Christina’s Novella – Out Now!

marry-in-hastesmallI’m very pleased to be able to tell you that my first novella, Marry in Haste, is now available on Kindle! It’s a Regency romance and here is the blurb:-

‘I need to marry, and I need to marry at once!’

When James, Viscount Demarr confides in an acquaintance at a ball one evening, he has no idea that the potential solution to his problems stands so close at hand …

Amelia Ravenscroft is the granddaughter of an earl and is desperate to escape her aunt’s home where she has endured a life of drudgery, whilst fighting off the increasingly bold advances of her lecherous cousin.  She boldly proposes a marriage of convenience.

And Amelia soon proves herself a perfect fit for the role of Lady Demarr­­­. But James has doubts and his blossoming feelings are blighted by suspicions regarding Amelia’s past.

Will they find, all too painfully, that to marry in haste is to repent at leisure?

Amazon link here

Christina’s ‘time-out’

at1Can you tell I’m still having sport withdrawal symptoms after the Olympics? Even the various terms used seem to have seeped into my brain! I guess it didn’t help that I had a houseguest who loves basketball in particular, so I saw quite a few games of that which is probably why this word (or should that be words? Dictionary claims it has a hyphen) stuck with me especially. But what really struck me was the whole ‘time-out’ concept. I want to apply it to real life sometimes!

It seems to me that writers don’t often have proper time off because even when we’re away on holiday we usually take our laptop/netbook/iPhone or whatever with us. It’s hard to resist the lure of “just checking” FB, Twitter or e-mails and although I always intend it to be a quick look, often it turns into a lengthy session. We’re also always thinking about our writing even when we’re not actually sitting at the keyboard, and disengaging the brain from our stories can be almost impossible!

It’s been a very busy summer for me with no real holiday time anyway so there have been momentss when I’ve felt like shouting ‘stop, time-out’, like the basketball coach did. To just have a day off without thinking about anything other than relaxing and doing whatever I wish without any pressure – perfect! Today I’ve decided to do just that because I finally have a really good excuse – it’s my birthday.

I’m old enough not to need a fuss on my special day any more and although I love receiving presents (who doesn’t?), that’s not the point for me. The main thing is that I get to spend the day exactly how I want to. I can sit and read, ignore the chores, eat nothing but cake, apple pie and chocolate, and not feel guilty. Absolute bliss! I think we all deserve one day a year like that, don’t you? One day when we get to decide everything and the rest of the family have to fall in with our plans and fancies, whatever they may be.

I hope you’ve all had or will have at least one day like that this year – I’m enjoying mine 🙂

Christina’s New Cover

gilded-fan_frontToday I’m very pleased to be able to share with you the cover for my next Choc Lit novel, The Gilded Fan – I’m really thrilled with this one and love the Oriental feel of it, which was exactly what I wanted!

Seeing a new cover for the first time is very exciting and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of that part of the publishing process. I love watching it take shape, from the original ideas, through several draft concepts, to the final polished result.

The Gilded Fan is the sequel to The Scarlet Kimono, and I think it’s especially important to get the cover right when a novel belongs together with another book (or books). They need to be different, but still similar, and in this case, I think the cover artist has succeeded in doing that superbly. Hope you agree!

Here is the blurb:-

How do you start a new life, leaving behind all you love?

It’s 1641, and when Midori Kumashiro, the orphaned daughter of a warlord, is told she has to leave Japan or die, she has no choice but to flee to England. Midori is trained in the arts of war, but is that enough to help her survive a journey, with a lecherous crew and an attractive captain she doesn’t trust?

Having come to Nagasaki to trade, the last thing Captain Nico Noordholt wants is a female passenger, especially a beautiful one. How can he protect her from his crew when he can’t keep his own eyes off her?

During their journey, Nico and Midori form a tentative bond, but they both have secrets that can change everything. When they arrive in England, a civil war is brewing, and only by standing together can they hope to survive…

thescarletkimono_frontsmallerThe Gilded Fan – coming February 2013

Today is The Day for Christina!

stos_coversmallSo it’s finally here – official publication day for The Silent Touch of Shadows! It’s a day I’ve waited a very long time for and I can’t tell you how pleased I am that it’s arrived at last.

