Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 8

choclit-logoxmassmaller1♫ “On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love brought to me – a chocolate recipe!”

We’ve all eaten our fill of turkey with all the trimmings (especially sprouts in the case of Jane and Christina) and we’re in the mood for something different – sweet rather than savoury. And what could be better than chocolate? As we’re all choco-holics, we’ve put together some of our favourite recipes involving chocolate (and a few heroes courtesy of Sue) to share and we hope you’ll find something here to tempt you – bon appétit!

Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen

SueSue’s Rocky Road – Ask Viggo Mortensen to crush a packet of dark chocolate Hob Nobs and tip them into a large bowl for you. Daniel Craig can add a packet of small marshmallows. Give Jenson Button a large slab of Cadbury’s Bourneville chocolate to melt slowly over a pan of boiling water. You can stir in a couple of tablespoons of golden syrup. Let Jenson put his hand over yours to stir, because that chocolate can be heavy stuff. Take one Colin Farrell and ask him to stir the chocolate/syrup into the Hob Nobs and marshmallows. As Robert Downey Jnr isn’t busy, he can grease a baking tray. In fact, he can probably afford to buy you one of those silicon ones that doesn’t take much washing up. If Jared Leto will pour the mixture into the tray and smooth it, let him lick the spoon. To cool your consequent hot flush, put the tray into the fridge for a few hours until set. Mark the slab into squares with a sharp knife. Then eat it. Don’t share it with anyone. It’s yours. (Oh. You can share it with me, if you want.)

Kate – This is what we actually have for dessert on Christmas Day (after all of us confessed that we’re not really that excited about Christmas pudding). You whip together single and double cream, and layer that alternately with a mixture of drinking chocolate powder, instant coffee granules, Demerara sugar, and breadcrumbs. It sounds bizarre but it’s delicious!

HenrietteEasy Chocolate and Orange Cake(Ingredients) 4.5oz/125g self-raising flour, 1 tab golden syrup, half an oz/12g cocoa, 1 teasp baking powder, 4oz/100g soft margarine, 3oz/75g caster sugar, 2 eggs, 2oz/50g grated or chopped plain chocolate or chocolate chips, grated rind and juice of 1 orange (about 4 tab).  (Method) Line and grease a 7inch/18cm round cake tin.  Set the oven at 160°C or Gas Mark 3 (less for fan-assisted ovens), making sure the oven shelf is above centre.  Mix all the ingredients together (baking powder last) and put the mixture in the cake tin, levelling the top.  Bake for 45 minutes until springy to the touch and shrunken away from the sides.  Leave to cool, then serve plain or iced with chocolate glacé icing and either orange/brown Smarties, white chocolate buttons or miniature Easter eggs (for Easter only).  Add

Jenson Button

Jenson Button

Chocolate Glacé Icing – Dissolve 2 teasp cocoa with 2 teasp boiling water, then mix in enough icing sugar (about 4 tab) to make a thick but spreadable icing.  Imagine being in the kitchen with Heston Blumenthal when making this yummy cake!

ChristinaChocolate Mousse (Warning – seriously calorific!!) Melt 150grams of dark cooking chocolate in a bain Marie. Mix in 3 egg yolks, one at a time and whisk briefly with an electric whisk. Whip 300ml of double cream in a separate bowl until fairly hard, then add the chocolate mixture. Portion out into pretty glasses and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Margaret – A Christmas tradition when my children were little (that is, not more interested in lurking in their malodorous pits or on street corners learning to smoke than being indoors with Mum and Dad) was making Millionaire’s Shortbread – Cheat’s Version. This is how you do it. Open a packet of shortbread biscuits. Melt some fudge in a saucepan. Melt some milk (or, if you want a more sophisticated product, plain) chocolate in a basin over hot water. Spread melted fudge over shortbread. Allow it to set again – a minute or two. Spread melted chocolate over fudge. Fail to wait until completely set before eating greedily. As for a millionaire to help eat it and get chocolate and fudge all over his chin – what about George Clooney, he must be worth a few dollars?

