Where the Snow Bleeds by Wendy Dranfield: Publication Week!

To celebrate the recent release of her new thriller, Where the Snow Bleeds, Ruby Fiction author Wendy Dranfield is weighing up the age-old writerly question: standalone or series 🤔

I’m excited to be on the Choc Lit blog today to celebrate the release of my second Ruby Fiction crime novel, Where the Snow Bleeds.

This is the second book in the series (Who Cares If They Die was released in 2018) which follows Dean Matheson in his journey to becoming the homicide detective he’s always wanted to be. Unfortunately for Dean, he’s his own worst enemy so it’s not a straightforward journey!

As a writer, the question I get asked most (after ‘where do you get your ideas from?’) is whether it’s easier to write sequels than it is to write standalone novels. When I wrote Who Cares If They Die, I had no idea it would become a series. I’d never written a series before and I started the book completely intending for it to be standalone. But I had a lot of fun creating the fictional town Maple Valley, and the characters were so enjoyable to write about that I didn’t want to leave them by the end of the book. Once I’d finished it, I wanted to know how they got on after everything that had happened to them (or should I say; everything that I’d put them through!).

So I started work on a sequel. I loved returning to the characters – by now they were like old friends – but I found it really difficult to write at first, mainly because I started with no plan or plot, even though that had worked for book 1. I spent months playing around with writing the first 40k words before finally realising I didn’t like what I’d written. So I scrapped it all and started afresh. Once I started afresh, changing the location from hot Nevada to cold Colorado, the words and the characters came to life. However, it wasn’t much easier than writing book 1 because the setting had changed. Dean was no longer living in Maple Valley, so some of the ground work I did in book 1 didn’t matter for book 2. I imagine if a writer stays in the same location, with the same characters, it’s slightly easier and less time-consuming than starting afresh.

As I had received some great reviews for Who Cares If They Die, I knew readers liked my characters – Rocky the wannabe police dog seems to be a favourite! This helped boost my confidence for writing book 2 and for my plan to stay with Dean Matheson for at least three books. Book 3 is now finished and it takes Dean’s life somewhere I really wasn’t expecting, so now I have to write book 4 to see what happens next! In a way, it’s like writing your own Netflix entertainment! I find myself visualising this series as a TV show as I write, which is why I made book trailers for both books, in the style of movie trailers.

What I’ve learned from writing three books in a series compared to writing a standalone novel, is that writing a series is only slightly easier than writing standalone novels because the groundwork is already done for each sequel, in terms of characters and location, but unfortunately it still doesn’t write itself! You still need to write a whole novel that you, your publisher and your readers are happy with!

About the Book

Where the Snow Bleeds is available as an eBook and in audio.

“You want to know what I’ve learnt after living in Lone Creek all my life? I know the snow bleeds here …
Former police officer Dean Matheson has been playing it safe since the case that cost him almost everything. But working as a PI doesn’t quite cut it, that is until a British woman walks into his office with a job that Dean can’t resist.
The woman’s daughter, Hannah Walker, and her friend Jodie have gone missing whilst working at a ski resort in Colorado. It’s clear there’s something sinister about the girls’ disappearance, but then why are the local police department being so unhelpful?
So begins Dean’s journey to Lone Creek on the trail of the missing girls – and he’ll soon find out that in Lone Creek, everyone has something to hide …

 

About the Author

Wendy is a former Coroner’s Assistant turned crime writer who lives in the UK with her husband.

Who Cares If They Die and Where the Snow Bleeds are the first two books in the Dean Matheson series, with more on the way. As well as her crime thriller series, Wendy has written a YA crime novel – The Girl Who Died – and she has several short stories published in UK and US anthologies. She has also been shortlisted and longlisted for various competitions, including the Mslexia Novel Competition.

For behind the scenes gossip and updates on her books (or photos of her cats), follow her on social media!

Website: https://wendydranfield.co.uk/

Twitter: @WendyDranfield

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WendyDranfield1/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7g8miK6akDG2pFqgGeLFAw

Leading Men

Earlier in April we released the fresh and funny Maybe Baby by Carol Thomas. Today on the blog Carol shares a few thoughts on the leading men in her books! 

I am delighted to be on the Choc Lit blog today to celebrate the release of the second book in the Lisa Blake series, Maybe Baby, and talk about one of my favourite subjects, leading men 😉

One of the questions writers often get asked is whether their characters are based on people they know. Most writers will say no to this. But some will confess to borrowing features from friends, family, work colleagues, and so forth.

Another question that crops up is, who would you pick as your dream cast to play your characters? It’s a good question. For me, coming up with an answer during the early stages of writing helps to pin down the fundamentals of my characters.

And a new one on me when I submitted to Choc Lit was being asked to describe my hero in terms of chocolate! For those who are intrigued to know how I responded, regarding the leading man in The Lisa Blake series, I said: “He is tantalisingly tempting to be around. He is delicious and desirable, able to provide melting moments that are satisfying and sensual, and yet solid and dependable – no matter what the occasion.”

