Thursday, December 29, 2011

Post-Christmas Slump?

So Christmas is all over for another year – the preparations, the excitement, the cooking and decorating. And I think I’m suffering from post-Christmas “slump”. I even thought it was Wednesday today, so I must have missed a day in between there somehow, but I’ve been rushing around doing stuff for so long now, one day here or there doesn’t seem to matter. They all pass in a blur. Does anyone else feel like this?

I enjoyed Christmas, of course I did, but it’s all over too quickly I think. All that food you cooked – gone in ten minutes flat. Presents – opened in a flash and squirreled away, leaving the tree looking a bit naked. But to be honest, I have to admit I love the preparations more anyway – the run-up to Christmas is the magical time for me. Starting at the beginning of December with the lighting of the first Advent candle, then shopping for presents, sending cards, baking, cooking and present-wrapping as well as buying the tree and decorating the house, it’s all such fun! The build-up is the exciting part, not the actual day itself.

In a way, it’s a bit like writing – the pre-writing time is so much more exciting than actually working on a novel. I love that moment when you first get an idea for a story and it starts to tease at your brain. The characters take shape in your mind and you spend hours thumbing through name books (or looking at baby name websites) trying to find the perfect names for them. You do some research, start a new file, try to think of a great title for your story. Then you sit down and type, getting carried away.

Before you know it, the book is finished and it’s all over! Post-book “slump”? Yes, but luckily not for long, because the great thing about books is that you can start another one straight away if you want to. Unlike Christmas, which only comes once a year, you can write as many books as you like – well, thank goodness for that! Actually, come to think of it, I have this great idea so what better way to beat the post-Christmas doldrums? I’d better get writing ...

Happy New Year everyone! Hope 2012 is a brilliant year for all of us!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Whatever you like to do this Christmas, whether you like to hide out from the revelling hordes......

... or wonder at the beauty of all those decorations.

Whether you think wrapping presents is sometimes more fun than receiving them.....

..... or you can't wait to get ripping into them.....

.... we hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

Merry Christmas, from me, and from all of The Heroine Addicts.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas on a Deadline

I'm out of practice with writing to deadline.

I haven't really had a hard and fast one for a long time...not for fifteen years, in fact, when I working to complete Named of the Dragon to fulfill my two-book contract with Gollancz. That was the first time that I'd ever sold a book before I'd written it.

With all my other books, I've signed my contracts after finishing the manuscript, which means I'm used to writing to an ever-shifting deadline of my own creationif I need a few more months, I just re-set the goalposts and keep going, so I never have to hear that famous "whooshing sound" that Douglas Adams used to claim his deadlines made as they flew by...

But this time I signed contracts first, and so I have a deadline, and not only can't I move the goalposts, but I have to watch them getting closer, day by day.

Which isn't terrible, by any means. I love this book I'm working on, the writing's coming well, and there are few things I love more than spending time within my story. But...

It's Christmas.

And this year, since I'm working to a deadline, I've been spending more time in my writing room, and letting everything else fall behind.

My Christmas cards (the paper ones) are sitting on the kitchen table, waiting to be signed and sent. I only got the tree up this past weekend, and I still don't have my mantelpiece cleared off, so we can hang our stockings.

Normally by this time I'd be well into my Christmas movie-watching spree, but this year all I've managed is Love, Actually.

I've felt like I've been chasing after Christmas all this month. I'm having to do everything in fits and startsa moment here to wrap a gift, a moment there to put my little birch-log reindeer on the porch, but never time enough to truly catch the Christmas spirit that I wait for all year long.

And then tonight, as I was rushing out to buy, of all things, dog food (having spent the day too wrapped up in my novel to remember that I'd used the last tin yesterday), I found myself for those few minutes driving past the houses in our neighbourhood, all lit up with their Christmas lights, so beautiful against the darkness, and the radio began to play "Christmas is Calling" by Roch Voisine, and all of a sudden, well, there it was: Christmas.

The feeling I'd waited for. Fragile and perfect.

The Grinch knows whereof he speaks. Christmas will come, whether I'm on a deadline or not. So this year it may not be the wallowy sort of a season I'm used to, with time to indulge, time to read, time to visit. I'll still find it, moment by moment.

What moments make Christmas for you?