George Clooney

George Clooney

Chris – An easy chocolate recipe that’s fruity (so extra good for you!) and made for sharing – Chocolate Fondue with Fruit(Ingredients) 8 ounces good quality dark chocolate, 3 fl.oz whipping cream, 3 tablespoons Penderyn Welsh whisky (in honour of my latest hero, Gethin – but you can adapt this to suit your hero!), selection of fruit cut into bite-sized pieces. (Method) Melt the chocolate and whipping cream in the microwave on medium for 2 to 3 minutes or in a saucepan on the stove at medium low heat. Blend until smooth. Stir in the whisky. If you don’t want to use liqueur, just use an extra 3 tablespoons of the cream. Transfer the mixture to a fondue pot and keep warm. Serve with fruit platter.

LindaChocolate BrowniesI know there are as many chocolate brownie recipes as there are Americans but this one always works for me. (Ingredients) 400 g of very dark chocolate, 325 g of unsalted butter, 6 whole eggs plus one yolk, 300 g golden caster sugar, 50 g cocoa powder (Green & Black’s is best!), 50 g plain flour. (Method) Heat oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas4. Butter and base-line a 20 cm swuare baking tin with baking parchment. Gently melt dark chocolate and butter together in a bowl over hot water until smoothe then cool a little. Whisk eggs, yolks and caster sugar together until pale. Fold the melted chocolate into the the eggs. Sieve cocoa powder with the flour and then fold everything together unti it is evenly mixed. Pour into prepared tin and bake for 20 minutes until slightly risen at the edges. Allow to cook completely in the tin. Cut into 12 and indulge yourself – you should have a thin, crisp crust and a rich, gooey centre. I think pricking it while warm and drizzling a table-spoon of brandy over – for adults only – works well!

JaneTake one large bar of any kind of chocolate. Add a large dash of peace and quiet, a big bed (electric blanket optional), and a gorgeous, smouldering hot man. Send the man to make you a cup of tea. Eat the chocolate.

LizA super Devil’s Food Cake recipe, luscious, it literally melts in your mouth and leaves you wanting more. Yummy. Links up with description of loads of heroes – the reference to Devil in the title of the cake connects to the idea of a bad boy, and what woman doesn’t like a bad boy – the idea, at least; not too sure about the reality! (Ingredients) 7oz (200g) self-raising flour, 10oz (275g) castor sugar, 1 and a quarter level teasps. bicarbonate of soda, 1 level teasp. salt, 2oz (50g) cocoa powder, 4oz (125g) butter, 8fl.oz. (225ml) milk, 2 large eggs, 1 teasp. vanilla essence, grated plain chocolate (optional – for decoration). (Method) Preheat oven 180c (non fan oven), 160c (fan oven), 350F, Gas 4. Grease and line 2 x 20cm (8”) sandwich tins, the paper allowing for a depth of 2cm (5”), or square tins, depending upon the shape you want. (I grease the paper as well as the tin.) Beat the butter till fluffy. Add the flour, sugar, bicarb, salt and cocoa powder. Add milk. Beat for 2 mins, or longer, if you wish. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Beat well again. Divide mixture Divide into the lined tins. Bake 40 mins, until firm. If you think the top is browning too quickly, put a piece of greaseproof paper on the top before the end of the cooking time. Allow the cakes to cool in the tin for 10 mins, then turn on to a rack to finish cooling. When cool, sandwich with icing and cover with icing. Chocolate Icing – 6oz sieved icing sugar, 2oz cocoa butter, 3oz butter, 4 tablesps. Water, 4oz castor sugar. Sift icing sugar and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl. Measure butter, water and castor sugar into a saucepan. Stir over low heat until butter has melted and sugar dissolved, then bring just to the boil. Pour into the centre of sifted icing sugar and cocoa powder. Mix to a smooth icing. Allow to cool until it is thick enough to spread. Sandwich and cover cake with icing. Leave to get firm.

