Sizzling Hot Chick-Lit, – A Page Like No Other.

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The Sizzling Hot Chick-Lit Facebook page is something I started on a whim to raise the profiles of a number of terrific chick-lit-romance authors. I thought if we worked together, we could be more effective in our marketing efforts. Funny how, when you start something with one goal in mind, it often turns into something entirely different.

This page was started about two weeks ago and we already have  237 ‘likes’ for our page. Initially we wanted to simply post links to our books and share them between us. This would create a kind of domino effect and give our own individual pages and profiles increased visibility. As we all write in the chick-lit romance genre- or, as I prefer, romantic comedies; lighthearted romance with a lot of humour, glamour and sensuality, it is a very good combination of books in this genre. The page would be a virtual, colourful buffet of all kind of delicious dishes.

At the start, that’s exactly what it was; links to our books, announcements about new releases and pictures of our covers. But then we had more ideas. We would make the page a fun page for all kinds of things connected to our books. Se we started to make photo albums of our sizzling hot heroes, sizzling hot book covers and now we also have sizzling hot fashion. We’re going to add a lot more: movie clips, music and all kind of fun, feminine things, all sizzling hot, frivolous and not the slightest bit serious.

Just like our books, the page will provide an escape from the dreariness of every day life with romance, glamour, humour and a touch of sensuality. A boutique page full of gorgeous merchandise.

The name ‘Sizzling Hot Chick-Lit might to some, suggest that it’s about erotica. But it isn’t. Just a little bit of naughtiness here and there, perhaps…

And the authors of Sizling Hot Chick-Lit? Well, there is moi, in the company of a host of best selling, popular authors, such as:

Sibel Hodge  -romantic comedy and comedy mystery books.
Faith Mortimer- crime suspense, romance and action
Shani Struthers- chick-lit romance
Rachel Elizabeth Cole- fun romantic fiction
Rosalind James -romantic fiction set in New Zealand
Missy Marciassa- sexy, sassy romance
Kathryn O’Halloran - spicy chick-lit
Pamela Kelley - cozy mysteries and romance set in Montana
Emily Harvale -  romantic comedy/light-hearted humorous romance.

We have all joined together to make a page that aim to entertain and take you to exotic locations full of fashion fun and glamour.

Join us, ‘like’ us, have a glass of champagne, a nibble and a look at what we do. I promise you wont be bored! Click on the picture and it will take you there…

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Surviving in the Amazon Jungle – How authors and reviewers can co-exist in a hostile environment (and run to court if they don’t)

susannefromsweden:

This post made me laugh. Some heavy irony but so true. A must read for any Indie author.

Originally posted on Pete Morin:

Well, the Rice Petition has lost a lot of its steam as author after author continues to sign it with no apparent understanding of exactly what it proposes (based upon their own comments), but in the meantime, there has been a lot of discussion, and agreement, that Amazon’s review guidelines could use a few tweaks and a lot more enforcement.

There has also been a fair amount of criticism that demanding the true identities of ten million customers of Amazon products was too high a price to pay for a few dozen militant female reviewers to be “taught a lesson” by Queen Anne.

In that light, I began to consider the kind of actions the author and reviewer could take to both clarify their expectations in the book review arena and provide meaningful remedies against wrongdoers. There is no reason to send the cockroaches into the woodpile when a few…

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Sex and the heroine

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I have had a long discussion with fellow writers about the heroine in my current work in progress: Hot Pursuit, #3 in my Hot series, after  #1 Hot Property and #2 Hot Gossip .

This was my question:

Lately, my heroines have become more sassy and independent, not denying their need for sex, even if it’s not about everlasting love and marriage.

The traditional heroine in romantic fiction is gentle and sweet and often comes across as a victim until the hero rescues her. She doesn’t initiate sex and is always a little coy when a man makes a move and the resulting lovemaking is often something she is pulled into against her moral principles. Some of my earlier heroines have been a little like this.

But when I started writing the Hot series, I thought I’d portray a more modern woman, who enjoys sex and is not afraid to show it. She can also have a fling with someone she fancies with no strings, until she finally finds ‘the one’.