(Come back Thursday, when Christmas will be even closer, and Julie is posting.)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Wish Lists

In the Coady Clan we still write out Christmas lists for what we want for Christmas. This is a way to ensure there are none of those useless presents every year and that everyone gets what they want. Every year from the age of 8 until... *mumble mumble* I have had a pony on the list. It is the leftover Christmas wish of my younger self. It is the continuity and also the family joke that I am sooooooo deprived because they never bought me one.

In fact below is the list they got this year (including my commentary)

"Hello Dearly Beloved 'Rents

I have made my list and I've checked it twice. I KNOW I'm ALWAYS NICE!

So here goes (you might see some familiar requests from previous years)

1. BOILER - monetary donation (new in at number one this year)
2. PONY (this is a seasonal favourite - comes round every year much like Cliff Richard's 'Mistletoe and Wine')
3. Noise cancelling headphones (a trend for these seem to be creeping into the Coady Clan but proved their worth during some building work)
4. Rigby & Peller Gift Certificate (an uplifting addition to any Xmas list)
5. Sherlock DVD (BBC remake from last year) (new in this year but sure to be a regular returnee as long as the BBC keeps making them)
6. Bones - Season 6 (an old favourite - the Xmas tree would be lost without it)
7. NCIS - Season 8 (nothing says Xmas like Mark Harmon saying 'Ya think?' - be still my heart!)
8. Vintage Dress Clips (a sparkling entry at number eight) 

9. Kindle Light (to keep my reading going even in low light - i.e. when Mummy makes me turn my light out)
10. Filofax cover(Malden/Finchley/Aston) - Pocket sized - red, brown or black (going retro in my stationery) 

That is my top ten. If anything changes I'll let you know.

Love your VERY NICE daughter

But what do I truly want for Christmas? What is on my REAL Christmas Wish List?

I think it would read something like this:

"Dear Father Christmas,

I know we haven't spoken for awhile. Are you well? Back still giving you jip? 

If you happen to be in my vicinity on Christmas Eve I have rather a nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc with your name on it. Have a few glasses, tell a few tales... interested?

Oh and if you are in the area if you could just, maybe, if it isn't too much trouble... see your way to the following:

1. A Literary Agent (you know if you just happen to have one on the sleigh)
2. A book deal (they sometimes come with agents in a bulk buy scheme)
3. A film deal (I know this is a bit out there but what the hell... yes I have already been at the sherry why do you ask?)
4. Benedict Cumberbatch (in for a penny in for a pound! *hic*)
5. World Peace
6. Cure for Cancer
7. Rich man (if you can make number 4 rich it is a toofer)

Love and kisses

What would be on your Christmas Wish List?

Come back on Sunday to find out whether Susanna has been naughty or nice

Sunday, December 11, 2011

When A Book No Longer Belongs To the Author....

Now this is something I had been warned about...once your book is out in the wide world, well, it's no longer really yours. Your book becomes the reader's book. They create a 'new' book by bringing their experience, reactions and emotions to it.

So now THE CORNISH HOUSE is beginning to wend it's way out into the world via the uncorrected proofs, I am in a state of unease.What are people thinking? Love it? Loathe it? Killing themselves laughing at the typos....there are a few humdingers in there...

DH has read the book - and thank God he loved it. He would say that, but I have also known him long enough and well enough to know if he was lying. The best bit about him reading the book was to finally be able to discuss it with him. When he finished the book he stared at me in shock and this is what has been going on in your head...Umm, yup. He has had to look at me differently. He became caught up in the story and found it hard at time to remember it was his wife who wrote it. This, of course, is good.

It was also interesting to hear his thoughts as he knows the landscape of the book so well. He placed things in different locations, different pubs when I hadn't used a name, and responded to some characters and actions in an interesting manner. So he has proved a test case for me....

DH is not my first reader, but very few people have read the book...even some of closest writer friends haven't. I had never really thought about it. My mother has read it twice...helping with the typos and I think consumed by curiosity...what was her daughter saying. So DH is the first person to read it for pleasure without any other purpose....and now the list grows.....gulp. I need to let go and focus on the next book. I needs to be better than THE CORNISH HOUSE...the joys of being a writer....

How did/do you feel when you release a book into the world? As a reader do ever think that your version of the story will be different that of the writer's? I suppose in a way when a film is made of a book we experience this.....someone else's take on the 'our' book...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I want to fall in love ...