Now as we don’t think we’ll have to try very hard to persuade you to make one of these chocolate delights, what could be better than a copy of Juliet Archer’s lovely novel Persuade Me to go with whatever you’ve made? Simply leave a comment telling us about your favourite chocolate dish or recipe, and you could be our winner! (Competition ends midnight on New Year’s Eve)

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 7

clxmaswreath Today we would just like to wish you all

a very HAPPY CHRISTMAS!!!

clxmastree1

We hope you have a wonderful day and if, by any chance, Santa should happen to bring you a Kindle or other e-reader, perhaps you’d like to download one of our novels to read over the holidays? Just click on the titles below for the Kindle links or go to http://www.choc-lit.co.uk/ for links to all other types of e-books.

The Importance of Being Emma – Juliet Archer

Starting Over – Sue Moorcroft

Turning the Tide – Christine Stovell

All That Mullarkey – Sue Moorcroftclxmasreddecs1

Trade Winds – Christina Courtenay

The Silver Locket – Margaret James

Please Don’t Stop the Music – Jane Lovering

Want to Know aclxmashenristree Secret? – Sue Moorcroft

The Untied Kingdom – Kate Johnson

The Golden Chain – Margaret James

The Scarlet Kimono – Christina Courtenay

Love & Freedom – Sue Moorcroft

Persuade Me – Juliet Archer

Highland Storms – Christina Courtenay

Star Struck – Jane Lovering

Please come back tomorrow when we’ll be talking about chocolate (another subject close to our hearts 🙂 and giving away one more Choc Lit novel!


Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 6

choclit-logoxmassmallerAt last we come to our favourite topic – the top ten heroes we’d like to find in our Christmas stockings tomorrow! Well, actually, we’ve added a couple of extra ones as (a) there are eleven of us and (b) we couldn’t possibly ask Juliet to choose between the two Mr Darcy’s. We’re pretty sure you won’t object to some bonus ones, are we right?

Without further ado, here they are – enjoy!

Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey

Henriette – My stocking hero for this Christmas has to be the American actor Matthew McConaughey, star of films such as The Wedding Planner, Sahara and A Time to Kill.  I just lurve his heavy Texas drawl and his habit of taking his shirt off.  The guy has a chest to die for.

Darcy No.1 - Colin Firth

Darcy No.1 - Colin Firth

Juliet – Definitely a Darcy, in any shape or form! Either of these will do nicely.

Darcy No.2 - Matthew Macfadyen

Darcy No.2 - Matthew Macfadyen

Richard Armitage

Richard Armitage

Kate – I’ve asked for Richard Armitage for Christmas for three years now and still don’t have him. It’s very disappointing.

James McAvoy

James McAvoy

Margaret – I’d like James McAvoy. I’ll let you have him back soon, Mrs McAvoy, I promise. Of course I’m not keeping my fingers firmly crossed behind my back, what a suspicious mind you have!

Anthony Calf

Anthony Calf

Evonne –  This was a very difficult choice, but in the end I opted for Anthony Calf – one of my many favourite actors. He has a lovely smile.

Colin Farrel

Colin Farrel

SueColin Farrell!

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford

ChrisI’d like Harrison Ford, circa 1985, for that amazing scene in the film Witness when he and the heroine Kelly McGillis dance to Sam Cooke’s ‘Wonderful World’. There’s nothing explicit, the hero and heroine barely touch, but the looks they exchange just sizzle with longing. (YouTube link here)

Gregory Peck

Gregory Peck

Linda – Gregory Peck, to add a bit of style and class to my life – he was sublime in Roman Holiday!

David Mitchell

David Mitchell

JaneDavid Mitchell – gorgeous eyes!

Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling

Liz – I give in – I know that someone else will have bagged the gorgeous Richard Armitage, so I shall go for a second choice – Ryan Gosling, after seeing The Ides of March.  You could not take your eyes off him – not even when George Clooney was around, and that’s quite something!

Jared Leto

Jared Leto

Christina – Jared Leto. Sorry to be so predictable, but I really don’t think anyone else even comes close!

So there you have it, our favourite heroes for this year – hope you agreed with our choices? If not, who would you pick? Send us your suggestions and the one we agree with the most will win a copy of Sue Moorcroft’s Love & Freedom, which features a drop-dead gorgeous guy who’d probably beat all of the above if only he was real! (competition ends at midnight on New Year’s Eve).


Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 5

choclit-logoxmassmallerChristmas wouldn’t feel so special without all the extra sparkle we add to our homes each year – the lights, the tinsel and the candles. And whether we’re decorating the tree or the rest of our house for the festive season (or like some people, the entire outside of the house plus the garden!), we all have special decorations we treasure for one reason or another. Here is a selection from us:-

Juliet – When my daughter was born, my mother-in-law gave us a big bauble where we could add her name and the year. (No. 21 on the list of things you can have personalised for Baby!) There was also space to add a second name and year, which we did for our son three Christmases later.

Henriette's Peace Dove

Henriette's Peace Dove

Henriette – My favourite tree decoration is made by capiz shell by craftsmen in the Philippines, and it’s either a Peace Dove or perhaps a symbol of the Holy spirit, I’m not sure.  I love the simple beauty of it and the reminder of what Christmas is truly about.

KateI bought a glittery butterfly for the top of the tree last year. In the Christmas market they had a display tree totally covered with them, in all different colours: it looked like something Tim Burton would have. It was fabulous!

Margaret's big bauble

Margaret's big bauble

Margaret – Christmas isn’t Christmas without a tree covered in as much tinsel and other tasteless trash as it can possibly hold. I’m not a fan of tastefully colour-themed trees – all white, or all silver, or a minimalist few twigs hung with one or two exquisite baubles. I like there to be as much clashing colour as possible, and as for the baubles – as big and brash and bright as possible, please!

EvonneThis year, I coveted some beautiful decorations shaped as birds in the gift shop at the Birmingham Art Gallery.

Sue – A Christmas tree made out of dough and painted green, by one of my children. It’s probably past its “eat by” date, by now …

Jane's bauble (unchewed version)

Jane's bauble (unchewed version)

JaneNow here is where I have a problem. We have mice. (Bear with me here). Every year I swear I’ll find somewhere to keep the decorations where they don’t get chewed, and every year they go back into the same cupboard, and every year (afterwards, obviously) I triumphantly bring out decorations which now resemble doilies or, in the case of the salt-dough ones the children made in playgroup, are just a piece of string with a sad lump of something unidentifiable on the end. So every other year we buy completely new decorations. It doesn’t pay to get too attached to anything in this house. Some of those mice are really big … But if I had any, they’d look like this. Only, due to mice, they’d probably all say ‘Mer Histma’.

Liz – I can’t yet photograph these decorations as we’ve eaten the ones I made in previous years, and I’ve not yet made this year’s decorations.  I don’t make them too early as I fear that I might eat them well before Christmas arrives if I do.  They are a Polish decoration – chocolates which look like snowflakes all over the tree.  I was shown by a Polish friend how to make them.

You take a wrapped chocolate, wrap it in a piece of white tissue, which you’ve cut to size and so that it has a small fringe at each end, then you wrap the tissue around the chocolate, with the fringe at each end.  Tie a piece of cotton in the crease at each end so that the fringe sticks out a little.  It looks like a small white rounded Christmas cracker.  Put all over the tree, they are very effective.

Christina's mini fans

Christina's mini fans

Christina – my favourite tree decorations are five miniature Japanese fans which my mother bought for me when we lived in Tokyo. I love them because they’re so pretty and because they remind me of some of the best times of my life as well as many happy Christmases.

