In which it is Christmas and there are even more kisses

*Clears throat in preparation for grand announcement*

Ladies and Gentledudes, please be most excitable for the great and wondrous news

*small drumroll*

I have a new book out!

Ok, so it’s not that great and wondrous. I’m a writer the having a new book out is very much to be expected, but still, I spend a lot of time at home staring at a blank page. This is what passes for excitement in my world.

Jessica’s Christmas Kiss, the third in the Christmas Kisses series is available to order from today, and will be out in the world and potentially winging it’s way to a kindle (or kindle app) near you from Saturday.

It has a gorgeous Christmassy cover (courtesy of the very clever Berni Stevens).

Jessica Cover

And here’s what it’s all about…

Real Christmas miracles only ever happen in the movies – don’t they?

When Jessica was fifteen, she shared the perfect kiss with a mystery boy at a Christmas party. It might have only lasted a moment, and the boy might have disappeared shortly afterwards but, to Jessica, it was just a little bit magic.

Fourteen years later, and Jessica is faced with a less than magical Christmas after uncovering her husband’s secret affair. And, whilst she wouldn’t admit it, she sometimes finds herself thinking about that perfect Christmas kiss, back when her life still seemed full of hope and possibility.

But she never would have guessed that the boy she kissed in the kitchen all those years ago might still think about her too …

So, in conclusion… New book! Yay! Please feel most very welcome and encouraged to buy, read, and, I hope, enjoy.

In which I review the year gone by 2014

As is traditional at this time of year, this is the blogpost in which I summarise the highs and lows of the year gone by in a slightly premature New Years Eve TV sort of a way.

We shall start with the things that have made me irritable/sad/discombobulated during 2014. They were as follows:

David Cameron. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The distressing realisation that not really doing paid work leads fairly directly to not having any money. Nigel Farage. The inexplicable fact that there seem to be people who don’t think Nigel Farage is a knobber. David Cameron. David Cameron’s large shiny forehead (I don’t know why – it’s not by any stretch of the imagination his worst quality but it offends me with it’s large, smug, shininess.) The lack of left-wingness amongst the traditionally left-wing bits of Parliament. Throwing away 50,000 words of novel 2. David Cameron some more. Getting a chest infection during the RNA Conference for the second year in a row. Cold sores.

 

But enough of the miserablism. Here are the things that have made 2014 awesome:

The Commonwealth Games. The Edinburgh Fringe. The general wonderfulness of family and chums. The exciting realisation that not really doing paid work leads fairly directly to having loads of time. Finishing the draft of novel 2 (at the third attempt). Getting through my presentation at the RNA Conference without having a major coughing fit. Laughing so much with my senior sibling at reviews of NessieLand on the TripAdvisor that I almost peed a little bit. The publication of Truly, Madly, Deeply and of Cora’s Christmas Kiss. Being a contender for the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award. Taking part in Rowan Coleman and Julie Cohen’s excellent writing retreat. Spending my birthday at Edinburgh Zoo, where you could almost totally see a panda if you squatted a bit and sort of looked sideways through the fence. Actually getting the new kitchen we’ve been talking about since about 2009. Not decorating the living room, because, you know, decorating is tiresome. Being invited to be involved in some fab short story collections. Almost perfecting my Giant Chocolate Fondant recipe – I’m so close, I tell you, so close. Zumba. And cake.

 

So there you go – some highs, a few lows, and no doubt lots of stuff I’ve missed out. That was 2014.

 

No blog next week because it’s Christmas Day and I shall be busy opening presents, and eating all the food. So have a fantastic Christmas/Hanukkah/Winter Solstice/time of just sitting quietly not observing any particular festival, and I’ll be back on New Year’s Day, full of resolutions and plans for 2015.

 

In which I run around covered in tinsel singing Christmas carols at full volume

It’s Christmas.

Nearly.

It’s certainly Christmas enough to start decking your halls, resting your merry gentlemen and generally stockpiling alcohol like there’s an unprecedented sherry shortage about to hit.

I love Christmas. Some people don’t. Some people say things like, ‘Well it’s just for the kids really,’ and complain about things like the appropriation of Christian tradition for commercial purposes, or the appropriation of ancient pagan tradition for Christian purposes. Some of those people may have a point, but they’re still fundamentally wrong-headed. Christmas is not the time for rational argument and making a valid point. Christmas is the time for Noddy Holder, and playing parlour games the precise origins of which are lost in the mists of time but will inevitably lead to an argument with your grandmother about whether The Gingerbreads were a real pop band.

Christmas is also the time for reading, and writing, a particular type of story. Writers have been inspired by Christmas for generations. Ever since Luke sat down and penned that dynamite passage about a census, back in the days when Quirinius was Governor of Syria, writers have been writing about all things Christmas.

Dickens did it. Richard Curtis did it. Greg Rossen and Bryan Sawyer did it.* And lots of other very clever writers did it too. So in honour of Christmas and not wanting to look so terribly un-English as to just bang on about my own book, I asked some of them about their Christmas stories and what inspired them.