While none of my male leads are directly based on men I know, I do borrow features I like. One character had my dentist’s eyes, physical build and surname, and the happy trail of one of my husband’s friends. I wasn’t peeking on purpose; he stretched up while standing next to me and it was revealed. It was a bit of an “oo hello!” moment, and I wrote it into my book. As for my dentist, I later confessed and got his picture holding my book (I thought it was funny, though I think he now considers me a bit weird – it’s a good job he changed practice!).

When I am creating a hero, I consider their role in the story, their age, job, mannerisms, name, background – all things that might have a bearing on their final appearance and characteristics. In the Lisa Blake series, one character is a landscape gardener. As a result of this, he is tanned; his hair has highlights from the sun, he is muscular and has arms and hands that reflect physical labour. Writing Maybe Baby, I grew very fond of him and not just because of his physique. He is kind and caring, funny and supportive.

I also try to include different types of men, to appeal to different readers. I hope those who have read The Purrfect Pet Sitter will enjoy the introduction of Florian in Maybe Baby – I won’t say what his role is, but I will share the fact he sets more than one pulse racing when he appears on the scene!

So if I were choosing my dream cast who would I pick to play the leading man in The Lisa Blake series? My vote for the lovely Nathan Baker would go to Chris Hemsworth – sigh! His blond hair, blue eyes and muscular build fit Nathan perfectly. He has strength while looking like the type of man you could happily spend an afternoon snuggled up with – by a roaring fire, or on a picnic blanket at the top of a mountain!

The blurb:

Just when you thought you had it all worked out …

Best friends Lisa and Felicity think – maybe, just maybe – they finally have everything sorted out in their lives.

Lisa is in a happy relationship with her old flame, and busy mum Felicity has managed to reignite the passion with her husband, Pete, after a romantic getaway.

But when Lisa walks in on a half-naked woman in her boyfriend’s flat and Felicity is left reeling from a shocking discovery, it becomes clear that life is nothing but full of surprises …

Maybe Baby is available in eBook and in audio.

Buying links:

Kindle: http://getbook.at/MBAmazon

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/maybe-baby-35

Ruby Fiction: https://www.rubyfiction.com/dd-product/maybe-baby/

 

View the fun book trailer for Maybe Baby made by Carol’s children:

 

About the author:

Carol Thomas lives on the south coast of England with her husband, four children and lively young Labrador. She has been a playgroup supervisor and taught in primary schools for over fifteen years, before dedicating more of her time to writing. Carol is a regular volunteer at her local Cancer Research UK shop. She has a passion for reading, writing and people watching and can often be found loitering in local cafes working on her next book.

Carol writes contemporary romance novels, with relatable heroines whose stories are layered with emotion, sprinkled with laughter and topped with irresistible male leads.

The Importance of Reading in Childhood

 

In March we released The Truth Lies Buried by Morton S. Gray in paperback. Today on the blog, Morton emphasises the importance of reading in childhood and talks about her own reading experiences as a child. 

My mother always read to me when I was young. As a result, I was reading myself aged four and well before I went to school a couple of days after my fifth birthday. I have fond memories of snuggling up to my mother’s side and listening to stories of fairies, giants and twins. I still have a few of the books from this time. Reading was just something we did for enjoyment and togetherness.

We used to go as a family to the local library every Saturday morning and all head off to different sections – me to children’s, Mom to fiction and Dad to local history. Our house was always full of books. Mom and Dad belonged to mail order book clubs and books would arrive in the post at regular intervals. In fact, the headboard of their bed incorporated shelves which had loads of books on them. I have no pictures of it, but can visualise it so easily in my mind – I wish I still had that headboard now!

Nan used to read to me on Sundays too, as well as teaching me to play card games. She usually read Rupert stories, pronounced the character names adorably strangely and tended to fall asleep in the middle of a sentence, leaving me to wonder how the story ended until she woke up.

My infant and junior school essays were full of caves, buried treasure and big brothers, stories mainly influenced by my love of Enid Blyton books. If you look closely at my novels, you can still see these influences even now, as I don’t believe my themes have progressed far from those early days! I still have a set of Famous Five and Secret Seven books which my nan sourced from somewhere.

I think I must end this post with a plea – if you have children or grandchildren please read to them, engender this love of books which will help them through life, bereavement, sickness and all that this world can throw at them. I truly believe it is vitally important in this digital age that we don’t lose the love of reading a good story (even if it is read digitally). I don’t think I would be an author without these early influences.

The Truth Lies Buried is available as a paperback, in eBook on all platforms and also as an audio book on Amazon and Audible. Click on the cover image above for purchasing options. 

For more on Morton
Follow her on Twitter @MortonSGray
Like her on Facebook Morton S. Gray – Author
Check out her blog www.mortonsgray.com

Margaret James Turns to Crime!