Chris – Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of it, but my youngest niece, who’s not known for her craft skills, presented my mum with a lovely figure she’d made for her tree. It was a sad little person with one leg twice as long as the other, gigantic feet and a missing eye. I’m afraid we all took one look at it and collapsed with laughter.

Linda's Fairy

Linda's Fairy

Linda – The fairy on my tree. The little doll was bought – naked – at a Christmas fair, one in a box of about 50 one of the parents had brought into my children’s junior school to raise funds. I say, one but really there are two, and they alternate on top of the tree. My children – then aged eight and five – helped me dress the dolls and would be outraged if I chose something else to top the tree! I have to say they are a testament to the glue I used to stick the tinsel and rick-rack on! And here is model one, on top of this year’s tree.

Which is your favourite Christmas decoration and why? The best comment will win you a copy of Star Struck, Jane Lovering’s latest novel, which is almost pretty enough to hang on your tree! (competition ends at midnight on Christmas Day)

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 4

choclit-logoxmassmallerChristmas wouldn’t be the same without those special dishes we all look forward to, the ones you can’t have any other time of the year (which is probably just as well for the sake of our waistlines!). Today we thought we’d tell you about some of our favourites, and there’s definitely a lot of variety here!

KateMy favourite Christmas food is, well no surprise, it’s a drink! Mulled wine, or even better, mulled cider. I make it with sweet cider and spiced vodka (add a couple of cinnamon sticks, a handful of cloves, a crushed nutmeg and some orange peel to a bottle of vodka and let it steep for a week or two. (This is also really good in hot Vimto if you’ve got a cold!).

clxmassprouts1JaneI love sprouts (which might be why I’m single.) So I have to say, my favourite recipe would be lightly cooked sprouts, tossed in butter with bacon and chestnuts. And maybe, if one is feeling racy, just a dash of whisky cream. True decadence . Windy decadence …

Sue – Chocolate. Sorry not to have something more original to contribute, here! But I am a chocoholic. Unfortunately, I have to severely limit my intake as it’s one of my migraine triggers. I probably don’t limit it enough as I have a migraine just about every Christmas …

Chris – My favourite food, no matter what the time of year, is always really good fresh bread. We’re currently using a sourdough recipe which produces a lovely, crusty versatile loaf. Getting the sourdough starter (levain) is a bit of a faff, but the results are well worth it. Take a look at levain recipes online if you’re interested. I’d tell you here, but it would take more space than I’ve got!

clxmas14sausagerollsLinda – This has to be sausage rolls! I eat them (well, just a couple!) on Christmas Eve with a glass of sherry as my husband and I open our presents before we go to bed – too much to do the next day to be doing it then! Now, sausage rolls are full of the bad fats which is why I don’t make them very often. But I always use unsalted butter when I do, and self-raising flour. I make rough-puff pastry with a ratio of 8 oz of flour to 6oz grated butter, mixed in with the blade of a rounded knife, not the fingers. Then roll it out like flaky pastry once you’ve added cold water to mix. Let it rest for ten minutes or so while you get on with the sausage meat bit. I always use skinned organic sausages (a pound or so) from my local farm shop to which I add a couple of grated shallots, the same volume of grated dessert apple, and half a dozen fresh sage leaves chopped finely. I divide the pastry into three, ditto the sausage meat mixture and make three very long sausage rolls which I then cut on the diagonal into about 40 baby ones. Prick with a fork then glaze with an egg and milk wash. Twenty minutes in the oven on Gas 5 does it for me….but keep an eye on them. Naughty, but oh so nice.

Margaret – I love oven-baked Conference pears with a sweet cranberry and red wine sauce.  They go particularly well with chocolate brownies.  The red of the cranberries and the green of the pears always looks very Christmassy to me.