No, this isn’t an announcement that I’m about to divorce my husband or looking to replace him in any way, I promise. But I do need to find a crush because if I don’t, I can’t write my next book.

Like many other authors, I base my heroes on a real person’s looks, although obviously I make up their personality to suit my story. And just as in real life, it’s seeing them for the first time that gives me the biggest spark. Like falling in love but in an imaginary way. If I’m lucky, just the sight of this potential hero triggers a scene in my mind, which becomes the basis for the rest of the story. If not, I can at least use this instant crush feeling when writing about the hero and heroine meeting for the first time. And falling in love ...

Sure, I have an archive of photos I can flick through and I also have a pin board next to my computer with lots of pictures of possible heroes, but sometimes that just doesn’t work. Right now, I need to find someone new, a man I’ve never seen before, but who will set my mind off on an imaginary journey where he’s the hero and I’m the heroine. Someone who sets my pulse racing and makes me tingle all over when he looks at me (even if I’m only pretending he’s looking at me of course).

Actually, that’s not quite true – sometimes it works if I see an actor in a new role at the cinema, one where he’s different from normal in some way. Take Johnny Depp for instance – I loved him in the film Chocolat and could happily have based a hero on his character in that, but he didn’t do it for me in any of his other films. Then along comes Captain Jack Sparrow and “wow!”, there’s the spark again.

Some actors are definitely chameleons, while others play much the same role in every film (like Hugh Grant). That means of course that the Hugh type is only good for one starring role in my novels, whereas others can inspire me over and over again. Right now though, that’s not working either – I need someone brand new.

So does anyone have any recommendations? Any films I absolutely must see over the Christmas holidays? Please let me know because until I find him – THE ONE – my next book just isn’t going to get written.

Please come back on Sunday to hear from Liz!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Reasons to Write #2 - Pyjamas

Lately, while hibernating from writing, I've been thinking about the reasons we write (and the reasons we don't).

Lying in bed this morning, contemplating a day-job-free day, I started thinking about what attracted me to writing as a job of work. Certainly something about balance, which I've blogged about before. There's something there about creativity, too, which I'll blog about before long, and something about feeling connected, which is an odd reason for such a solitary profession, but which makes sense to me personally.

But this morning, writing from a netbook propped on my knees, which a cat either side of me, and one UNDER my knees (under the duvet!) I started thinking about pyjamas.

Lovely things, pyjamas.

Soft, squidgy, supremely touchable and huggable. Relaxed. COMFORTABLE.

I have long found it odd how much we'll put up with dramatically uncomfortable outfits in pursuit of style and glamour. I like pretty as much as the next gal, but at the end of the day I'm focussing on two things: getting OUT of the bra, and getting IN to the slippers.

And pyjamas.

I would quite like a job where the closest thing you get to 'office-wear' is a set of py-jams. Balanced, of course, by the occasional need to get glammed up for an RNA party.

That sounds like perfection to me, right?

So, okay, so far in Reasons to Write we have "Balance" and "Pyjamas".

This blog series is looking good to me....

What's your favourite 'work-wear'?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

comfort zones

Crows by Vlado, at

Sometimes, as a writer, you have to step out of your comfort zones.

Sometimes this is to do with what you're writing. Today, I wrote a 1000-word article for a magazine which actually involved real facts and truthful quotations. And I am here to tell you, I have a renewed respect for journalists. Writing articles is so, so much harder than making stuff up. For one thing, unlike fiction which just comes out of your head, you can get real facts wrong. For another, unlike fiction which is designed to be interesting, real facts have the potential to be a little bit boring and you have to figure out how to present them in an interesting way. Also, in an article you need a beginning and a middle and an end, but a different kind of a beginning, middle and end than in a story.

I was pulling my hair out by the end of it.

I've written a few short stories recently, too. I never thought I could really write a short story, but then I went to a workshop led by Sue Moorcroft, who writes and sells a ton of short stories, and she inspired me. But a short story is so...short. So much depends on every word. And whilst this is wonderful for a nitpicky writer like me, it's also sort of scary.