Kate Johnson has published two Christmas novellas, Elf Gratification (published as Cat Marsters), an erotic novella featuring gratification, and one assumes, elves, and a festive prequel to her Sophie Green series. Talking about the Sophie Green book, The Twelve Lies of Christmas, Kate said, ‘I sat and thought about what was great about Christmas: the good cheer, strangers wishing each other Happy Christmas, the special food and drink, time spent with friends and family, the presents, the bobble hats,  the decorations…the break from normal life. But what if you don’t have any of those things? Except for maybe the bobble hats?’

Jo Beverley has released, not one, not two, but three Christmas novellas. She told me that she loves ‘writing books set around Christmas because the celebrations often involve opening homes to company, which can bring people together who might not otherwise meet or reencounter,’ and added that, ‘the emotions around Christmas can also be stressful, which creates tension and conflict.’

Chrissie Loveday‘s Christmas novella, A Computer Guy for Christmas, is due out this week. She commented, ‘I adore Christmas! Our house is awash with lights, trees and all things Christmassy. Of course I wanted to write about it! What a perfect excuse to share it all.’ The story features an office party, and looks at the tension between spending Christmas with family and maintaining a budding romance.

So Christmas gives writers the chance to bring characters together, and throw a bit of stress into the mix, but also to sprinkle a little bit of fairy dust (and a lot of fairy lights) over their story, and incorporate as many bobble hats as they like. And this year… (SOUND THE KLAXON – BLATANT SELF PROMOTION ALERT) I joined in, with my festive romance, Holly’s Christmas Kiss.

Holly's Christmas Kiss cover

Holly’s Christmas Kiss is a much sweeter, in some ways much more innocent, story that I normally write, but I adored writing it. I love the fact that at Christmas you can take off the good taste brakes and throw every single Christmas image you can think of into the mix. So there’s mistletoe and Christmas trees and and a turkey and Santa and presents and… well it’s pretty darn Christmassy. Anyway, you could read it if you wanted, or not. Merry Christmas one and all either way.

Right. Well now I’d best be off to baste my merry gentleman and try not to dismay my turkey. Toodle-pip.

* What do you mean ‘who are Greg Rossen and Bryan Sawyer?’? Why, only the creative geniuses (geniuii?) behind David Hasselhoff’s 2012 Christmas extravaganza The Christmas Consultant. Tsk at you for not knowing.

In which I acknowledge being a bad blogger and offer a small festive story in way of apology

I have been a bad blogger of late. I have failed to offer you Monday thoughts on the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, David Cameron’s reaction to the Leveson Report, the freakishly rapidly decreasing size of Curly-Wurlys, or the upcoming festive season. And I have thoughts on all these things. Oh yes, indeedy, I have thoughts.

Alas, of late time has been short, and life has been busy so these many and fascinating thoughts have remained unblogged. Please accept my humblest apologies and this short festive storyette in recompense. Normal thought-sharing service shall be resumed in January. Promise.

 

The Shepherd

“So Bob,” Miss Pennydew shuffles slightly in her seat. “I think you know why we’ve asked you here today.”

“Aye.”

“It’s…” She coughs. “It’s about last Monday. We’ve.. em… we’ve talked to young Sam, but I just wanted to give you the opportunity to take us through your version of events, just as you see it, from your point of view.”

“Aye.”

Miss Pennydew pauses. “Just in your own words…”

“Aye.”

“Whenever you’re ready.” She waits for Bob to fill the silence. The silence extends. “Ok. Well, what if I run through Sam’s account and you can just jump in whenever you think?”

“Reet.”

“So Sam told us, with regard to the incident in question, that he initially noticed an unusually bright star.”

“Aye.”

“And then…?” She tails off. “Ok. And then Sam says…” She consults her notes. “He says that you were surrounded by a heavenly throng.”

Bob nods, apparently feeling that he’s said quite enough already.

“After which one of the…” She makes quotation mark fingers. “…’throng’ addressed you telling you not to fear.”

“Aye.”

“Sam said that this was because a…” She does the fingers again. “…’mighty dread’ had seized your troubled minds.”

Bob pulls a face, suggestive, he hopes, of the notion that Sam might do better with a bit less book-learning and a bit more watching of the flock by night.

“After which, and you’ll understand our concern here, it appears that both yourself and Sam, left the flock and went into town with the intention of visiting a newborn baby, apparently located in a stable.”

“Aye.”

“Just to be clear…” She smiles, the sort of smile that hints at men in white coats and the idea that Bob might like to take a little bit of time off quite soon. “..You didn’t know the family with the baby? They weren’t relatives or close friends?”

“No.”

“You, and Sam, simply decided to leave the sheep, and visit a baby because you were told to by a ‘heavenly throng’.”

“Aye.”

“And, still just so I’m clear – no one’s in trouble here – you hadn’t been erm… drinking at all prior to leaving the flock.”

Bob shakes his head.

“Ok. Not that I’m accusing anyone. I’m sure a little drink every now and then to keep the cold out won’t do any harm, especially at Christmas.”

She pauses and re-runs the sentence in her head. Bob crinkles his brow.

“Anyhow, you do understand our concern, I’m sure. Given that your current role is very much sheep-focussed, any time spent outside of immediate shepherding arena, should really be booked in advance using the green form, which then has to be approved by myself or Mr Hargreaves.”