EvonneXmas pudding – preferably homemade and with traditional white sauce, not cream or brandy butter.

clxmasmeatballsChristina – Swedish meatballs. I know they can technically be eaten any time of year, but I only make them at Christmas because it’s very time-consuming. I have a special recipe, given to me by a cook my grandmother used to employ for special dinner parties, and she always said to me “people go mad when it comes to meatballs, you know, they can never get enough” – I know what she meant!

Liz – Yorkshire Tea Bread.  It’s very easy to make, and when it’s made, sliced and spread with butter, it’s absolutely delicious.  It keeps very well too.  (If anyone would like the recipe for this, Liz is happy to supply it – e-mail or DM her direct).

Henriette – I love the traditional Danish Christmas dinner, consisting of roast pork with crackling, served with caramelised potatoes, red cabbage and redcurrant jelly.  This is then followed by a cold rice pudding flavoured with vanilla, served with warm cherry sauce.  Just thinking about it is making my mouth water …

JulietHere’s a recipe for Chestnut and Sausagemeat Stuffing, which gives turkey or chicken a great lift. Melt a knob of butter in a pan. Add 1 large onion (peeled and finely chopped) and fry until golden. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add 2 large cooking apples (peeled, cored and chopped), 200g pork sausagemeat, 100g fresh white breadcrumbs, and a 400g can of unsweetened chestnut purée. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir well to combine thoroughly. Put in the turkey/chicken cavity just before roasting, or cook in a separate covered dish on a moderate oven for 1 hour (timings very approximate, especially after the pre-dinner drinks!).

What’s your favourite food at Christmas? Please share! And don’t forget to come back tomorrow, when we’ll be chatting about some very special tree decorations (and there’s another book to be won too!)

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 3

choclit-logoxmassmallerSo today we thought we’d talk about presents. We all know they shouldn’t be the most important thing about Christmas, but who doesn’t dream of receiving that one, really perfect gift? And sometimes we actually get it! Here are some of our favourite ever gifts:-

Sue – A candy pink spacehopper. I was about eight-years-old and living in Malta and it seemed as if every other kid I knew had a spacehopper. I was desperate for one. My parents said they didn’t think I could have one that year as we were packing up to return to the UK and a spacehopper would take up too much room in the boxes. So I was delirious when I found it waiting for me by the tree – and I worked out that spacehoppers deflate so it wouldn’t take up much room at all …

JulietI’d have to go back many years to my childhood, when I still believed in Santa! The most amazing gift I remember was a black and white kitten, and I named him Micky. Funnily enough, the two cats who’ve adopted us since have also been black and white – coincidence, or what?

EvonneNot exactly favourite – but a bit of a mystery. A large toy mouse, dressed as Father Xmas. He was a secret Santa gift at work and I still don’t know who gave him to me, or why. Out of his uniform for the rest of the year, he sits in my study and listens as I try out dialogue on him.

clxmas1KateI’m going to cheat on the favourite present question, because while I’ve had some lovely Christmas presents, my most favourite present, the one that sticks out, in my whole life, is the one I got for my birthday five years ago. I’d lost three cats and a dog within twelve months, and my parents offered me a kitten…well, I got two!

Margaret – My favourite gift ever was my Rosemary doll. I was four or five, and had been drooling over this flaxen-haired, almost life-size baby doll in the window of the local toyshop every time we went to town. I never thought she would be mine. But, on Christmas morning, there she was, in a pretty box, complete with a layette of knitted baby clothes my mother had made specially. There was a note to say my name is Rosemary. When I picked her up, she knew me at once – she said Mama! Magic…

Chris – I have a roof over my head and go to sleep each night safe, warm, well-fed and with the one I love beside me. What else could I ask for?

