Welcome to Carina Author week a week full of Reviews, Guest Posts, Author Interviews and Giveaways, all about published authors by Carina UK. I'm delighted to welcome my sixth guest, Darcie Boleyn, author of Wish Upon a Christmas Chake and Something Old, Something New.
The thrill of being a published author is one that I appreciate every day. I’ve been very lucky to work with some fabulous editors, to have gorgeous covers and to be part of the extremely exciting and supportive community of publishers, authors, readers and bloggers.
My road to publication wasn’t an easy one by any means, and I learnt a lot along the way. But rejections of my early attempts at romance novels—including one from a major publisher, when I submitted my first attempt at a medical romance—along with a few revise and resubmits, helped me develop a better understanding of what worked and what didn’t.
I’ve always written, and as a child I used to enter writing competitions. This continued when I went to university but then, as life became busier, writing took a back seat. I nursed the dream to be published for years when my children were young, but I spent a lot of time procrastinating, which meant that once the rejection of my medical romance came, I didn’t try again for quite some time.
A few years ago, my husband encouraged me to really try again. He supported me throughout the ups and downs, and I will always be grateful to him for having such faith in me. I stumbled a few times along the way but he kept telling me I could do it, and the fact that he believed in me kept me going. When I received the email from Carina telling me that they wanted to publish Wish Upon a Christmas Cake, I was thrilled. All the hard work had paid off!
My own experiences mean that I would encourage aspiring authors to keep trying. The success of the ebook industry means that there are more opportunities to become a published author than ever.
I am in awe of other authors and of how they create such wonderful worlds within their novels. Even though I’ve been through the creative process myself, it still amazes me when I read a line that takes my breath away or when a plotline brings tears to my eyes. I am an avid reader, although working and writing mean that I don’t have as much time for reading these days, but when I get the chance to immerse myself in a book, it’s divine.
Sometimes, looking back, I wonder why I didn’t start writing in earnest sooner. But a flick through my photo albums provides the answer to that. I was working, striving to earn a living and build a home, then before I knew it, I had two beautiful children to care for. They took my time and energy and some days I could barely brush my hair, let alone create stories. So for me, the time wasn’t right then. But it is now. (I know many talented authors who have young children yet still write, and my hat goes off to them! How they manage to do it, I do not know.)
So if you’re harbouring a dream to write, then go ahead and do it. Put aside some time (and your fears) and make a start. Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, it doesn’t matter. If the time is right for you, then make the time to write. And if you want this; never give up!
She also has reservations about how she’d look in a gold bikini, as she rather enjoys red wine, cheese and loves anything with ginger or cherries in it – especially chocolate. Darcie fell in love in New York, got married in the snow, rescues uncoordinated greyhounds and can usually be found reading or typing away on her laptop.
Will you marry me…again?
When Annie Thomas agrees to give her ex away at his wedding to his boyfriend, she thinks she’ll be fine. With her three children at her side, she can handle anything. Then she finds out her gorgeous first ex-husband Evan Llewellyn is flying in from his glamorous life in New York to attend as well!
An unexpected pregnancy ended their relationship and as she stumbles through the ups and downs of life as a working single mum – helping everyone else find a happy ending along the way – Annie refuses to believe their old and incredibly hot spark can still exist.
It’s only when she and Evan are forced to face up to the past together that they’ll discover if they can have their own happily-ever-after too!
I wanted to wear my baggy old joggers but Cassie wouldn’t allow it. She had a slightly larger pair of Lycra running pants and a sports bra and she made me change into them. They almost fit, although I have serious side-boob coming out of the bra’s armpits. Cassie’s only concession was letting me put my t-shirt back on over the bra, so at least half of me is covered up, although I’m really not happy with the way that these trousers cling to my bum and thighs; it’s like wearing a full-body corset and I’m almost afraid to move in case I burst a seam.