In my current WIP, the heroine has a purely physical relationship with a man who’s drop-dead gorgeous, younger than her but not her match intellectually. Of course, later on she will meet someone with whom she finds that true love but her path is littered with temptations and complications. The heroine has a a sexual relationship with a man who doesn’t want more than that. So by mutual agreement, they see each other, have fun and their dates always end up in bed.

But  at the same time, she has a deep friendship with another man, who doesn’t ask for sex but leans on her for comfort and companionship. This man is troubled and damaged. She shares things with him she could never share with her lover. That relationship is platonic but very deep and loving in another way.

So, the question is: will this new kind of heroine, much closer to what many young women are like today, be sympathetic to the reader? Will it be acceptable that the heroine has needs and isn’t afraid to show it and that she jumps into bed just for fun from time to time? She’s a Sex and the City kind of girl. More Marilyn Monroe than Audrey Hepburn. More stilettos than sensible shoes…

This allows me to write some hot sex scenes… ;)

My question is: will this woman be sympathetic and more realistic? Or will readers hate her and label her as a slut?

Of course,  there are books in the romance genre from sweet romance (with no sex)  to erotic romance where they may be having sex even before the first date and everywhere in between. There will be readers who will see her as more realistic and sympathetic, others who won’t.  Tastes differ. Opinions vary. It’s still an interesting question to me.

I’ve had conflicting reactions to this query.  I’d love to hear more on this subject.

Romance in the snow for Valentine’s day- my gift to you

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As it’s difficult to ignore that today is St Valentine’s day, I decided to celebrate by giving away my winter romance, Fresh Powder , to go with the roses and chocolates. This is a book to cuddle up with in front of the fire on a wet, cold winter’s day. The book is set in the French Alps and it’s about a group of people who get snowed into a chalet. Sounds a little chilly? But it’s not. The romance alone will warm your heart and the setting of a luxury chalet in one of the most beautiful parts of the world will take you away from your troubles and concerns for a while.

Description:

Lucy and Claire were once best friends but after a row, they haven’t spoken in ten years. Imagine their shock when they are thrown together, not only in the same ski resort in the French Alps but in the same chalet. Then they are snowed in, together with two attractive men and a couple with relationship issues, which puts both their friendship and their survival skills to the test.

I wrote this book inspired by a recent stay in just such a chalet. I drew on my own experiences and heaped on the romance, the luxury and a lot of quirky characters. In this story you will meet Claire, the bohemian teacher with a penchant for young men, Lucy, the hard-nosed career girl who pines for sexy New York lawyer Patrick, and last but not least, chic socialite Penny who rekindles her lost love for businessman Al. When they get snowed in together, they face challenges and truths about themselves and their feelings. It’s set in Courchevel, one of the top ski resorts in the world.

It’s a fun read with lots of thrills and spills. Snow, skiing, mountains, food, champagne, glamour- and: AHHHHH, romance!

It’s free on Smashwords until Sunday. Get the code EN74U  and click on the heart to get the book.

heartcodeHappy Valentine’s day!

A story to capture your heart

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Sometimes you come across a book that stays with you for a long time after you’ve turned the last page. A book that surprises you and takes you on a journey that is exciting, romantic and spiritual. Vinegarone by US author Douglas  Carlyle is such a book.

The description:

Vinegarone is nothing more than rugged land with few inhabitants and little to hope for. Or is it? 

Jeep Allhands says that time bends in Vinegarone, and that life as we know it emanates from a large tree – the Lone Madrone. A descendant of the original Native Americans who called this part of Texas home, Jeep maintains a sanctuary for a handful of homeless men who bask in the humility of this foreboding land as they mend their souls. 

Life with his clan and Kimmisue, the daughter of the only woman he ever loved, gets turned on its end when Jeep befriends a confused, homeless woman, Candi LaRue. Jeep does what he does best. He heals Candi’s physical and emotional wounds. Afterwards, he integrates her into the odd mix of personalities at home. Just as all seems to be going right, Candi recalls what brought her to Texas in the first place. She was hunting a criminal, and she can’t give up the chase. 