There are some stories that are really worth fighting for, because you believe in them whole-heartedly even when no one else does. You’re sure the basic premise is sound and you have the feeling that if you revise it just one more time, it will be snapped up. And even when that doesn’t happen, you still go on believing that one day it will. For me, The Silent Touch of Shadows was one of those.

This novel started as one of those ideas that simply wouldn’t leave me alone. The story came into my mind almost fully formed (which is very rare as you all know!) and I just wrote it down. Since it’s based on a real ghost, I suppose you could argue that I had supernatural help, but I don’t know about that … 🙂

I thought the manuscript was perfect as it was after the first draft (I was very new to writing then!), but it’s gone through a lot of rewrites since (I’ve lost count actually) and hopefully has improved with each one. Along the way, I never lost my faith in it and although I put it to one side many times while writing something else, I always came back to it. And now it’s out there at last, I guess it just goes to show – perseverance does pay off!

Thank you to everyone who has supported me in the run-up to publication, it’s much appreciated!

Wednesday’s W is for Winning!

stos_coversmallThis week’s Wednesday alliteration is the word WINNING, as in fabulous prizes, which is what you will have a chance to do for the next three weeks!  Leading up to the paperback publication of my new novel, The Silent Touch of Shadows, we’ve decided to have some fun with weekly competitions rather than a launch party.  So we hope you’ll join in from the comfort of your home or office and even bring your own wine.  Not that we’re encouraging drinking on the job of course!

On publication day itself, Saturday 7th July, we’ll be giving away the top prize – a Kindle, pre-loaded with some of mine and the other Choc Lit authors’ award-winning novels! – to one lucky person who has entered the contest during the previous weeks and the final day.  To make it fair, we’ll put all the names in a hat and draw one at random.  It could be you!

Now for the first two weeks, we would like you to guess the answer to a question and we’ll be posting one clue a day on Twitter, Facebook and my blog to help you out.  During this time, there will also be random book giveaways to those folks that RT on Twitter, Share on Facebook and generally spread the word – so there’s a chance to win something every day.  What could be better?

So can you guess what this week’s prize is? Well, that’s the first question, and here’s the first clue – it’s something you can wear on your wrist (and it’s vaguely related to the book of course). As I said, we’ll be giving you four more clues – one each day, on Twitter, Facebook and my blog. Once you know the answer, please leave a comment on my blog (here). The correct one, plus the week’s winner, will be revealed there in a week’s time, together with next week’s competition.

Please keep checking Twitter (@PiaCCourtenay), Facebook and my blog for clues and best of luck everyone!

(And if you don’t want to wait, The Silent Touch of Shadows is available now on Kindle)

Christina x

Bookworms Unite?

bookworm“Bookworms will rule the world – as soon as we finish one more chapter …”

The above message and the lovely drawing that accompanied it was one of those that made the rounds on Facebook a week or so ago, and I’d like to thank whoever it was that put it up there in the first place, because it really resonated with me!

I’ve been a bookworm ever since I first learned to read and I can’t count the number of times I’ve said to someone, “Hold on, I’m just going to finish this chapter” (and then gone on to read the next one as well, and maybe the one after that …). Whenever I’m into a story, that is all that matters – the outside world and everyone around me fade into the background and I couldn’t care less about anything other than continuing with my reading. For a long time, I wasn’t sure if that was normal behaviour, but thankfully I now know it is – for a bookworm.

But what about ruling the world? Or doing lots of other things for that matter? There were so many things I should have been doing, like more homework, study harder for exams, decide on a career and so on. I wanted to be an archaeologist, or a diplomat, or a professor of Old Norse or … well, something interesting! Instead, I immersed myself in the fictional worlds of my favourite authors and the fact that I never really had much of a career didn’t seem to matter. Still doesn’t. Only now I have sort of stumbled on one by mistake, as a novelist, but at the same time I CAN continue onto the next chapter – my own!  How brilliant is that??!