We recently celebrated the release of Margaret James’ first crime novel with Ruby Fiction, The Final Reckoning. Today on the blog Margaret is telling us a little bit about the crime fiction she enjoys and the inspiration for her first writing foray into the genre …

Why do authors write crime fiction? Surely real life can be terrifying enough? Who wants to read about imaginary crimes when there are plenty of factual horrors in the newspapers and on our screens every day?

Well, a quick glance at the bestseller charts will reveal that plenty of people want to read about fictional crimes. Romantic and crime fiction regularly top the genre charts both in bookshops and in libraries.

I’m a big fan of crime, thriller and mystery fiction. But, having said that, I’m not a fan of in-your-face cruelty and mayhem. As a mother of daughters, crime fiction in which a young and innocent woman is horribly killed is a big turn-off for me and I never read it. Ditto stories about the abductions and murders of children – those are even more distressing. My preferred crime reading is the kind that offers me a puzzle. Who did whatever someone did? Why did they do it? I don’t want to have to care too much about the murder victim. Actually, I much prefer it if this person kind of deserved their fate.

So, when it came to writing some crime fiction of my own, my starting point was the puzzle. Why would someone want to murder a middle-aged man in a rather decisive but unusual way? What message, if any, was the killer leaving for the police to find? My heroine, Lindsay Ellis, is the one who stumbles across the body, but she is never a suspect. Eventually, the dead man’s son is tried for his father’s murder, but he is acquitted. Who else would have had a motive to kill?

Nobody – apparently.

The fun of writing The Final Reckoning came from filling it with twists and turns, from puzzling my characters as much as I hoped I would puzzle my readers, and from delivering the kind of twist that would encourage these readers to guess the truth, but to guess wrong.

I’m hoping the solution to the mystery will come as a surprise to readers, but that most readers will say: yes, of course, it had to be like that! Rather than: oh, as if!

I haven’t cheated these readers. I’ve slipped in plenty of clues pointing to the identity of the murderer and also to the murderer’s motivation. But, of course, as the writer, I have known the answer to the big question in this novel all along. So it looks rather obvious to me!

The Final Reckoning is available as an eBook on all platforms and also as an audio book on Amazon, Audible and iTunes. Click on the cover image above for purchasing options. 

For more on Margaret
Follow her on Twitter @majanovelist
Like her on Facebook Margaret James Novelist

Why Botany?

 

Earlier in January we celebrated the release of debut author Sharon Ibbotson’s thrilling regency novel, The Marked Lord. Today on the blog Sharon tells us a little more about the hero of the book, Fitz, and his slightly unusual talent! 

 

With The Marked Lord being released this month, I’ve had many people ask me questions about the book and my writing process. From ‘What was your inspiration?’ to ‘What do you like to have for dinner?’ (by the way, I think ‘wine’ would be an appropriate answer for both!) I’ve been truly surprised by the breadth of interest in the story. But one point has come up, again and again:

‘Your hero is a botanist? Hmm. That’s different.’

The truth is, I conceived of the hero long before the plot of the book. As an Australian raised on stories of the great botanist Sir Joseph Banks (I went to Banks Public School, lived on Banks Drive, and saw the Banksia everywhere, the great floral emblem of New South Wales) I learned very quickly to love gardening and botany.

Joseph Banks (who appears, albeit in letter form, in The Marked Lord) was the greatest botanist of his time; the man who sent hand-drawn images of Australian flora and fauna back to Mother England during his travels with Captain Cook. Australian flora and fauna are incredibly unique and very special, and at first, the British were disinclined to believe that what Banks told them was true (spoiler- it was very true!)

So, I knew from the start that my hero would be a botanist, and that, at one point in his past, he would’ve been under the tutelage of Banks. I suppose, in one way, it was my way of bringing a bit of Australia into a Regency romance (I have an idea for another regency with an Australian heroine, born in the prison colony and brought back to the UK, but that’s a story for another day…) as well as my love of gardening.

I’m incredibly lucky where I live. I’m in suburban London, but standing in our garden, you wouldn’t know it. For one thing, a river cuts through the back of our land. We have a pond and cascade, full of newts and occasionally visited by ducks and even herons. I have a kitchen garden, full of herbs and flowers to attract bees, and a massive greenhouse (not as big as Fitz’s, sadly) that my very clever husband built me for my thirtieth birthday. In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that we are under one of the Heathrow landing paths, and that occasionally our peace is broken by the roar of a 747 engine (although I also love planes, so that doesn’t really bother me) you wouldn’t know you were in London at all. My husband and I are keen gardeners (although I don’t get as much time in the garden now as I would like, with two young children running around) and we’ve dedicated years to planning and planting.

So, when I wrote Fitz, his love for botany was very much my love for botany, and I probably put more of myself into his character than I ever did into Sophy, the heroine. Although Sophy, having been raised so closely to Fitz, and respecting and admiring him as she did (I’m very much a believer that respect and admiration for one’s character comes before love – I know, I know, I’ve read too much Austen) also turned out to have a passion for gardening herself.

