In which things are published, or almost nearly imminently published

Some time has passed since my last blog post. Traditionally at this point I offer some sort of excuse or random self-flagellation for my failure in this area. Today I’m going to go down the excuse route. You see, there was this dog and it ate my homework right off the computer screen, or possibly it was a magpie and  it stole my keyboard’s unusually shiny semi-colon key, and I do like a semi-colon so that was very limiting, or maybe I became briefly obsessed with watching old episodes of The Biggest Loser on youtube even though it is unquestionably terrible for my soul and wasn’t able to write blogpost because of all the time that took up. At least one of those things is true. Or possibly all. Anyhow I’m back now. Let’s get on.

This week I shall mainly be sharing news of recent and upcoming publications for they are cropping up all over the place and there is much excitement chez Alison.

I’m going to kick off with a short story anthology I’m super-proud to be involved with. The Write Romantics who are either a single multi-headed romance writing creature from another dimension, or a group of lovely individual romance writers who blog together and support one another (it’s definitely one of those) have put together a short story anthology in aid of The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and The Teenage Cancer Trust. I was terribly flattered to be asked to contribute a story, and I pretty much will do anything if sufficient flattery is offered. My story is ‘The Handsome Stranger’, and like all the stories included, it’s has a vaguely wintery or festive theme.

Winter Tales cover

The anthology, ‘Winter Tales’, is available to pre-order for kindle now and will be available in paperback later this month. You can also join the Write Romantics at their online launch party this Saturday (8th Nov 1pm-3pm) where there will be competitions and much virtual wine drunk, and possibly real wine, but you’ll need to provide that for yourself.

Secondly, two more short story anthologies. It’s a little bit late in the day, but if some of you want an excuse to keep hold of your pumpkins (oddly not a euphemism) a little bit longer, you can still download or order the Halloween anthology, Hocus Pocus ’14, that I was involved in back in October. My story, Haunted House, is about a young divorcee, Melly, her best friend, Max, and an interfering old man called Ebenezer. As it’s a Halloween story, at least one of those three is, unfortunately, dead.

The final short story anthology I want to tell you about is Kisses and Cupcakes, from my publisher, Choc Lit, which features short stories and fantastic recipes from eighteen Choc Lit authors, including my good self. My story is ‘Imperfect Timing’ and it features a couple of characters that you might get to meet again next year. Possibly… I’ve also included the most awesome cupcake recipe in the whole wide world. Kisses and Cupcakes is available to download now.

Kisses & Cupcakes

And finally… drumroll please… my second Christmas Kiss novella is nearly ready to be launched onto an unsuspecting world. Cora’s Christmas Kiss is going through its final tweaks and edits at the moment. We’re finalising the cover design, and it should be available to order very soon indeed. Squeeee! In the meantime I recommend that you all prepare yourselves fully by downloading book 1, Holly’s Christmas Kiss, forthwith.

Holly's Christmas Kiss

*takes a deep breath* So there you go. That’s all my publication news at the moment. And with that I shall stop thinking about books that are already written and turn my attention back to the books that are yet to come.

In which I undertake the traditional resolution making for the year ahead

Hello. Good morning and ahoy there my hearties. Welcome to 2014. I trust you have found it to be conducive to good cheer and ever so lightly flavoured with cinnamon so far, apart from the thing about it being flavoured with cinnamon. It’s a year. Years don’t really taste of anything, with the exception of 1994, which I think we can all agree was a more than a little bit minty.

Anyhow, given that that whole train of thought had somewhat got away from me, I’ve made the executive decision to start a brand new flavour-free paragraph so that we can all just move on. It is, as I believe I may have been wending my rather circuitous way towards saying, a whole new year, and traditionally at this point in the calendar I make a number of resolutions. Broadly speaking they are threefold:

1. Lose weight

2. Get over the driving phobia

3. Write more/better/more profitably/preferably all of the above.

And all three of those resolutions definitely apply this year, on account of how I totally failed to achieve 1. and 2. last year, and although there were some definite writing achievements in 2013, there is always further room for improvement. That means that my resolution making is a rather quick and speedy process. I’m pretty confident that I’ve got those resolutions locked down to come around every year for at least the next decade, which is marvellous because it frees up time and head space to get on with doing and achieving random things that you’d never think to aim for at the start of the year.

Last year, for example, although I had definite good intentions in the area of writing, I hadn’t thought of ‘Become the Cliff Richard of the kindle novella market’ as a specific aim, but I still managed to tick it off, when my little Christmas romance novella, Holly’s Christmas Kiss, went to no 1 in the Kindle short story chart and stayed there until Christmas Day. I had an actual Christmas Number 1. I shall now mainly be hanging out with the previously mentioned Sir Cliff of Richard, Noddy Holder, and that prison guard lady off of X-Factor.

Having your basic resolutions nailed down also gives you plenty of spare brain-time to really finesse your plans and systems for how those resolutions might be achieved. So far as the losing weight goes, I have constructed the most marvellously convoluted diet plan which involves dieting for 6 months in 3 week bursts over a 2 year period. And the worrying thing is that I totally have a rationale for why that is a good idea, based on actual science (or at least on things I have heard actual scientists say on telly, which I suspect might not be quite the same thing, but still, a plan is a plan so I’m sticking with it).

I also have a plan for the writing stuff to be done this year. It involves finishing one and a half novels and a novella, and getting back into teaching creative writing and offering workshops, and possibly a critiquing service for new writers. It’s almost certainly completely unrealistic, but I have a spreadsheet with all the different things I’m going to do marked on it and highlighted in a range of pretty colours, and making the spreadsheet was useful and not really procrastination at all.

So that just leaves the driving phobia, which is the only one where I don’t have a plan, beyond ‘try to sit in the driver’s seat without crying.’ Oh well, there’s always next year.

So, as I always ask you at this time of year, what are your resolutions? (And also, any of you who are budding writers please feel free to wave a hand via the Contact Me page if you’d be interested in workshops or courses at all.)

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.