There’s one catch, nobody ever leaves Vinegarone…

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I had read and enjoyed Douglas Carlyle’s first published book, In Search of the Fuller Brush Man, a compelling family drama, and expected the next one to be very much the same. But as I started to read the first pages, I realised that this new story was completely different both in the theme and setting. The narrative voice was much more raw and the characters damaged and vulnerable. This was no cosy family story but a spiritual journey that would move me to write this review:

Writer and teacher John Gardner once talked about what he called ‘the fictive dream’, which means that good fiction does its job by creating a dream state for the reader, and as long as the writer manages to maintain that dream state, the reader won’t ‘wake up’ from it and will continue to ‘live’ in the fictional world the writer has created. In my mind, Douglas Carlyle succeeded in doing just that with this book.

I haven’t given five stars to this book because it’s perfect or the writing flawless but because I was so ‘lost’ in the story, I ignored the imperfections in parts of the plot and some of the (very few) flaws in the writing. The characters became, for the duration of my reading, my friends and my family and I cared enormously for Jeep, Candi and Kimmisue.

I should also mention that there are very few male writers who can write convincingly from a woman’s point of view. Douglas Carlyle did a good job here, as the women’s voices rang true to me.

The setting was very vivid and I really felt the hot sun, the dry air and the dust and saw the wide open spaces and the beautiful scenery. (This would make a wonderful movie). The paranormal theme was not noticeable at first and the reader was introduced to the spirit world of the Native Americans little by little, which worked a lot better than if it had been thrown in my face at once. I have never been that taken with the supernatural in books, even if I believe that there are things beyond this world that we don’t understand. I don’t usually pick up a book with this theme. But this time I’m glad I did.

Meet a very interesting author  

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Hi Doug, thank you for agreeing to appear on my blog and answer a few questions. I know you  now live on your ranch in Texas and divide your time between the ranch and your work as a paramedic. You seem to have had a very exciting life so far with travels to some exotic places.

What made you embark on a  writing career?

I was fortunate to have had an exciting career in the electronics business. I worked for Philips for my final four years. During that time I traveled extensively between the U.S., Europe, and Asia. I met incredible people everywhere and experienced many marvelous cultures and countries. When I retired from that industry, I sorely missed it. I began writing about some of my travels, slowly adding some characters, a bit of a storyline, and before long, I had a novel in progress. I shared some of my writing with friends and they pushed me for more. I joined the Writers’ League of Texas and Houston Writer’s Guild, began attending seminars and conferences, met with agents and publishers, and soon I had one novel complete and the next one underway. The rest is history.

What inspired you to write Vinegarone?

I led a dual career most of my adult life. I was an engineer and business executive by day, and a paramedic by night. Quite honestly, I would change out of a suit and tie at 5pm, and into a uniform with a badge, then back to a suit and tie the next morning. All that was missing was the telephone booth.
I call my life on the streets my “medical ministry.” Nothing comes close to the euphoria I feel when I help a person in need of my services. I can truthfully say there are people alive today because of what I was able to do for them. Others are much better off. Sadly for others, I was able to do too little, too late. But without a doubt, caring for another person is something I am compelled to do.
One night about seven years ago, I was called to treat a very ill and mentally deranged woman. When I took her to the hospital from which she had just been discharged, I was met at the door and asked to take her away – something quite illegal, an immoral. I took her into the hospital instead. Over the next few hours, I continued to work with the hospital staff to find a suitable resolution to this poor woman’s situation. We were successful. In a sense, she became Candi LaRue in my novel.

The paranormal/spirtual element is very strong in this book. Does this correspond to your own beliefs?

Absolutely. I am a trained scientist by degree, but I also believe in the unbelievable. Though I am Christian by faith, I am not evangelical. I honor and respect the beliefs of others be they Hindi, Buddhist, Islamic, Jewish, and shamanistic. There are many aspects shared by all faiths. To that end, I feel all humans are “one” in some manner. Vinegarone touches on this subject. Vinegarone is where the middle of nowhere touches the center of the universe.