And if I want to read other people’s books along the way, well, that’s research, isn’t it?

So maybe this won’t lead me to ruling the world, but to be honest, I was probably never quite cut out for that anyway.  And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a chapter to read … er, I mean write …

Christina – On Worrying

If only I was this laid back ... !!

If only I was this laid back ... !!

I’m one of the world’s worriers. I can spend days worrying about little things, stuff other people would consider insignificant, but which in my mind become blown up out of all proportion. Like, did I phrase that last e-mail I sent properly or will the recipient be offended when they don’t get my intended joking tone? Should I have tweeted about certain things or not? Do I really have a cold, or is it the beginnings of pneumonia … Have I forgotten to turn off the cooker? … The list is endless.

Being a writer doesn’t help at all, because it means I have imagination. Way too much of it! Especially when it comes to worrying about family members. When my oldest daughter went on a trip to China last year, I spent weeks beforehand imagining all the horrible things that could happen to her. (In the process I convinced myself that one of them would, of course!) In the end, something did spoil the trip for her a bit, but it wasn’t any of the things I’d imagined, so I could have saved myself all that worrying for nothing. And she came home safely.

Being a worrier is a curse. It’s probably going to give me an ulcer and seriously grey hair. But I reckon it can also be a blessing for a writer, because it helps you to imagine all the horrible things that can happen to your hero and heroine. And how they feel when they’re concerned about the safety of the person they love. Best of all though, when you’re writing a story you can also imagine how to save the characters from these hardships and bring them safely to a happy ever after ending. Thank goodness for that!

“… Rabbit …”

easterjulietMore Easter memories from the Choc Lit Authors:-

Juliet – RABBIT LOVE – There have been a number of rabbits in my life, most of them fictional. After having three real ones, courtesy of my children (guess who had to do most of the looking after?), the rabbit I love most is definitely to be found between the covers of a book. I don’t mean Beatrix Potter’s creations, although I do have a soft spot for naughty Peter, Benjamin Bunny, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail.

Instead, my favourite rabbit books are the Little Grey Rabbit series by Alison Uttley, about a compelling ménage à trois of Little Grey Rabbit, Hare and Squirrel (red variety, of course). LGR was the mother figure with obsessive compulsive disorder (always cleaning and tidying), Hare was the stereotypical bad boy (he stole an Easter egg!) and I can’t remember much about Squirrel. Who’s the love of your rabbit life?

easterlizLiz – Thinking about Easter, the first thing that came to my mind was this – my husband and I decided to spend Easter in Italy one year, and we went to Cortona for the Easter weekend.  In the evening, we strolled into the central piazza and found that people were taking their seats for an opera to be performed on a stage that had been constructed at one end of the piazza.  We bought a ticket and we, too, went and sat in one of the rows of wooden chairs that faced the stage. The opera turned out to be the wonderful Cavalleria Rusticana, by Mascagni, a one act opera set in a 19th century Sicilian village on Easter morning.  I was thrilled as it contains one of my all-time favourite choral pieces, The Easter Hymn.  This is one of the most strirring and most moving pieces of music, and if you don’t know it, you have a treat ahead of you if you decide to listen to it.

Just imagine that Easter evening – sitting beneath a slowly darkening sky that was filling with stars, in a piazza lit solely by the lights from the stage, listening to the voices of the Sicilian villagers, along with the seduced Santuzzi, rise to a crescendo in one of the most beautiful melodies ever written. That was an Easter to remember.

easterhenriHenri – As children my sister and I were often given a painted cardboard egg for Easter. Inside were small sugar-coated or foil-wrapped chocolate eggs, and always a little fluffy chick too. After a while we had quite a collection of chicks, some of them very elaborate with their own nests, and we’d spend Easter playing with the chicks (which all had names), making houses for them out of empty cereal boxes and generally allowing our imagination free rein. My favourite scenario was Chickerella who went to the party in her borrowed feathers, despite the Evil Step-Hen forbidding it. Now, what does that remind me of…?