In a way, I suppose I also wanted to make a point about beauty, and about it very much being in the eye of the beholder. Fitz, horribly scarred on the outside, is beautiful within. And Sophy, beautiful on the outside, carries her emotional scars tightly on the inside. Many plants are like this too. A rose, after all, is surrounded by thorns. Blackcurrant sage, if left untended, can turn into the spindliest of wooden shrubs. And rhubarb, which I always refer to as the ‘femme fatale’ of the plant world, is tart and sweet on the tongue but nestled amongst highly poisonous leaves. Sometimes, like with Fitz, you must look beyond appearances. And like Sophy, sometimes beauty hides an inner pain.

When I sit down to write a book, I tend to ‘head canon’ the hero before the heroine. I do this because I like to think about what makes him attractive to me, and thus, what will make him attractive to my heroine. I’ve never been one for looks; in all the times I’ve ever been in love, it’s been the personality that attracted me before the looks ever did. So, with Fitz, when I listed his features, I simply wrote ‘scarred’ under the box I reserve for appearance descriptions, before going to ‘personality’ and writing about three A4 pages. As such, in The Marked Lord I don’t shy away from describing Fitz as physically unappealing. He is not your typical ‘scarred regency hero’ type, with a delicate scar running down one side of his face, marring but not obscuring his traditionally handsome good looks. No, Fitz is more like the Phantom of the Opera – completely scarred and disfigured, to the point where he describes himself as a sideshow attraction. Is this a risk? Perhaps. I want my readers to fall in love with Fitz, I want them to understand his appeal to Sophy. But I’m truly hoping they’ll understand that Sophy falls in love with Fitz and his beautiful personality.

Fun fact. The Marked Lord is not the first time Sir Joseph Banks appears in a work of fiction. Far from it. He also appears in Mutiny on the Bounty, that old tale about the sailors who overthrew Bligh and left him for dead in the ocean. Rather miraculously, Bligh and the crew who remained loyal to him survived their ordeal, and Bligh went on to become Governor of… Australia. The same Australia Banks and Cook mapped 36 years earlier.

The Regency period is littered with references to Australian history, and I’m so glad to share a little of it with you all in The Marked Lord.

The Marked Lord is available as an eBook on all platforms and also as an audio book on Amazon, Audible and iTunes. Click on the cover image above for purchasing options. 

For more on Sharon
Follow her on Twitter @seibbotson
Like her on Facebook Sharon Ibbotson Author 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2019 from Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction!

What an exciting year 2018 has been for us! We turned 9 years old, officially launched Ruby Fiction (our fabulous new imprint) and released so many amazing new books from talented authors into the world. We can’t wait to see what 2019 (our 10th year!) brings 🙂

For now all that’s left to do is wish a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our readers and reviewers! We hope your stockings are filled with plenty of books and chocolate – and that you have a little bit of spare time for reading in between all the mince pies and Christmas films 🎄🎁

See you in the new year when we’ll have plenty of new fantastic books to share with you all!

Christmas Memories with Morton S. Gray

Earlier this week we celebrated the release of Morton S. Gray’s new novella, Christmas at Borteen Bay. Today we welcome her onto the blog to talk about her memories of Christmas past. Do any of her Christmas traditions match up with yours? 🎅

Writing Christmas at Borteen Bay, my first Christmas novella, made me think about what Christmas means to me and to examine my childhood memories.

We always had a very traditional Christmas when I was growing up. Mom and Dad would take us to choose a real Christmas tree each year and there would often be a disagreement about the size and shape of the tree. I can remember at least one occasion when Dad had to cut the top off the tree to fit it into the room!

We would then open the boxes of decorations retrieved from the loft. Cue more angst as we tried to get the lights to work – in those days you had to check each bulb, as just one not screwed in correctly would result in the whole set not working. It was always a relief when the tree was at last illuminated and then we could get out the decorations, some of which were quite old. The glass icicles Mom’s Dad had bought home in the war from goodness knows where (I still put these on my tree now). The cardboard glitter house with Santa on the roof, which had been on Mom’s Christmas trees for as long as she could remember. The glass candy cane my nan bought for me. The Santa and sleigh for the fireplace shelf. It always seemed (seems) magical to get these items out of the boxes.

My father’s employer usually gave staff a Christmas bird and a bottle of alcohol as a Christmas bonus. They must have had some unwritten rating system, as if you got a chicken and a bottle of cheap sherry, it seemed they weren’t pleased with your performance. One year, Dad got a huge turkey and an expensive bottle of whisky. Mom wasn’t very keen on how the turkey sat on the refrigerator shelf and it was almost too big for the oven, but I guess Dad must have worked well that year.

We used to have much deeper snow when I was young. I had a huge sledge which my uncle had made. On one occasion I took it to the local park with friends. Four of us hurtled down a steep bank and hit a bump at the bottom. The three friends at the front fell off into a snow drift and I was the only one still sitting on the sledge.