Sometimes you have to step out of the comfort zones of your writing routines. Usually, I write whilst flying by the seat of my pants, with little idea of where the story is going to turn out. But for this next novel, I'm planning it out first by writing a coherent, and hopefully interesting, synopsis. I wrote this synopsis this week (before I wrote the article...hmm, maybe that's why I have an extreme craving for wine and chocolate). It's an interesting experience, and I think it will actually help my composition process. But...

Yup. Scary as hell.

Sometimes you have to step out of the kind of books you write, into something different. Sometimes you have to make the leap from unpublished to published author. Sometimes you have to put something aside and start something new. Sometimes you need to step out into thin air, with only a hope that you'll land somewhere good to be.

Writing is never safe. To do it, you either have to be brave, stupid, insane, or perhaps a little bit of all three.

Here's to every brave, stupid, insane one of us.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Letting Go

Malick Bowens and Meryl Streep in Out of Africa, 1985 © Universal Pictures Ltd.

I have this scene I'm writing in the current work-in-progress, and it's taking me a long time to complete. I'm not avoiding it, exactly, but I know I'm taking more time than I should, and only yesterday I realized it's because this is the last scene for a character I've come to really like.

No, I'm not killing him off, but it's still a goodbye.

I'm not good with goodbyes, whether real life or fictional, and in a film a farewell breaks my heart even more than a death, sometimes. (All I have to do is look at that picture above and I hear Malick Bowens's voice saying: "Then you must make this fire very big..." and I go all to pieces...)

The rational side of my brain knows this character needs to leave, needs to move on, so the story can move on as well. And I will get to see him again in revisions and rewrites, and when the book's finished and published I know I can visit him there in the pages whenever I want.

But the rational side of my brain isn't writing the book; that's the problem. And so I've been slowing down...finding small jobs that need a line here, a paragraph there...catching up on my research.

It won't work, of course. Either later today or tomorrow I'll write his last scene, and I'll probably cry (which is good for the book, in a way), and then that will be that.

But I never like saying goodbye to a character.

What about you? Do you have the same problem, as writers or readers? How well do you cope with goodbyes?

(Don't forget to come back Thursday, for Julie's post.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pride And Prejudice: In Search of an Agent (with apologies to Jane Austen)

When an agent and writer meet...

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an unpublished writer in possession of a good manuscript, must be in want of an agent.

I have to say that for me this is true. I know that others have been successful without having an agent and I admire them greatly. However knowing how I am, I feel more comfortable having some one else do any negotiation on my behalf. In work I can wheel and deal with the best but when it comes to my writing I know I am not the best person to be out touting it about.

So in the past year or so I have been quietly collecting agent’s names and recommendations. In some cases I have agents who have requested to see my work. I am now putting together a list and hope that none of them say:

“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.”

Rather I would like to hear this:

“I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a fine manuscript in the arms of a writer can bestow."

Of course this is jumping the gun somewhat. I still have to finish the revisions and polish it all before sending it off… but we must remember:

“A writer's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from polite interest to representation, from representation to book deal, in a moment.”

Come back on Sunday to hear from Susanna

Monday, November 21, 2011


I'm a day late and my mind is blank. It could be because i am trying to write the annual Christmas letter. It could be because i have my marketing, pr, being a mother, trying to organize Christmas hat on. Or it could be I'm just tired.

What ever it is I haven't got anything insightful or interesting to say. However the one thing that this huge in my life - writing and other is that the bound uncorrected proofs of my first book have arrived. They are beautiful and i still can't stop stroking i thought in the absence of words I'd just post a picture of my beautiful cover and tell you what the blurb says...hope this is okay and I promise to be interesting and inspiring or something next time....

When artist Maddie inherits a house in Cornwall shortly after the death of her husband, she hopes it will be the fresh start she and her teenage step-daughter Hannah desperately need.

Trevenen is beautiful but neglected, a rambling house steeped in history. Maddie is enchanted by it and determined to learn as much as she can about its past. As she discovers the stories of generations of women who've lived there before, Maddie begins to feel her life is somehow intertwined within its walls.

But Maddie's dream of a calm life in the countryside is far from the reality she faces. Still struggling with her grief and battling with Hannah, Maddie is unable to find inspiration for her painting and realizes she may face the prospect of having to sell Trevenen, just as she is coming to love it.

As Maddie and Hannah pull at the seams of Trevenen's past, the house reveals secrets that have lain hidden for generations...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

And now - relax ...