The sex scenes in your later work are quite raw and descriptive. Has this caused any raised eyebrows among your local readers?

I had to have the written permission of my parents to read Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger in 1968 due to its language. I was thirteen at the time. That same year I had to have their permission to go to the theater with my English class to see the movie Romeo and Juliet because of a nude scene. Then came Woodstock, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Deepthroat, and social mores were upended.
Today, I find social mores to be largely made of elastic. They take on one form in public, and another in private. Some of my scenes have in fact created some buzz in my socially conservative community. Yet, I receive private accolades from many of these same people, and they ask me when my next novel will be available.
I draw the line before I get to graphic sex. I get heavy into innuendo and I lead my readers to understand what is taking place without telling them every detail. I also have a wife and three daughters who read my novels. I am not perverse. There is nothing wrong in my mind if a couple has sex. Some of my sex scenes have been called gratuitous. Well, here’s a news flash. There is a lot of gratuitous sex in our world today. The vast majority of my readers live a bit vicariously through my writing. Cheers to them.
The characters in your novels come from different walks of life. How did you handle the way they speak?
Getting back to Catcher in the Rye, that is one of the greatest examples of the use of colloquial language. Each of my novels has a different tongue. In Search of the Fuller Brush Man has a more “educated” and “professional” sound with some tough words thrown in. Vinegarone takes place on the streets of a large urban setting, and in the frontier regions of Texas. The dialog depicts what I hear day in and day out in these settings. The language can be unpleasant. Sometimes reality is just that. Boundaries has a few distinct characteristics of its own. First, the European and Asian characters never use contractions simply because I have never in all of my travels heard people from these regions speak in contractions. Secondly, I have one chapter that uses German extensively. Why? Because it is the language in which I would expect two Germans to speak. The reader can figure out what is going on through context.

With your busy schedule, how do you find the time to write?

Writing is the easy part. Inspiration is the tough nut to crack. Once I experience that occasional, random catalyst, words flow. I am a fast typist. My goal is one novel per year until I decide to no longer write. It takes me about six months to write a novel then another six to turn it into something I want to share with the world.

Does your work as a paramedic give you a lot of inspiration? Do the people you meet end up in your stories?

My work as a paramedic evokes all of my emotions. That is the creative energy I need to become inspired. Some of the worst experiences of my life became words in my novels. So have some of the best experiences. The characters in my novels are based upon people I have met in all of my life’s journeys – some more loosely than others. Some of the characteristics of the protagonist are based upon characteristics I think are, or I wish were, intrinsic to me. Given that the central character in my next novel is female, that is posing to be a worthy challenge.

I know that you recently published your third novel,Boundaries (a psychological thriller), which had me on the edge of my seat. What are you working on now?

I am venturing into a crime series. The main character is a sassy, sexy, smart woman named Cat Kavanagh. I’m having far too much fun writing it. The first book in the series is called Book Review. It is about a serial killer who may be the author of his own murder mystery novels. The second book of the series is on the drawing board, but I expect to give it the title, Eigengrau. It will deal more with nightmares and a secret contained within a home.

That sounds amazing!  I can’t wait to read it. Please hurry up and publish it!

Doug’s website, where you can find out more about the man, his life and his work. http://www.dbcarlyle.com/

Doug’s Amazon author page can be found here.

Coastal Romance- why the sea is in my blood.

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The talented author Annie Seaton, who also  runs the  Coastal Romance Facebook page has organised a give away between now and Christmas Eve. You have a chance to win 26 great stories and a $100 Amazon gift voucher.

To be in with a chance to win, click on the picture, which will bring you to Annie’s site and all the giveaway details.

 

A Seaside Childhood

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I grew up in Stockholm, on the shores of the Baltic. This  city, built on islands, has often been called the Venice of the north. It does have the many waterways and canals in common with Venice,  and the feeling of a city floating on water with views and glimpses of the sea nearly every place you go. It’s a beautiful city to visit in the summertime but it has a special magic in the winter, when the mellow sunshine bathe the old facades in a rosy glow.