We placed empty pillow cases at the bottom of our beds for Santa to fill. At that time, I shared a room with my sister, who was seven years younger. I always enjoyed watching her open her presents before I looked at my own. One Christmas morning, my sister woke me very concerned that Santa hadn’t been. Our pillow cases were still empty. We went to tell our parents and discovered that their room was festooned with Christmas gifts. Mom and Dad must have overslept their ‘Santa alarm’. My sister and I then had to guess which gift was meant for each of us – which was actually quite fun. A Christmas to remember for sure!

Christmas at Borteen Bay is now available to purchase as an eBook and in audio. Click here for purchasing options: https://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/christmas-at-borteen-bay/

Halloween at Hargreate Hall: Final Part by Berni Stevens

Happy Halloween! It’s time for this year’s Halloween Round Robin. And this year we have not one but TWO fabulously spooky tales written collaboratively by eight talented Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction authors to share with you 👻 We shared one yesterday (click HERE to begin reading it) and today we’re starting again with a new bunch of authors! 

It’s only right that we finish our Halloween festivities off with our very own Queen of vampire fiction, Berni Stevens! And if you were wracking your brains trying to work out which way this story could possibly go, we don’t think you could have possibly guessed Berni’s fantastic finish!

Remember to read right until the end to find details of the competition!

A Round Robin is best enjoyed if you read each part in order.
Read Part 1 by Morton S. Gray HERE
Read Part 2 by Angela Britnell HERE
Read Part 3 by Kathryn Freeman HERE

HALLOWEEN AT HARGREATE HALL – FINAL PART BY BERNI STEVENS 

Meredith had been knee-deep in Halloween preparations since the last Kate encounter, and too busy to question the weirdness of life – and death – at Hargreate Hall. By the time Sunday morning dawned, she’d convinced herself she’d misunderstood the ghost’s words. Whatever her ‘plan’ was, she’d said it would involve Joe, and he hadn’t looked too thrilled.

However, she felt pleased with the way everything was shaping up back at the Hall. The trail looked seriously spooky already – even in daylight, and once the various LED lights were hidden among the fake cobwebs which draped over the yew hedges, it would look even more amazing. She still had bags of marshmallow eyeballs, and chocolate pumpkins and witches to hide for the children to find, and then she needed to set up a barrel for apple bobbing.

The hedges rustled as she passed by, which caused the cobwebs to quiver, and Meredith found herself sniffing the air suspiciously for any whiff of lilac. She made her way to Joe’s office, hoping he’d actually be there, and hadn’t suddenly decided against helping her. She’d forgotten to ask how old his daughter was too, which could be a potential problem if she turned out to be a sulky teenager. Knocking smartly on his office door, she stepped back when it opened immediately.

A small, female version of Joe stood there, with the same vivid blue eyes, which stared up at her without blinking.

‘I’m Lily,’ she said. ‘And I’m six.’

Meredith held her hand out. ‘Hello Lily,’ she said. ‘I’m very pleased to meet you.’

‘You’re supposed to tell me your name.’ Lily put her small hand in Meredith’s.

‘Lily, I hope you aren’t being rude.’ Joe came to stand beside his daughter. He glanced at Meredith, and there was a definite twinkle in his eyes this time.

‘I’m sorry, Lily,’ Meredith said. ‘My name’s Meredith, but you can call me Merry if you like, lots of people do.’

‘Merry.’ Lily repeated.

‘Suits you.’ Joe flashed a grin at her. Wow, what a difference a grin made. He really should bring his daughter in to work every day.

A crash from the corridor made them all turn round. Joe sprinted past Meredith and Lily. A large Chinese vase had fallen from its plinth, and shattered into tiny fragments on the flagstone floor.

‘What …?’ Meredith walked towards the debris, and caught the faint smell of lilacs. ‘Kate?’

The air felt distinctly cooler the closer she got to the broken pieces of vase. Joe was back to looking grim again.

‘Was it valuable?’ She looked at Joe.

‘I doubt it, the family sold most of the valuable things off, to try and keep this place going.’

‘It was my mother’s.’ A disembodied voice floated down.

‘Doesn’t make it valuable,’ said Joe morosely. ‘Just old.’

‘That’s rude,’ a small voice piped up.

Meredith hid a smile. Lily had a point. ‘Why would you break it then?’ She addressed the air smelling mostly of lilacs.

‘It was always a disgusting vase.’ The air turned suddenly colder.

Lily looked mutinous and seemed not in the least phased by everyone having a conversation with – apparently – thin air. ‘Disgusting,’ she repeated. ‘That’s a bad word.’

Joe shrugged his broad shoulders. ‘Lily’s learning good and bad words at the moment.’

Meredith grinned. ‘And she’s very good. Shall we clear this mess up?’

It took longer than expected to sweep up the pieces of broken china, because apparently Kate thought it extremely amusing to blow them down the corridor just as they approached with the dustpan and brush. Luckily Lily thought it hilarious too, and not at all scary. But time and trail waits for no man – or ghost – and Meredith eventually managed to get Joe filling the large half barrel with water and Lily washing apples, whilst she made sure all the batteries worked for the lights.