Jane – We’ve owned many rabbits over the years, most made their escape in a precipitous manner, treating our garden like a prison camp out of which they couldn’t dig their way fast enough.   My son, now nearly eighteen, is repeatedly teased by his sisters about his ‘duelling scar’, where he was actually attacked by a rabbit when he was about four.  So, as you can see, I have an uneasy relationship with the Easter Bunny.  But not so the Easter Hare, the origin for the Easter Bunny stories; despite their being rare elsewhere in the country, here in Yorkshire you can’t go for a run without tripping over half a dozen of the berserk, spring-loaded things.  I have a terrific fondness for them, mad eyes, bonkers boxing matches and all.  However, when it comes to rabbits … only the Rampant kind will ever enter my house again …

A modern little witch

A modern little witch

Christina – In Sweden they have some very strange traditions for Easter, probably of pagan origin, but who knows? My favourite one was dressing up as a witch on what’s called “Skärtorsdagen” (Thursday before Easter) and going out to wish people Happy Easter in the hope they’d give us money or sweets as a reward (almost like Trick-or-Treating for Hallowe’en). My mum would let me borrow one of her skirts so it reached all the way to the ground (anchored by a belt as I was much smaller obviously), then tie a scarf round my head the way old ladies did. I was given a broom to hold, because Swedish witches apparently fly off on their brooms that night to congregate somewhere, and then my dad painted my face. Using watercolours (there were no face paints back then) he gave me horrible wrinkles and transformed me into an ugly crone. The paintbrush tickled as he worked and when the paint dried, my face felt funny, but I loved looking in the mirror afterwards. I was a true work of art! (And getting money or sweeties was of course a bonus).

Once again, HAPPY EASTER from all of us!

(And please come back tomorrow for the unveiling of a new Choc Lit novel …)

Christina’s Wednesday Hottie

Photo from photo gallery

Photo from photo gallery

I thought it was time for some rock’n’roll in the Wednesday Hottie department, so today I give you Synyster Gates (aka Brian Haner Jr) from the band Avenged Sevenfold. This guy isn’t just an award-winning lead guitarist, he’s also got cheekbones to die for and those eyes …!

With his own clothing brand, I reckon he could have made a fortune modelling for that, but I’m glad he also contributes to the groups many hits because I like their music too.

So who else likes “tall, dark and handsome”? (I know that tattoos isn’t to everyone’s taste, but for a rock god I think they are necessary and add a certain je ne sais quoi)

RoNAs – Result!

Monday was the Big Day – the annual RNA Awards now called the RoNAs (Romantic Novel Awards) – and as you may have heard already once or twice (or maybe more?), Choc Lit had a triumphant afternoon!

Kate, Christina and Jane

Kate, Christina and Jane

Jane Lovering won the Romantic Comedy category with Please Don’t Stop the Music, Christina Courtenay won the Historical Romantic novel category with Highland Storms and Kate Johnson only just missed out in the Contemporary novel category with her wonderful The Untied Kingdom.  As she lost to Katie Fforde, the RNA’s lovely President, we didn’t mind too much, and two out of three is a pretty good ratio any day!  And as Peter James, the chairman of the Crimewriters’ Association said before he handed out the prizes, all the shortlistees were winners – we totally agree with that.

Rather than boring you with endless trumpet-blowing though, we thought we’d give you Jane’s, Christina’s and Kate’s take on some other aspects of the awards ceremony.  Here is what they had to say and please let us know if you agree with them:-

awjane-with-awardsmallThere were some fabulous outfits on display, which was your favourite?

Jane – Well I was lusting ever so slightly over Katie Fforde’s full-length coat/dress thing.  I’d have looked like a bag of elderly onions in it, but she looked gorgeous.