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 Venice has its own beauty but unlike its Swedish counterpart,  it doesn’t have the myriad of islands that make up the Stockholm archipelago. This is where I spent my childhood summers.

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The beautiful, unique Stockholm archipelago

This archipelago, with its 25000 islands, from large ones to tiny little rocks, has a truly unique beauty and atmosphere. There are few hotels and restaurants, no discos or fashionable beaches. All you see, here and there, are red summerhouses with their wooden jetties, sailing boats and bigger motor launches and islands, inlets, waterways stretching to the horizon and Finland at the other end, so far away it takes days to get there by sailing boat. It’s a well-kept secret that Sweden has wonderful weather in the summer, with temperatures that can reach 30C. The water is warm and often gets up to 22C.

Life on such an island in the summertime is simple and full of little pleasures; swimming, sailing, fishing, picking blueberries. I have vivid memories of my childhood holidays, when we didn’t wear shoes all summer. We used to wash ourselves by the jetty late at night with special salt water soap in the soft, silky water of the Baltic that is more brackish than salty and doesn’t sting your eyes. My sister and I had a little sailing dinghy that we used to sail to the outer islands, where we would camp, eating fish we caught and then cooked over a fire. (In those days, children were allowed to light fires and use knives to gut fish) The old summerhouse, a rambling villa built in 1919, is still owned by the family today, still enjoyed by us and the next generations. It’s a wonderful place for cousins, some of whom live in far away lands, to meet up in the summer.

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My childhood memories of my wonderful summers in Sweden inspired me to write Swedish for Beginners, a novel set in Stockholm and-yes-its archipelago. Here is what the heroine, Maud, experienced, the first time she took a trip out to the islands:

Cover finalFrom the moment the old steam boat chugged out of the bay and down the canal to the open sea, Maud was bowled over by the beauty of the Stockholm archipelago. They passed island after island, some small and quite barren, others covered by forest and some with a mixture of woods and meadows. The houses, mostly by the shores, were without exception made of wood, painted bright colours and adorned with verandas decorated with intricate fretwork. The smooth granite rocks were a mixture of pink and grey and sloped gently into the blue sea. There were sailing boats everywhere and the people on the boats waved as they passed.

And then later, as she comes to the family summerhouse and her first morning:

She’d woken up early this morning and lay listening to the birdsong and the waves lapping against the rocks until the sun made the room too hot for comfort. She got up, tiptoed downstairs and out through the heavy wooden front door. She padded down the path to the cove, pulled off her nightgown and slipped into the water, gasping at first, but then slowly getting used to the cold. The water felt soft and soapy against her skin, and she floated there, looking up at the blue sky and the few tiny clouds drifting across it. A seagull glided past, tilting its head, staring at her curiously as if it thought she might be some strange sea-monster.

When the cold started to numb her limbs, Maud got out of the water and sat on the warm rock, polished to silky smoothness during the ice age, and let the sun dry her. She was surprised at how carefree and safe she felt, sitting all alone, naked on a rock, but there was a feeling of total solitude here, as if the whole world was asleep and the bay and the sea and the rocks were, at this moment, hers and hers alone.

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Our Christmas Blog Hop Calendar

28 November Annie Seaton
29 November Jenny Schwartz
30 November E.E.Carter
1 December Nicole Flockton
2 December Dilys Carnie

3 December Elsa Winckler
4 December Maureen O Betitia
5 December Sherry Gloat
6 December Chris Stovell
7 December J’AimeeBrooker
8 December Susanne Bellamy
9 December Barbara Cool Lee
10 December Tea Cooper
11 December Juliet Madison
12 December Linda Mitchelmore
13 December Julie McCullogh
14 December Eva Scott
15 December Maureen Fisher
16 December Rachael Johns
17 December Susanne O’Leary
18 December Jean Joachim
19 December Demelza Carlton
20 December Lily Malone
21 December Marisa Cleveland
22 DecemberMonique McDonnell
23 December Lauren McKellar
24 December Annie Seaton  Prize Draw

Literary cupcakes

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I was talking to my husband about my books over dinner tonight, after my recent publication of Hot Gossip. I said; “they’re romantic comedies–or  aka ‘chick-lit’”. He thought for a moment, then said: “they’re like literary cupcakes. Pretty, delicious, beautifully baked with a very moreish taste.”