Even Joe had to admit the trail looked incredible, and very ghostly, once all the lights were switched on. They’d hung plastic bats from the trees and even hung a full-sized plastic skeleton from the gnarled branch of the ancient oak tree.

Meredith switched off the lights on the trail and went to find Joe and Lily. The soft scent of lilacs wafted past her and she stopped.

‘Kate?’

A rustle of silk skirts and a soft laugh answered her.

‘So where have you been?’ Meredith addressed the air where the laugh had come from.

‘Around.’

‘I thought you had a plan that involved Joe.’

‘I did, and it’s working.’

Well, who knew ghosts did riddles. Meredith sighed. ‘Kate, it’s been a long day …’

To her surprise, Kate began to materialise in front of her. She looked so beautiful. Soft auburn hair curled down to her shoulders, and green eyes glinted with a mischievous sparkle.

‘But I thought you couldn’t …’

‘I always could … I chose not to.’

‘Why?’

‘We needed to convince Joe to remain in the mortal world.’

‘I don’t understand …’

‘His wife died when Lily was only three, and he … well he tried to join her.’

Meredith gasped. ‘And you stopped him.’

‘Yes.’

‘So you ruined his death.’

‘I did.’ Another laugh. ‘I knew you were the one for him, but he had to see for himself.’

‘Which he hasn’t.’

‘Yes he has …’

Kate’s image faded away in front of Meredith’s eyes. Then she heard Joe call her name, and turning around, she watched Lily run towards her, with arms outstretched, and she crouched down to catch the little girl in a hug. Over her head she saw the look in Joe’s eyes when he looked down at her, and she knew the ghost had been absolutely right.

Awww, what a sweetly spooky ending to a fabulous Halloween Round Robin! We hope you enjoyed it! Thank you once again to our super talented authors for putting this together. We hope all our readers enjoyed both our stories 🎃 Enjoy your Halloween evenings all – we hope they’re filled with plenty of treats and not too many tricks!

If you enjoyed Berni’s writing, you can find her books available to purchase from all good online book stockists and retailers – and we’ve just released her quirky (and not at all spooky!) Christmas novella, One Magical Christmas! Click the images below for purchasing options. 

 

 

COMPETITION TIME! 

To be in with a chance of winning a Choc Lit paperback and some chocolate simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):

What Halloween-themed sweets does Meredith hide for the children on the trail?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Berni Stevens comp’ by Friday 2nd November. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Monday 5th November.

Halloween at Hargreate Hall: Part 3 by Kathryn Freeman

Happy Halloween! It’s time for this year’s Halloween Round Robin. And this year we have not one but TWO fabulously spooky tales written collaboratively by eight talented Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction authors to share with you 👻 We shared one yesterday (click HERE to begin reading it) and today we’re starting again with a new bunch of authors! 

Kathryn Freeman really has her work cut out for her in following up from Angela Britnell who left Joe and Meredith in a very unusual situation with a ghost in the last part! We’re sure she’ll pull it out of the bag though! Read on to see if she does. 

Remember to read right until the end to find details of the competition!

A Round Robin is best enjoyed if you read each part in order.
Read Part 1 by Morton S. Gray HERE
Read Part 2 by Angela Britnell HERE

HALLOWEEN AT HARGREATE HALL – PART 3 BY KATHRYN FREEMAN 

‘Your death?’ Meredith lurched backwards, banging the back of her head against the wall. As she felt her knees give way, a pair of strong arms reached out and caught her.

‘Hey, I’ve got you.’ Concern softened Joe’s usually harsh features. ‘Come and sit down.’

Before she knew what was happening, she was back in his office, sitting on the visitor chair with him crouched down next to her. ‘Feeling better?’

She drew in a breath, and as she let it out, Kate’s words rushed back to her. ‘What did Kate mean, about ruining your death?’

Joe sighed heavily, rising to his feet and perching on the edge of the desk. ‘Do I look dead to you?’

Her eyes rested on his big muscular thighs, straining against the material of his jeans, then skimmed up to his darkly handsome face. ‘No.’ He looked gloriously, vividly alive.

‘Well then. Don’t believe any nonsense you hear from a ghost.’ His jaw tightened, and the harshness returned to his face. ‘Especially that ghost.’

Meredith gulped. Clearly Kate had been right. There was some sort of history between them. History she was too afraid to ask about for fear of upsetting him further. ‘Your words imply there are other ghosts, but Kate said she’d run them all off.’

A ghost of a smile – oh God, terrible pun – flickered across his face. ‘What did I say about listening to her? She thinks she rules the place. Always has.’

Okay, okay. About a million questions buzzed through Meredith’s brain, but now wasn’t the time. Not when she had a Halloween trail to put together, which required Joe to be in a good mood. ‘Kate said she would help with the Halloween event.’ Meredith hesitated, remembering the conversation. With the ghost. Joe himself had said Kate was a ghost, so it was quite possible she really was. Then again, Kate had said Joe was dead, which would also make him … no, that was plain insanity. ‘Actually, Kate,’ yes, that sounded better than saying the ghost, ‘said she had a plan, but it involved you.’