However, Cassie forces me out the door and we walk briskly to the local park where Vlad is meeting us. My stomach churns in a mess of fear and apprehension. What if Vlad isn’t happy that Cassie has brought along her neighbour? What if I’m so unfit that I have some sort of attack during the workout that renders me helpless? My children need me. How would they manage if I wasn’t there to care for them and to earn a living? What if I’m as bad at this as I was at PE during my own school days?
Then another thought overpowers the others: Why am I so worried about a stupid workout session? It might actually be fun.
‘Come on, Annie!’ Cassie scolds, taking hold of my arm and leading me through the gates into the pre-spring confines of the park. I notice that the warning sign about letting dogs off their leads hangs at an angle on the fence, so the black silhouette dog looks like it’s doing a circus trick by balancing on its nose. I snigger. No letting your dog do circus tricks in the park or you face a possible fine of up to one thousand pounds. I can’t imagine Dragon managing to get up on his big squishy nose unless he overexerted himself sniffing the ground after Fairy Princess had done a wee.
‘Is that him?’ I ask, swallowing hard against the lump that lodges in my throat when I spy a giant Adonis up ahead. He’s so gorgeous that I swear the sun is actually breaking through the clouds above his head and filtering down upon him to make him glow like some kind of spirit. But this man is no apparition; he is clearly, undeniably, evidently, one hundred percent flesh and bone. So much hard male flesh and muscle. Cassie follows my pointing finger and nods.
‘Oh yes, that is Vlad.’ She quickly pulls a compact out of her cleavage and applies some lipstick. How on earth did she fit the mirror and lipstick in there? She notices me staring in confusion and winks. ‘It’s the implants, honey. They cradle anything, even a big, hard…’ My cheeks flame as she winks again. For a moment, as we approach Vlad, I ponder the sex act she referred to and wonder if it’s possible. Apart from a few high school fumbles, there was only ever Dex and our very tame and infrequent sex life – which confused me at the time but was understandable when he finally came out – and before him, Evan. Sex with Dex was quick and quiet but sex with Evan was so…
I can’t think about it right now. I shouldn’t think about it. Ever. Vlad is huge and as we stand before him I have to force my mouth shut. I mean, gaping like an idiot would not go down well. At all. But, just, wow! I take him in from his cropped honey blond hair to his strong square jaw, his tree trunk thick neck to his shoulders the width of a Chevy bonnet, then down his muscular arms which bulge out from a tight black t-shirt. I only stop staring because someone is saying my name. I blink. And again.
‘Annie!’ It’s Cassie. ‘Uh… yeah?’ I lick my lips and drag my attention away from Vlad to meet my friend’s curious gaze.‘I just introduced you to Vlad. Say hello.’ She gestures at him and as I turn to look at him again and meet his twinkling eyes, my cheeks fill with heat. He holds out a hand the size of a spade and I shake it. His grip is vice-like and I realise that he could snap me like a twig. He reminds me of a Viking as he stands before me, all raw masculinity, bulging biceps and energy. It occurs to me that it’s been a long time since I’ve ogled a man and I quite like it. Standing before him I feel womanly, I feel good, I feel… alive.
I jump awake, dragged from a dream about being in the jungle. Strangely, Lady Macbeth was there, talking about when the owl shrieks and the crickets cry… Crickets? I hold my breath and will my heart to slow down as I listen.
But I am not mistaken; my house is filled with the song of crickets. It’s as if I am abroad and they’re chirruping away. But I am not on a Greek island in a café eating date and walnut scones filled with honey and yogurt; a pleasant image inspired by a recent novel. I am, in fact, in England, inside my own home, clad in my fleecy pyjamas and it is February. So why, then, can I hear crickets?
I sit up and rub my eyes. My neck is stiff from sleeping on the sofa and I am cold. I need to go to bed and snuggle beneath the duvet. I pick up my phone and check the time. Three-thirty a.m. I head out to the hall and nearly fall over Dragon who is sleeping across the hallway guarding the stairs like some ancient mythical creature guarding its gold. Fairy Princess is not far away, snoring her head off in a very un-princess-like way. They clearly don’t need to go out, so I step carefully over them and tiptoe up the stairs. The house is immersed in darkness and I usually like this time when I can listen to everyone I love breathing in unison under one roof. But tonight, there is another noise and it is incongruous in my Sutton semi.