Then he pulled back and apologised, thinking I’d be offended and that it denigrated my work in some way. He does love my books, he said; “the romance, the humor, the one liners , the beautiful settings, the quirky characters, you do it so well.” (great back pedaling).

I know he does and he is not alone, judging by sales. But I wasn’t offended. I thought the description was so spot-on: chick-lit=literary cupcakes, brilliant! That’s how I enjoy chick-lit books by other authors. I love the taste, the buzz of the sweetness, the many flavors and the pretty icing, especially if it has a cherry on the top. Books written with gusto and humour, that often make you  laugh out loud and bring a little romance into your life… Addictive, seductive and fun. What’s wrong with that? Nothing at all.

I’m proud of my cupcakes and I will keep ‘baking’ more for a long time.

And… they’re calorie free..

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A new (ad)venture- or just a comeback.

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I have just set up an author page on Facebook. I have resisted this move for a long time but now I feel I’m ready. The reason for this is that I recently went back to writing romantic fiction after a long time. I took a little break while I wrote two historical novels, A Woman’s Place and Sonja’s Place and my two virtual detective/romantic suspense novels, Virtual Strangers and Virtual Suspects.

The historical novels are based on the lives of my great-aunt and her daughter, whose life stories were so moving, I just had to write about them. The detective stories were such fun and such a great adventure, co-writing with the amazing Ola Saltin, a well-known Swedish script writer. Those experiences helped me grow as a writer and I believe my writing is now so much better and deeper because I had to really work hard to write in other genres.

I discussed my writing recently with a friend. She told me I my writing should be more ‘commercial’, more ‘popular’ in order to sell. She said the ‘zeitgiest’ out there is what I have to plug into.

But no, I can’t. Because that’s not why I write. I feel I have to be true to myself and not glance sideways or upwards and then write to suit the market, whatever that is. I have to stay true to those who read my books and like them. If that is a very small circle, so be it. I write from my heart and my experiences. My observations of people and my surroundings. Little things fire off ideas. Landscapes, light, nature, sounds, smells, fun dialogue, great one-liners and quirky characters. All of that make up the fabric of my stories.

I’m happy if anyone likes to read what I write.

(and if you ‘like’ my author page, you will find out what all of this is about)

Hot Gossip-sneak preview

Hot Gossip Book Cover MEDIUMMy new novel, Hot Gossip, will be published at the beginning of December. While not exactly a sequel to my previous publication, Hot Property, it’s set in the same location and some of the characters have been given bit parts in the new story.

In Hot Gossip, we meet  Janine, a mysterious Frenchwoman who comes to this remote part of the Irish Atlantic coast, thinking it’s the perfect place to hide from the painful memories of her past. She changes her name and takes on a whole new identity. But, even though this isolated rural community is far removed from the fleshpots of France, it doesn’t take long before the locals become curious…

That’s all I’m going to reveal. You will find the first chapter below. I hope it will give you a taste for more.

Chapter 1

Janine sat, in the Lotus position, on the deck behind the old house. It was a bright day with a promise of spring but the shadows were already creeping up the lawn toward the house. At dusk the clear skies would herald a sharp frost by morning. Janine wondered if the camellias, sprung into bloom in the past few days, would survive. She still couldn’t get used to this early spring so far north. But the Gulf Stream clipping this coast made it possible for exotic plants to survive.

Her eyes closed, Janine repeated her mantra, trying to empty her mind. This usually brought her great peace and serenity. But not today. She sensed the presence of something or someone that didn’t belong in the quiet garden. She opened her eyes. There was a movement behind the trees at the end of the lawn, a shadow coming closer. Then she saw her. A girl, long-legged like a fawn, picking her way over the boulders in the river at the bottom of the garden. She sang softly to herself, oblivious of the world around her.