‘Did she now.’ He stood, jaw muscle twitching again, and walked to the window, sliding his hands into his jeans pockets. Leaving her staring at his broad back.

Silence pinged around the room and Kate could feel his tension. Slowly he turned to face her. ‘Kate also said I was dead, which we’ve established isn’t true, so why believe she’s going to help?’

Because I’ve established more of a relationship with Kate since coming to work here than I have with you? The words were there, hovering on her tongue, but Meredith held back from saying them. Still, she wasn’t going to leave it alone totally. ‘At least Kate has offered to help. All you’ve done is throw cold water over my ideas.’

He winced, his shoulders sagging. ‘I have, haven’t I?’ Slowly he went to sit down at his desk. ‘Look, I’m sorry I’ve been a bit negative.’

‘A bit?’

He gave her a crooked smile. ‘Fine. Sorry I’ve been a total pain in the backside. Better?’

A warm, fuzzy feeling swept through her. He was smiling at her. They were actually having a friendly conversation. ‘Much better.’

‘The thing is, I had my reasons. Have my reasons.’ He glanced away then, as if considering his next words. ‘If you want to involve Kate, fine. Why not suggest she comes – or appears, or whatever it is she does – to our meeting on Sunday.’ His vivid blue eyes met hers. ‘I’ll bring my daughter to help. She loves all that tacky Halloween crap you’re planning.’

This time she didn’t take offence, because this time his eyes smiled when he said it. ‘Okay, great. And you promise to be nice to Kate?’

The smile vanished. ‘I can’t promise that. But I do promise to turn up and help you.’

It was as much as she could hope for, and more than she’d expected. ‘Thank you. And thank you for, you know, catching me.’

‘No problem.’ His eyes darkened as they held hers. ‘It was my pleasure.’

Her heart bumped against her ribs and Meredith almost floated out of his office.

Now all she had to do was find Kate.

Find a ghost.

She laughed to herself as she stepped into the corridor, feeling lighter, happier. She and Joe had turned a huge corner in their relationship. Working at Hargreate Hall had the potential to be a million times better from now on. Well, it would if she still had a job.

Hurriedly she walked towards the library – the first place she’d ‘met’ Kate. Feeling daft, she paced up and down, past the rows of dusty books, the wooden fireplace, the oil paintings of previous occupants.

That’s when she smelt the lilacs. ‘Kate?’

‘I’m here. So, did you get anywhere with our Joe?’

Our? ‘Can you meet us here on Sunday?’

Meredith heard laughter. ‘I’m hardly going anywhere, am I? Did Joe agree to help?’

‘Yes. He’s bringing his daughter, too.’

Kate gasped and immediately the air around her became noticeably colder, until Meredith felt her fingers going numb.

‘Kate?’ She whispered into the frozen silence.

But the smell of lilacs had vanished.

What did we say about Kathryn pulling it out of the bag? 😉 But now she’s left us on a spooky cliffhanger and it’s up to Berni Stevens to finish things off. We’re going to leave you biting your fingernails in anticipation for another hour though!  

If you enjoyed Kathryn’s writing, you can find her books available to purchase from all good online book stockists and retailers – including plenty of fab Christmas books! Click the images below for purchasing options. 

COMPETITION TIME! 

To be in with a chance of winning a Kathryn Freeman paperback and some chocolate simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):

What type of flower does Meredith smell when Kate is around?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Kathryn Freeman comp’ by Friday 2nd November. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Monday 5th November.

Halloween at Hargreate Hall: Part 2 by Angela Britnell

Happy Halloween! It’s time for this year’s Halloween Round Robin. And this year we have not one but TWO fabulously spooky tales written collaboratively by eight talented Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction authors to share with you 👻 We shared one yesterday (click HERE to begin reading it) and today we’re starting again with a new bunch of authors! 

Yesterday Morton S. Gray introduced us to the staff at Hargreate Hall and today Angela Britnell has her turn. We still really want to find out why Joe is being so mean! Come back every hour until 2pm to read a new extract AND enter competitions to win chocolate & book prizes. Alternatively you can wait until all parts have been put up and read the story in its entirety! 

Each author taking part has no idea where their part of the story will go, which leads to a few spooky surprises along the way. But you’ll need to read on to find out more 😉 

Remember to read right until the end to find details of the competition!

A Round Robin is best enjoyed if you read each part in order.
Read Part 1 by Morton S. Gray HERE

HALLOWEEN AT HARGREATE HALL – PART 2 BY ANGELA BRITNELL 

‘I could ask you why you’re not trying at all?’ Except for trying her patience. ‘I don’t want to lose my job even if you do.’ Judging by the way his dark eyebrows shot up her comment hit home. ‘Do you want Hargreate Hall to go bankrupt?’ Joe’s unwavering stare made her tingle all over.

