for me. Smart is sexy. Come on – I can’t be the only one who wouldn’t kick Professor Brian Cox out of bed for talking about special relativity, can I?

 

Fun is sexy too. I’ll take an average looking boy who’s prepared to be the first one on the dancefloor, over an Adonis who needs to get home early to top up his beauty sleep, every single time. Better a face that’s lived a little, burnt a bit of midnight oil here and there, made a few ill-advised choices, than a perfectly unlined, and utterly uninteresting, mannequin.

 

And last, but far from least, kind is sexy. Spare me from dark brooding heroes with cruelness in their gaze. Cruelty, brooding, arrogance, and moodiness aren’t sexy. They’re tiresome in a hormonal fifteen year old, and kind of beyond the pail in a fully grown man. Ok, so maybe he’s had a bad experience and he’s scared of getting hurt. Well, here’s a newsflash, aren’t we all? And that might excuse a little light moodiness, even a hint of very occasional brooding, but cruelty is a no-no. Kind men treat the people around them, including their heroines, with respect, and it it’s good enough for Aretha, it’s good enough for me too.

 

So lets hear it for the smart, fun, kind guys, be they geeky and shy, weather worn and muscle bound or anywhere in between. You show me a smart, fun, kind man, and, regardless of age or physical beauty, I’ll show you a hero.

Follow Alison on Twitter and visit her blog. Alison’s debut with Choc Lit Lite, Much Ado About Sweet Nothing is coming soon …

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