The girl came steadily closer. She still hadn’t seen Janine and seemed absorbed in her own thoughts and whatever she could see down there on the riverbed. Fish perhaps, flicking in and out among the rocks on their way upriver to spawn.

The silence was suddenly broken by the squawking of a pheasant in the shrubs nearby. The sound, like a broken toy trumpet, startled both the girl and the woman. They looked up and listened. Their eyes met.

The girl froze, her hand holding onto an overhanging branch for support. Wide-eyed, she gazed at Janine as if gauging her mood. Friend or foe, she seemed to ask.

Janine smiled. “Hello,” she said as gently as she could. “Who are you? A fairy come to grant me a wish? Or a ghost from another time? I’ve been told the tower is haunted, but I didn’t believe it. Now, here you are, looking like a girl in an old painting.”

The girl shook her hair back. “I’m not a ghost. My feet are cold. Ghosts don’t get cold feet.” Her voice, barely audible across the expanse of lawn was sweet and melodious and her accent decidedly British. She peered at Janine. “But who are you? I didn’t know anyone lived in Megan’s house. Why are you sitting on the deck and not in a chair?”

Janine relaxed her pose and pulled up her knees, wrapping her arms around them. “I was doing yoga. That’s called the Lotus position.”

The girl scrambled up the bank and walked toward the deck. As she came closer, Janine saw her more clearly. She was tall and lanky, with long chestnut hair and enormous grey eyes in a heart-shaped face. There was a solemn air about her, unusual for such a young girl. “Why do you do it? The yoga thing, I mean.”

“It’s good for me. Good for my mind and my body.”

The girl settled on the edge of the deck. “I don’t like doing things that are good for me. They’re usually boring.”

“Your jeans are wet,” Janine remarked. “And your feet look nearly blue. The stream must be very cold this time of year.”

The girl looked at her feet. “I can’t feel them much. I was following Denis. He walked down the stream. Probably chasing a fox.” She turned to Janine. “What’s your name?”

“Janine.”

“That’s a weird name. Are you foreign? Is that why you talk funny? Why are you dressed in black? Did someone die? Are you a widow?” She drew breath.

“That’s a lot of questions.” Janine smiled at the girl. “I’ll try to answer them. Yes, I’m foreign. And I like black at the moment, not because someone died but because it goes with my mood.” Janine held out her hand. “Maybe we should introduce ourselves? My name is Janine Marchand and I’m from Paris. What’s yours?”

The girl giggled and put her thin, cold hand in Janine’s. “My name is Cornelia O’Shea. Very pleased to meet you, my dear.”

“That’s a very nice name.”

“Thank you. It’s kind of long, though. My friends call me Nelia.”

“That’s sweet too. Is Denis one of those friends?”

Nelia giggled deliciously. “No. He’s a dog. My uncle’s dog. You look good in black. Just like that Morticia woman in the movie, with your black hair. Why do you live here, in the west of Ireland if you’re from Paris? Isn’t that like one of the coolest cities in the world? Why would you come to this boring place if you can live there?”

Janine hesitated. She had a strange feeling she could tell this girl anything and it would stay between the two of them. She was older than she had appeared at first, about eleven or twelve, on the cusp of womanhood. A magic age when you’re aware of everything but not of the dangers and evils of adult life. “I’m in hiding,” she said without thinking.

Nelia looked at her with more interest. “Really? Like a spy? Or a murderer? Did you kill someone and then ran away? Are the police after you? Or Inspector Cluseau of the Surete?”

Janine laughed. “No. I’m sorry to disappoint you. It’s a long story. It’s more about people gossiping and saying nasty things about me.”

“Oh. I know what you mean. Happened to me too. People saying nasty things about me behind my back.” Nelia sighed and looked glumly at her feet. “But here, nobody knows me so they just laugh at my accent.”

“I noticed your accent. Not a local one.”

“No. I’m from England. Birmingham. But my dad’s from here. And my uncle. He has the farm up the road.”