‘No.’ His loud yell startled her and she almost tripped over one of the tottering stacks of files scattered around the floor. ‘But I am a realist. You can’t wave a magic wand and drop a few plastic spiders around this godforsaken wreck and seriously believe the few pounds we’ll make will be anything more than a drop in the bucket.’ A hint of cynical amusement twisted the corners of his mouth. ‘Although our leaky roof could make a decent contribution. Why on earth don’t you stop wasting your time and energy and get a job somewhere else?’

‘Because I’m not a quitter.’ At one point she’d considered Joe a friend and hoped for something more but now? Over the last few months their relationship had gone downhill and she suspected Joe had labelled her as a mentally lightweight blonde. He wasn’t the first person to make that mistake. ‘You could easily find another job too so why stay if you’re not committed to Hargreate?’

‘I can’t leave,’ he mumbled.

The obvious follow up to his mysterious statement hovered in the air between them.

‘I do want to see Hargreate Hall flourish but …’ Joe bent a paperclip until it snapped in two. ‘I’ll be here by four o’clock on Sunday.’ He picked up a folder from his desk. ‘Will that be all?’

There were a million questions she itched to ask but Meredith plastered on a smile, thanked him in a very businesslike way and gave the door a firm slam on the way out. Not quite loud enough that he could call her rude… If she’d been determined before to make the Hargreate Hall Halloween After-Dark Trail a success her stubbornness had solidified. She would prove Joe wrong if it was the last thing she did. The problem was she couldn’t do it alone.

A sudden chill skittered down her spine. ‘I should have guessed you wouldn’t be able to resist interfering.’

Only a puff of smoke lingering underneath the chandelier, the scent of lilacs and Kate’s insubstantial bell-like laughter betrayed her. Lady Katherine Ernestine Warren, second wife of the appalling Lord Peregrine Warren, fluttered closer to Meredith.

‘That’s not a terribly kind thing to say.’ Kate pouted, or at least it sounded like a pout because she didn’t do visibility well. A swish of pale blue satin the first time they met on the spiral staircase in the library was the only half-concrete sign Meredith had ever received. If anyone asked her before that cold March day if she believed in ghosts she would have answered with an unequivocal no. Now she couldn’t be certain. ‘I hoped you might appreciate my help.’

‘Yours?’ She hated to point out the obvious drawback in that offer.

‘Oh ye of little faith.’ Another trill of laughter filled the Great Hall. ‘I hear you are trying to attract visitors for this … Halloween event.’ Kate’s disdain oozed through her voice. No doubt she considered it tasteless and Meredith couldn’t put her finger on why she was worried about the feelings of someone who’d been dead almost a hundred and fifty years. Did ghosts even have feelings? ‘Every profitable castle and stately home boasts of having a ghost. Naturally multiple ones are far more profitable but you’ll have to make do with me because I’ve run all the others off.’

‘Others …’ Her voice faded. No wonder Meredith’s head ached. After her confrontation with Joe and now this encounter it was a miracle she wasn’t lying down comatose in a dark room.

‘Of course there were others.’ Kate snorted. ‘This house has been in the Warren family for over five hundred years. Do you seriously believe I’m the only one to have died in tragic circumstances?’

‘I suppose not.’

‘I have a plan.’

I was afraid you might.

‘We’ll have to let the dashing Joe in on our little scheme.’

‘Joe?’ Meredith could swear she saw two, pink round dots hovering in the area where Kate’s cheeks might logically be.

‘That’s my condition for helping you.’

She tried to imagine approaching Joe, who’d mocked her enough recently, with this new crackpot idea.

‘I think you’ll find he won’t mind. Joe and I have a … history shall we say?’ If Kate was a cat she’d be purring.

‘You and Joe?’ Meredith’s overwrought brain spun in dizzying circles.

‘Were you calling for me?’ Joe blustered out of his office with a dark scowl marring his handsome features. ‘I’m off out to prune the …’ His ruddy face turned the colour of curdled milk and he swayed on his feet. ‘Get that creature out of here now.’ He jabbed his finger at Kate. ‘She ruined my life.’

‘No, dearest Joe I ruined your death.’

 

Did anyone feel a tingle up their spine? We suppose every Halloween Round Robin needs a ghost … but Lady Katherine Ernestine Warren seems a rather unique ghost – and just what is her connection to Joe? Hopefully Kathryn Freeman can shed some light in the penultimate part coming up in the next hour! 

If you enjoyed Angela’s writing, you can find her books available to purchase from all good online book stockists and retailers – and her new winter read, Christmas at Black Cherry Retreat, will be released in December. Click the image below for purchasing options. 

 

COMPETITION TIME! 

To be in with a chance of winning an Angela Britnell paperback and some chocolate simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):

Where did Meredith and Kate (the ghost!) first meet? 

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Angela Britnell comp’ by Friday 2nd November. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Monday 5th November.