Who knew that partying in cyberspace could be so much fun?! Ogling all those men in kilts or buckskin breeches, drinking loads of whisky and champagne, eating all the canapés, ice cream and other goodies on offer. The only problem is I’m exhausted now and I’m sure you are too! What we need is a proper, relaxing break, but as authors – do we ever really get one?

The thing is, writing is a compulsion and it never completely lets go of you, even when you’re doing other things. You continue to live your normal life, whatever that is, but inside your head you’re only paying attention with half your brain because the other half is working on characters and plots, checking out settings and listening to dialogue. It’s something you need to do to stay sane (well, author kind of sane), and you do it because you want to, because if you don’t, you feel lost. But although it’s enjoyable, it does make it difficult to ever have time to yourself and a complete break.

Sometimes circumstances compel you to turn off the author part of your brain because you need to concentrate on important things like sick children or work. However, there are also times, when you have to force yourself not to write and do something else for a change. If not, there’s a chance you’ll completely run out of steam.

So maybe we should have a pampering weekend here on the blog to recover from our partying? What would be your dream way of being pampered? If you had the chance to be looked after and relax, how and where would you do that?

I’ll start the ball rolling by hiring a housekeeper to take over all our normal everyday tasks and I’ve got a library full of books and lots of chocolate. And I’ll get someone in to do some aromatherapy – how does that sound?

Please come and join me and tell me what you’d like. Anything is possible here!

Please come back on Sunday to hear from Liz!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Summer of Living Dangerously Party

Julie carefully steps through the crowds of people celebrating Christina's new book, picking up scraps of smoked salmon, whiskey bottles and at least one discarded kilt...

Hey everyone! It's Thursday and that means that we're officially still partying! Because we Heroine Addicts are frenzied party animals and also because my latest hardback, The Summer of Living Dangerously, comes out today.

If you're new to this here super party, here are the rules: everyone brings something special (including a date, if they fancy some company), and in return the Guest of Honour tells us Five Fast Facts about her book.

In this case, I'm both the Hostess and the Guest of Honour (I've always been quite good at multi-tasking, especially when it comes to having fun), so here's the cover blurb for The Summer of Living Dangerously:

Alice Woodstock has been running away.

Well, not literally. She spends most of her time glued to her desk, writing about grommets and model aeroplanes. No, Alice is avoiding the real world because there's something—someone—in her past that she's desperate to forget. So when she's commissioned to write about life in stately home Eversley Hall, she jumps at the chance to escape into Regency England, even if it does mean swapping her comfy T-shirt for an itchy corset. Perhaps she'll meet her own Mr Darcy...

But then her past resurfaces in the shape of Leo Allingham and Alice is brought down to earth with a bump. Reckless, unpredictable Leo reminds Alice of the painful price of following her heart. And the new Alice doesn't live dangerously.

Or does she?

I am so excited to party with this book because, with the Regency costume connection, it's the perfect excuse for us all to have hot dates in tight breeches. Here comes Brigid with a tall gentleman...

Brigid: I'm bringing Ciaran Hinds as he is in Persuasion. He is the perfect Captain Wentworth...pity I couldn't find a picture of him in tight breeches, but you can well imagine.

Julie: Yup. We can well imagine. Look at that smile on his face. That is the smile of a man saying, "Dude, I look gooooooood in these buckskins."

Next is Susanna, along with Christina:

Susanna: I'm bringing a beautiful regency gown for the heroine, Alice, to wear (modelled here by its maker, our own lovely Christina Courtenay, at the Romantic Novelists' Association's recent Regency Day). And my guest will be the dashing Richard Sharpe, because I love a man of action (and his uniform fits rather nicely...)

Julie: Since my heroine is a big reader, there are some Sharpe references in the novel...and also a dashing young gentleman who dresses in the uniform of Sharpe's regiment, the 95th Rifles. Good choice. And Christina looks so gorgeous in her gown! Here's what she's bringing:

Christina: I'm going to bring a fan because it always gets so hot at these parties and if there's Regency dancing - well, we know how strenuous that is! But then I get very hungry afterwards, and I absolutely refuse to eat macaroons, so I've made you a special strawberry cream cake to celebrate the launch of your novel - enjoy! I would like an escort this time (the dog I brought to my party was kind of exhausted so didn't want to come) - how about Chris Hemsworth? I love his old-fashioned manners in the movie Thor and I bet he'd look great in a Regency outfit :D

Anna: I’m feeling very lucky – I’m bringing Leslie Howard in his Scarlet Pimpernel guise as my date! A little out of our period, but I’m willing to stretch a point for that amount of intensity and charm... mmmmmm. And since we’re going to need some cooling off, I’m also bringing some ices like the ones they served at Gunters. What a treat!