LindaIt has to be the bottle of Avon perfume, ‘Here’s my Heart’, that came from my aunt Joan in Canada. Every year of my childhood, she sent Christmas presents for my brother and me. Instead of wrapping the parcel in the usual brown paper my aunt used to wrap it with thick cotton – a sort of sail cloth, I think – stitched up with waxed cotton. My mother used to unpick the waxed cotton stitch by stitch and wind it around an old cotton reel for re-use – green before her time, my mother! But oh, the agony of waiting to actually open the parcel! Well, the year I was eleven my present was that perfume – I don’t think Avon had hit the British Isles at that time – certainly it hadn’t hit my Cornish unit council flat! It came in a saddle-shaped bottle – sheer sophistication, I thought. And it was a defining moment. I was going to become a woman who used perfume. I’d like to say I kept the bottle but I didn’t. But to this day I never leave the house without a dab of perfume. Thank you, Auntie!

fu-tsi2smallChristina – A dog – the oldest of my three was a Christmas present. Saying he was my present is cheating really as he was supposed to be for my children, but we all know parents buy pets for themselves as we’re the ones who end up looking after them. And he and I bonded completely when I held him in my arms on the way home from the place we bought him, aged just nine weeks. He was and still is adorable!

JaneI am a nightmare to buy for (being of expensive and exclusive tastes), but the best present ever was a leather headcollar for my pony, when I was about fourteen. It was received from my extremely un-horsy parents, but was the right size and very glamorous (unlike my pony, who was too small and hideous). And I loved it! It showed that they considered my horse-obsession to be something worth indulging – and it stopped me having to lead him around with a bit of rope around his neck. Perhaps they were just tired of me being mistaken for a gipsy.

Liz – My sister, Diana.  She was born three days before Christmas, the year after I was born.  On that day, I was given a best friend for life.

Henriette – Years ago a school friend was crocheting a set of twelve cotton table napkins, in a simple square pattern and with a scalloped edge.  Impressed, I commented on them, and she said they were for her grandmother.  Imagine my surprise when I opened my present from her …  To this day I still have those napkins, and I truly treasure them.

What is your favourite gift ever and why? The best comment wins a copy of Margaret James’s The Golden Chain, a perfect gift if ever there was!

And please come back tomorrow when we discuss that all important Christmas topic – food!

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 1

choclit-logoxmassmallerChristmas is almost here, so for the next twelve days we thought we’d have our own special Christmas celebrations here in the Choc Lit Authors’ Corner. We’ll be discussing everything to do with the festive season (our Top Ten heroes for this year being our favourite topic of course) so please come back every day until New Year’s Eve to see what we’re up to. And don’t miss the special giveaways – every second day you’ll have the chance to win something to add to your own stocking, starting today with Chris Stovell’s lovely novel Turning the Tide!

To get you all into the Christmas spirit, here’s what our authors had to say when asked “When does Christmas really start for you?”

JaneI’d like to say that it starts in June, when I buy my first Christmas presents, but the reality doesn’t really kick in until the shops close on Christmas Eve and I’m forcibly shunted out onto the pavement surrounded by plastic carriers, but minus the three bags of sprouts I went in for!

Kate – December. Well, I try to make it December. And then I panic I’ve run out of time. I didn’t buy my first presents until the last week of November, and I’ll probably be halfway through December when I put the tree up. Actually… That’s when it starts for me. When I put the tree up!

Margaret – When Mum and I make the puddings – in November, on Stir Up Sunday, which was 20 November this year (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stir-up_Sunday )

clxmasadvent1Christina – For me, it always starts on the first day of Advent (fourth Sunday before Christmas) because that’s when I get my Advent candles out and light the first one. This is a Swedish tradition and a lovely way to begin the countdown to Christmas I think!

EvonneIdeally when I’m boarding the train, boat or plane that will take me somewhere sunny until it is all over. But as that is not going to happen, the concert of nine lessons and carols on the radio on Xmas Eve.