The crickets! The central heating must have encouraged their journey to maturity and some of the larger ones are chirping. Upstairs, I pop my head into each child’s room to check on them. Anabelle and Janis are sleeping in their beds, but when I enter Henry’s room, he is sleeping on his knees in front of the vivarium. How can children do that? Fall asleep in some strange sort of yoga position. The lights inside it are off but I can make out the small dark shape of the baby dragon underneath the fibre-glass cave. I gently scoop Henry up and shuffle him into his cabin bed – not easy when he is getting so big and I have to lift him up four steps too – then pull the covers over him. As I turn away and head for the door, something crunches under my foot. And again as I take another step. There is a slimy wetness beneath the crunch. I pause as my sleep fuddled mind tries to conjure an explanation.
Henry probably sneaked a grape up here too and that somehow got mixed up with the Lego and that’s what’s now sticking to the ball of my foot and oozing between my toes. It must be Lego that Henry has left out again, even though we’ve had the discussion about putting it away once he’s finished playing with it. The dogs don’t brave the stairs very often, but if they do and they decide to consume some of his plastic building blocks or his intergalactic pirate ship, then there will be an expensive trip to the vet and Henry will lose what is now being hailed as a better investment than stocks and shares. I will certainly have to speak to him about tidying up properly tomorrow.
But as I take another step, the chirruping gets louder and something scuttles across my naked foot and up my shin. I shake my leg vigorously and hear a plop as something hits the wall. It’s like a horror movie where everyone except for the actress can see that at any moment she’s going to have her leg ripped off by a giant killer scorpion. My heart thuds as I realise with mounting dread what must have happened. This is no giant scorpion and this is not a movie. I told Henry ten times before he went to bed to ensure that he put the lid on the cricket tub properly but now…
I thrust my fist into my mouth and bite down to stifle my scream. I want to get my feet off the floor so I take it in turns to lift one then the other. Which is your favourite foot? Which one would you keep if you had to choose? It’s like some bizarre Sophie’s choice.
When I’ve washed the dishes and left them to dry on the draining board, I pour another mug of coffee and head upstairs. I haven’t heard any movement up there yet and as it’s not even nine, I doubt I’ll hear anything for a while.
I reach the top step and pick up a sock that is wedged between the spindles of the banister then throw it into the wash basket on the landing. ‘She shoots! She scores!’ I whisper then make a cheering noise in the side of my mouth. Henry loves it when I do that, or he did when he was about four. In fact, he used to ask me to do it again and again.
Just as I’m passing Janis’ room, I hear a funny noise and it stops me in my tracks. I am seized by a wave of panic, worried that she’s somehow choking on her tongue or even her vomit if she’s that stressed, but then she whimpers softly and I smile. She’s dreaming. My sweet baby girl. But another noise makes me start. It’s a low, deep moan. Oh my god! That wasn’t Janis! There’s someone else in there!
I carefully lower my mug to the floor and roll up my sleeves. Images of my daughter being assaulted by a prowler flash into my mind. I am overwhelmed by maternal rage. How dare anyone hurt my child! How dare anyone break into my home! I slam the door open and scream like a banshee as I rush towards the bed. I grab the intruder by his naked shoulders and pull him off my daughter then hammer blows all over him with my balled-up fists.
‘Who are you? What are you doing? How did you get in here! Run, Janis, run!’ The man beneath me covers his face with his arms and cries out that he’s a friend, that he’s sorry, and a variety of other excuses that I can’t make out because he’s trying to shield himself from my pummelling. I give him a good hard kick in the bum for good measure. ‘Mum!’ Janis tugs at my arm whilst trying to avoid accidentally getting clocked. ‘Mum, please! Get off him. He’s my…’
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