“You’re staying with your uncle?”

Nelia sighed. “Yes, and his new wife.”

On an impulse, Janine touched Nelia’s silky hair. “You sound sad. Homesick?”

Nelia’s shoulders slumped. “I miss my dad. I’ve only been here a week but I hate it already. Especially my new aunt. And she hates me.”

“I’m sure she doesn’t.”

Nelia pulled away from Janine’s hand. “Yes she does.” She jumped to her feet. “Nobody really wants me. She is trying to have a baby. When she does, she’ll hate me even more.”

Janine looked at the young girl and noticed the sorrow deep in her eyes. A sorrow of not feeling loved, which she knew so well. “Things are often not the way they appear,” she said in an attempt to soothe. “And other people’s feelings are hard to decipher. Your aunt is newly married and probably trying to get used to a whole new life.”

Nelia shrugged. “Yeah, right. Whatever. Got to go. Bye.” She turned on her heel, padded across the grass and jumped over the bank into the river. She picked her way up to the bend in three graceful strides and disappeared into the shadows like the fairy Janine had first thought her to be.

-o-

Janine couldn’t get the image of the young girl out of her mind. There was such a hauntingly sad look in those huge grey eyes. She’s very like someone, she thought as she went about the old house, tidying up, making tea and finally switching on her computer. But who? Then it struck her; that girl is very like me, the way I was at that age. That forlorn look, the suspicion, the prickly way about her, just like Janine after the event that shattered her safe, comfortable existence. Then she had been moved around like a difficult dog nobody wanted, from one relative to another until she was sixteen and had run away to Paris and got a job in a department store by lying about her age.

Janine stood at the window and looked far out to sea, wondering, pondering like so many times before, how her life would have turned out if she hadn’t been spotted by a scout from a New York modelling agency in that Paris department store and left for Manhattan. If she hadn’t sashayed down the catwalk with Steve in the audience at a time when he was searching for a trophy wife. If she hadn’t been seduced by his wealth and power and married him after only six months. She would probably be the wife of some French public servant, with two point three children. She’d spend her days trundling kids to day care and work in some dreary office. Bored, but at least she’d be free, not tied to a cruel, vindictive man who thought he owned her. Who organized the execution of at least two men he suspected were her lovers. Who ordered his spies to follow her everywhere. But this once, she had fooled him. They’ll never find me here, she thought, in this remote part of Ireland. The trail went cold in London. Nobody here knows who I am.

There was a loud knock on the door. As usual, the sound made her jump. When will I stop being afraid, she thought. When will I stop thinking a knock on my door means they’ve found me?

And, of course, the setting was inspired by the stunning Kerry landscape.

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Hot Property Getting Hotter!

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I just got an e-mail to say that my newly released romantic comedy, Hot Property has won the Indie Book of the Day award. While this is not exactly an event that will rock the world, it has certainly rocked my day. I was delighted to find that readers all over the world have already enjoyed my story and been transported to this beautiful, timeless part of Ireland through my writing.

I wrote this book drawing on my own experiences of doing up a cottage in the Wild West of Ireland. I fell in love with this part of the country while on a walking holiday about three years ago. We found our dream cottage when we took a wrong turn along a winding country lane: a little house by a a babbling brook, five minutes from miles of long sandy beaches. A dream come true. It turned into a bit of a nightmare when we delved into the trials and tribulations of restoring this ‘gem’. I won’t go into the ‘discussions’ between my spouse and me, but will just say that two years later, we both know it was all so worth it.

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Inspired by the stunning setting; the mountains, the vertiginous views of the blue ocean and the wonderful, quirky people I met there, I created a fictional world, where my heroine inherited an old wreck of a house. I added some peculiar, unusual characters, a villain, two handsome hunks, some mystery, a family scandal and a little hot romance. This Irish ‘stew’ has proved to be a tasty dish that many want to enjoy.

I feel that the house has brought me good luck and so has the book. I am already working on a sequel that promises to be even ‘hotter’ than the first. And-who knows? I might even write a third. I don’t seem to be able to leave this place.

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