“Aye.”

“Good. Good.” She does the smile again. “Well, so long as that’s clear.”

 

In which I look backwards to Christmas and last year’s desert island.

Christmas, I think we have to acknowledge, is over. The decorations are still up but they’re starting to feel weirdly out of date and inappropriate. There are still leftovers in the fridge but no-one can really face eating them anymore, so they’ll sit there a couple more days before being thrown away with lots of comments about how chucking food out is bad and how we’re going to shop more carefully in future and only buy what we absolutely and definitely need.

So, how was your festive season lovely readers? Please do feel at leisure to tell me all about it in the comments. Mine was good in a traditional family oriented sort of a way. We did the usual couple compromise of my family at Christmas and his at New Year, with a 24 hour “just us” break in the middle. And that’s probably enough about that. I don’t want to turn into the sort of blogger who witters on about random personal details like what I had for breakfast. Marmitey toast, obviously. I’m not uncivilised.

But a very long time ago I did blog about a Desert Island Discs party and then totally failed to tell you what I’d actually picked. So belatedly and with apologies, here are my choices:

1. Tim Minchin, White Wine in the Sun

I love Tim Minchin. I don’t totally agree with all his lyrics here. Regardless of religious persuasions I don’t see how anyone could prefer the idea of hanging out with Richard Dawkins over Desmond Tutu. Tutu just comes across as jollier, and definitely more like to have anecdotes about Nelson Mandela that end, “Of course, we were both very very drunk…” However, I endorse the sentiment. Christmas is commercialised and gaudy and should be terrible, but I really really like it.

2. Jools Holland & the Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, Enjoy Yourself 

A top song for a desert island. It is important to enjoy oneself. This is also the track Jools Holland usually ends live performances with, so has good associations for me of outdoor summer gigs with friends, alcohol and little sausage rolls. Very few situations cannot be remedied by the addition of friends, alcohol and little sausage rolls.

3. Pure, Lightning Seeds

This is me and the Boy’s official Song. We picked it on a car journey to somewhere in the early years of The Relationship. I believe we’d decided that if we were in a Relationship we ought to have A Song. And so we do, and it’s sufficiently unsoppy not to cause nausea, which is also nice.

On the music front honourable mentions should go to Semisonic’s Secret Smile, The Danse Macrabre by Saint-Saens, Tim Minchin’s Not Perfect, and pretty much everything by The Beatles. On another day any or all of those might have made the cut.

That just leaves a book and a luxury item to select. I wimped out on book, and went for The House at Pooh Corner. I call this wimping out because it avoided picking between all the incredible grown-up books. I could have picked one (if I had it would probably have been between Margaret Attwood The Blind Assassin and Kazua Ishigura Never Let Me Go – at least until someone gets round to publishing all the Discworld novels in a single massive volume) but that would have felt like I was rejecting all the other books and I couldn’t do it. Anyway, In Which Tigger Comes to the Forest and has Breakfast is a work of unadulterated genius and I would lift my mood during any low desert island moments, so Winnie-the-Pooh it is.

And for my luxury, it would have to be paper and pens (which would somehow magically never run out) so I could write write write. Only having one book to read would be a personal nightmare, but if I could write I might just manage it. There are lots of elements to trying to become a published writer that are a real pain in the behind, not least the actual trying to get published part. Editing and proof-reading can also be something of a bind, but the ideas are things of pure joy, so if I could live half on my island and half inside my own imagination I might actually be quite happy.

So comment away below on all things Christmassy or desert islandy, and please come back later in the week when we’ll be talking New Year’s Resolutions. Probably. Unless I see something more interesting before then and end up writing about that instead. Farewell.

Where I try to make the Internet pick my Desert Island Discs for me.

It’s Christmas! This means that party season is upon us. Fatness is growing (yeah, I know what I said here, and I’ll totally get back to that in January. Totally), and hungoverism is becoming the order of the day.

But internet I need your help, because tonight’s Christmas meal has A Theme. Desert Islands Discs, albeit a cutdown dinner party friendly version. So I have to select three tunes, one book and one luxury item that make me appear cool, witty and interesting by this evening.

This is a challenge. I’m not, generally speaking, a massive muso. I play music as a functional exercise to take the edge of the quiet, usually when I’m supposed to be writing and the crushing silence of an extended lack of typing becomes oppressive. So, for me, thinking of three tunes at all is a bit of a stretch.

And one book? ONE book? I own several hundred books, possibly into the thousands, and my favourite is generally whichever I’m looking at right now. How can I possibly be expected to commit to just one book for the rest of forever? The rest of forever is, potentially, ages.

And a luxury item. That could be anything. Am I allowed to pick a person? John Cleese picked Michael Palin, but specified that he would have him stuffed. I’m not sure that really helps. If I’m not allowed a person then what? I could be all dull and writerly and demand paper and pens, but that is very boring, isn’t it?

So help me out Internet? Three tunes. One book. One luxury. What would you pick? (And if you want to hear what I go for in the end, just subscribe or follow and you’ll get a little notification as soon as I get around to letting you all know).