Liz: As I am deeply fond of dry sherry...(a taste I acquired a summer I spent doing something akin to studying at Oxford) I would like to bring some, along with a beautiful Regency convex mirror that I have longed for. And of course never one to miss the opportunity of bringing a date and date in breeches...and as soon as I say that it has to be Colin Firth as Darcy.

Julie: So now that we're all here, I guess it's time for me to answer Five Fast Facts about my book.

Favourite scene in the book: My favourite fun scene is one of my heroine Alice's first days at Eversley Hall dressed as a Regency gentlewoman. She goes for a turn in the garden with another costumed interpreter, Miss Selina Fitzwilliam—the younger sister of the gorgeous Mr James Fitzwilliam—and to their alarm they see Mr Fitzwilliam's spaniel darting into a fountain, where his collar gets stuck in the decorative plants. Alice immediately throws herself into the fountain, rescuing the dog but also soaking her very expensive and historically accurate gown. Mr Fitzwilliam proceeds to rescue Alice, much to the chagrin of the beautiful but bitchy Miss Isabella Grantham. It's sort of my turnabout answer to Colin Firth in that lake.

Character who surprised you the most: I was constantly surprised and delighted by Leo Allingham, who is Alice's ex-husband in real life. He's a bit of a shady character at first but he has such depths to him, and such pain. And he rides a motorcycle.

A scene that made you smile: There's a big portrait of the original Mr James Fitzwilliam in Eversley Hall, and Alice discovers that every day at 2 pm, a rainbow is reflected from the crystal chandelier directly onto Mr Fitzwilliam's crotch. (This is something that we Addicts actually witnessed in the Trafalgar Tavern in Greenwich. I stole it and put it in the book.)

A scene you hated writing: There is a lot of pain in Alice and Leo's shared past, and that was hard to write about. There is a very short chapter in which they both lose what they love most in the world, and they're unable to share their emotions with each other. It was very difficult to write and I still cry when I read it.

A book your hero probably has on his bookshelf: Well, I sort of have two heroes. Leo Allingham, the real-life hero, would have The Motorcycle Diaries and Mr James Fitzwilliam, the Regency hero, would have Pride and Prejudice.

Like Christina, I'll give away a copy of The Summer of Living Dangerously to a person who joins the party and leaves a comment below! Just tell us what you'll be bringing to the this point, Alka-Seltzer is probably welcome, but personally, I shall be swigging champagne.

I'll leave you with a photo of the beautiful, summery flowers my publisher have sent me today. And thanks for coming to celebrate with us!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Highland Storms Party and Giveaway!

We're doing something different on the blog today... Since Christina's new book is just out this month, and since geography makes it a challenge for all six of us to find somewhere to gather to celebrate, we thought we'd celebrate here, and begin a new Heroine Addicts tradition: The Launch Party!

Simple rules: Everyone brings something special (including a date, if they fancy some company), and in return the Guest of Honour tells us Five Fast Facts about her book.

Here's the cover blurb of Highland Storms, to help us set the mood:

Betrayed by his brother and his childhood love, Brice Kinross needs a fresh start. So he welcomes the opportunity to leave Sweden for the Scottish Highlands to take over the family estate. But there’s trouble afoot at Rosyth in 1754 and Brice finds himself unwelcome. The estate’s in ruin and money is disappearing. He discovers an ally in Marsaili Buchanan, the beautiful redheaded housekeeper, but can he trust her? Marsaili is determined to build a good life. She works hard at being housekeeper and harder still at avoiding men who want to take advantage of her. But she's irresistibly drawn to the new clan chief, even though he's made it plain he doesn't want to be shackled to anyone. And the young laird has more than romance on his mind. His investigations are stirring up an enemy. Someone who will stop at nothing to get what he wants – including Marsaili – even if that means destroying Brice's life forever...