Kate – There were so many lovely outfits, it’s hard to choose! Christina’s own lovely mauve jacket and boots – ooh, those gorgeous boots! – probably take the prize for me. Marina Fiorato gets Best Hair, Katie Fforde wins Best Cape, and of course our host, Jane Wenham Jones, for her platinum frock, gets Best Dress.

Christina – I was very taken with Jean Fullerton’s emerald green suit as I love bright colours, but I also coveted Liz Fenwick’s fabulous purple jacket.

awchristina-with-awardsmallAnd then there are the shoes – not counting your own, which ones did you wish you’d been wearing?

Jane – Um.  Is it wrong of me to say that I wasn’t looking at people’s feet?  Although, Christina, I did notice your rather lovely lilac boots…

Kate – I’m not sucking up here, but when I invited my mum her first thought was which shoes to wear. I covet her gold sandals terribly; it’s probably just as well we don’t take the same size!

Christina – My feet wished they’d been wearing Jane’s boots, but Bex Leith’s black shoes were wonderful so I’d probably have thrown caution to the wind and picked those.

The ‘bubbly’ was flowing, do you prefer it pink or normal?

Jane – As long as it keeps flowing I am really not bothered. Give it fizz and keep it coming!

Kate – Well, if there’s bubbly going I’m not picky about the colour. Although I will say that the first time I tasted Bollinger was the first time I “got” champagne!

Christina – Neither – hate the stuff!  Unless you put peach juice or Kir in to make it ultra sweet.

Which was your favourite canape?

Jane – I didn’t eat any.  I was too terrified and then too shocked.  And ever so slightly too busy drinking…

Kate – I’m not large on the canapés, being that it’s often hard to tell whats in them (I don’t eat meat or shellfish). But the salmon ones were nice. And matched the champagne.

Christina – Salmon, definitely, although I was in such a state of shock I can’t actually tell you what the others were!

awardauthorssmallMost amusing comment of the afternoon (either in a speech or normal conversation)?

Jane – Hazel Osmond and I had a discussion about weeing in handbags in extremis. It amused us and probably disgusted onlookers, particularly when I did the actions.  Not the real actions, I hasten to add.  Although it was a long way to the toilets and I feel that no-one would have blamed me.  Except Hazel, obviously.

Kate – Should I drop Jane in it for her split crotch/handbag comments? [Looks like she’d done it herself, Kate!] No, okay. I heard someone say that the Ladies bathroom was bigger than the Blue Banana. (It was. It really was.)

Christina – The whole of Peter James’s speech was great, but I can’t recall the specifics – fortunately Emma Lee Potter has mentioned it on her blog.

Finally, we heard Kate’s hero Harker mentioned quite a few times during the event (in fact, if there had been a ‘best hero’ award, we reckon he would have won it hands down!) – who was your favourite hero out of the ones in the shortlisted books?  (If you can’t choose, we’ll allow you two)

Jane –Nope, sorry, I refuse to acknowledge that any hero exists except for Harker.  Apart from maybe Gus, from Katie Fforde’s Summer of Love.  He’s cute too.  And my Ben… in fact, all of them are pretty phwoooaaar-worthy, now I come to think of it.

Kate – Aw, yes, Harker is grumpy he didn’t win anything. He’s not used to losing: where he comes from you win, or you die. I do recall Jan Jones’ Hugo from The Kydd Inheritance being rather heroic when it came to highwaymen, and of course, the lovely Brice Kinross in all his intelligent, brave, kind and handsome glory. Now … which book was he from, Christina?

Christina – Apart from Harker?  Well, Ben in Please Don’t Stop the Music is definitely my kind of guy – former rock star, slightly moody, handsome in a grungy kind of way.  And I loved Riccardo in Marina Fiorato’s Daughter of Siena – wow, gorgeous Italian with an amazing sense of honour, and also very kind and considerate!

So there you have it, our brief take on the RoNAs.  Now comes a nail-biting wait to see who of the five category winners will take home the overall “Romantic Novel of the Year” title – if you’d like to help vote for any of them, please go to the Awards Website.