Chris – When I start playing Christmas music. ‘For Unto Us a Child is Born’, from Handel’s Messiah and ‘Gloria in Excelsis’ from Vivaldi’s Gloria are synonymous with Christmas morning. Then I like to wheel out the cheesy old crooners like Dean Martin singing, ‘Let it Snow, Let it Snow’!

Linda complete with Christmas tree earrings and this year's cache of prezzies

Linda complete with Christmas tree earrings and this year's cache of prezzies

LindaThe gun to the side of my head to seriously get into Christmas starts when my dear friend, Cee, rings up suggesting possible dates for us to meet for a pre-Christmas lunch and exchange of prezzies. This call usually comes in early December and means I have to think about presents, go out and buy them, wrap them. And that’s when the magic of Christmas starts for me – the thinking of that one person for whom I’m buying or wrapping the present at the time I’m doing it. Without Cee and that early call I’d be rushing around like a headless chicken on Christmas Eve. Cee lives in North Devon and I live in the south of the county so we meet half way for lunch. I always wear my Christmas tree earrings and Cee wears enough flashing brooches to illuminate Wookey Hole – huge fun and it gets us in the spirit, especially if the weather is grotty on our journeys to the meet-up.

Liz – It starts the moment that I finish writing my Christmas cards – that’s a real bore, and the second it’s done – which this year was on 15th December – I treat myself to some chocolate and let Christmas begin.

JulietGetting the Christmas tree. We go to a local farm which is run by friends, so it’s one of the least stressful Christmas shopping trips! Normally it’s the weekend before Christmas, but this year we were early – so Christmas will probably seem longer than usual!

Henriette – In my home we celebrate Christmas on the 24th, and for me it truly starts in the afternoon on that day when we bring in the tree and decorate it, accompanied by my favourite piece of Christmas music, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. That sets the festive mood before dinner.

Well, it seems Christmas has well and truly started now for all of us – how about you? When do you think it all begins? Do you agree with any of us? The best comment will win you a copy of Turning the Tide by Chris Stovell (competition ends midnight on Christmas Day).

Please come back tomorrow and we’ll tell you about our favourite Christmas traditions (some more “traditional” than others)!


Evonne Wareham on not going to the Chelsea Flower Show

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Confession time – I’m rather partial to posh flower shows. When I lived in London I used to go to Chelsea regularly, but I don’t live there any more.  So now I go to the RHS Show in Cardiff, which is on a much smaller scale, but is still a lot of fun, and an excuse to eat way too much ice-cream in the sunshine. (At least it was this year.)I usually come home with at least one plant more than I intended to buy, yet another infallible snail deterrent that probably won’t work and a bad case of garden envy. “Wrap that one up, please, I’ll take it. And will you throw in the hunky gardener to go with it?” (I wish!) 

Which is all very well, but what does this have to do with books? Well, it does have a direct link to Never Coming Home, because my heroine, Kaz, is a landscape gardener, who has won several gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show. When I was looking for a career for Kaz, I knew it had to be unusual – she’s not the type to sit in an office all day. Designing gardens was right in another way too. Kaz is the illegitimate daughter of a very famous painter, who has never rated her very highly because he thinks she doesn’t share his talent. He’s too egotistical to see that creating a garden is just as artistic, but in a different way.  It was a little while before I understood that what Kaz did for a living was significant, because it 100_0125illustrated the rift between father and daughter, which has affected Kaz’s life in a number of ways.

That got me thinking about the job that a hero or heroine does. As readers, does it matter what either of them do for a living?  Does some-one’s job reflect who they are?

I think it does. I know that one of the things that annoys me when I’m reading is when a character is given a particular career, but you never get any sign of them doing it. An actress who is never caught reading a copy of The Stage, or going to endless auditions, or a lawyer who doesn’t get to plough through heavy legal tomes, or appear in court.  It’s a small thing, but I find it does niggle.

As a writer, I think choosing a job for a character is part of the fun/challenge of creating them. It’s even better when they tell you themselves what they want to be. Magic.