And now, are you ready to party? Here we go...

And look, Brigid is, look what she's bringing!

Brigid: Why a Scotsman in a kilt? I have always had a soft spot for a Scotsman. I don't know whether it is my Scottish ancestry or that in my younger years there were so many Scotsmen among my parents' friends that they imprinted on me. But add a kilt to a Scotsman and I become a little weak at the knees. There are a few men in kilts in my past...a man called Dugald in a kilt, rugby shirt and builders' boots *drools*. So if we are having a party for a book set in Scotland, then I'm bringing the man in a kilt. And hands off, ladies...he's coming home with me!

Susanna: That photo above comes courtesy of, wherein you'll find a plethora of handsome men in kilts.

And since I share the general love of kilted men, I'll bring a piper to the party, because...well, it's not a party, really, till you have a piper. For full effect, you might want to detour to this YouTube link and let the pipes play in the background while you read on...

I had some trouble deciding whom to ask to be my date, but in the end I settled on the man who, in my eyes at least, is still the hottest thing in kilts: Sir Sean Connery, shown here in this photo.

Julie: I will bring some salmon, which I believe features large in the cuisine of both Swedes and Scots.

I had the most gorgeous salmon of my life in Stockholm on holiday, gravadlax with dill potatoes and lingonberries. Mmmmmmm. And I will not hear of Christmas without some Scottish smoked salmon as a starter.

I will also bring Scot David Tennant
as my date. Cuz I can. And he seems to be bringing a Dalek. I hope nobody minds.

Liz: I'll be bringing whiskey to warm our hearts and free our imaginations and it goes really well with smoked salmon...and with that if I may can I bring a roaring fire and a big tartan covered sofa for all to collapse onto and to keep the male companionship up may I suggest James McAvoy....

Anna: I’m going to bring.... the wild, sweet, peaty water of Scotland, without which the salmon has no freedom, and the whisky no flavour. Whenever we return to our favourite place in Scotland, the first thing we do, whatever the weather, light, or time, is take a walk along the rushing river to the almost forgotten Old Bridge of Minnoch, which has arched in graceful elegance across the torrent for more than 300 years. The air is sweet, the bridge is waiting, and the water is singing to us, forever and always.

I'm also bringing Gerard Butler. After all, he is the physical model for my hero Gareth, in Danger: Deep Water.

Christina: You thought I’d bring a man as my guest
a handsome hero in a kilt no doubt, but sadly Jared Leto wasn’t available so I brought the next best thing – my favourite character from the book, the deerhound Liath. I knew from the moment I “met” him that he’d be having a starring role and I totally fell in love with him. I think everyone else will too and he’ll be only too pleased at any praise/pats/dog treats that come his way during the party. He loves being the centre of attention!

Right then, now that we’re all here, it’s time to have Christina tell us Five Fast Facts about her newest novel, Highland Storms

Favourite moment in the book
– when the hero Brice comes out of the loch after a swim wearing only wet breeches (no shirt à la Mr Darcy, sorry!) and the heroine realizes that there’s no way she’s going to be able to ignore this guy however much she wants to.

Character who surprised you the most
– the villain’s son when he started thinking for himself instead of following his father blindly. I hadn’t planned on including him much, but he ended up in quite a few scenes.

A scene that made you smile
- when Liath the dog, the heroine’s faithful hound, refuses to obey her for the first time ever and chooses to stay with the hero because he’s wise enough to know a good guy when he sees him.

A scene you hated writing
– when the hero gets beaten up by a bunch of English soldiers (on the orders of their sadistic captain). I had a hard time writing this because although I sympathized with the Highlanders who were persecuted after the Jacobite uprising, I didn’t want the English to always be shown in a bad light as there were good and bad people on both sides.

A book your hero probably has on his bookshelf
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (as the hero himself has travelled to China twice, I think an adventure story like this would appeal to him).

(That portrait of Liath, by the way, was drawn by Christina's very talented daughter, J. Fenton)

And the party continues...

Christina has offered up one signed copy of Highland Storms as a giveaway prize for the best thing anyone else brings to the party, and she'll send it anywhere in the world, so...what are you going to bring to our party?

You have till next Sunday to comment, and we'll let Christina pick the winner.

(Don't forget to come back Thursday, when we do this all again for Julie's latest book!)