IT’S ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE WITH NICO, OLIVIER CONTI, AND….. DRUM ROLL….. SOPHIA.

 

NICO'S BABYSITTING

Greetings, my lovelies,

It’s August 1st.

Where has the summer gone?

Time for another slice of life with the Ferranti family………..

All is quiet on a hot and sultry Saturday at The Dower House. Bronte and Anastacia Morgan, Italian soccer star Olivier Conti’s fiancée, are out having a girly day at the Ferranti Hotel and Spa, Ludlow Hall. Luca and Tonio are spending the weekend at a summer sport camp. Nico and Olivier are on daddy duty looking after baby Eve, and… Sophia.

Since the guys are off duty, today they haven’t bothered with a razor, and both wear below the knee khaki shorts and ratty T-shirts.

We join them, dear readers, snoozing on the L shaped couch in the family-living-kitchen space. Yup, my friends, the boys have taken their eyes off the ball. Oh dear, oh dear…..

Meanwhile, in Sophia’s world, also known as her bedroom…….

*Before she’d gone out with Anastacia, Sophia’s mama had brushed Sophia’s silver blonde hair back in a complicated plait arrangement threaded with pink satin ribbon. At the same time Anastacia (Sophia ADORES Anastacia) painted Sophia’s tiny toenails with five different shades from ruby red to a sparkling pale pink.

Now a beyond thrilled Sophia is kicking back in her bedroom where it’s nice and cool. She’s wearing her favorite pink cotton sun dress. She’s added a purple ostrich feather boa around her neck and painted her pink mouth bright lemon from her stash of kiddie make-up – a gift from her auntie Rosie. She and four of her favorite dolls are watching the final credits at The End of the movie, Frozen. When the song Let It Go begins, Sophia’s on her twinkling toes, her hairbrush is her microphone as she sings along at the top of her voice. Maybe one day she could be a pop star. Four smiling dolls watch her with wide-eyed unblinking blue eyes*

 

Dio mio,” Oliver murmurs and turns to lie flat on his back. Eyes closed, he yawns huge enough to crack his jaw, scratches his flat belly. “What the hell is that noise?”

Nico cranks open an eye. Listens to his daughter murdering Idina Menzel’s brilliant vocals, and joins Olivier in a yawn. It is true. Yawning is contagious. He and Olivier have been hard at it, with Anastacia cracking the organizational whip, since six thirty discussing the next marketing film Olivier is due to star in next week for the Ferranti Boutique Hotel campaign in Rome. “Ignore her. It is Sophia singing along to Frozen. It can go on for hours.” Like Olivier, he rolls onto his back and closes his eyes. Dio, the heat is oppressive, this must be the hottest day of the year so far. Through folding doors opened wide to the garden, he can hear the buzz of lazy bees rumbling from rose to rose. The silence, apart from Sophia, is golden. Heaven.

Meanwhile, back in Sophia’s world…..

*In bare feet, Sophia skips along the thick carpet running along the wide corridor outside her bedroom, and tip toes into baby Eve’s room next door to her mama and papa’s huge bedroom suite. The baby is sound asleep, the window shades drawn to keep out the heat. She’s is sooooooo cute with her black crazy curls and pink cheeks and tiny mouth. And she has the teeeeeeniest fingernails.

Pursing her lips, Sophia slides into the hallway, cocks her head to listen for any sign of life from her papa or uncle Olivier, and hears nothing. The football season is over for the summer, which means Olivier is spending ‘quality time’ with Anastacia. Sophia sidles into her mama and papa’s bedroom. The place smells faintly of her papa’s cologne and her mama’s shampoo and fresh flowers in the huge class vase on the serving table between his and her walk-in closets. Her little fingertips run along the velvet edge of a low backed couch. Her nails are unpainted because her mama might permit toe nails to be painted (on special occasions) but not fingernails because, ‘Sophia is too young.’ Hmmmmmmm. But like a moth to the proverbial flame (as auntie Rosie says) Sophia is enticed by the devil temptation to the open double doors of her mama’s walk-in closet. And, like a magnet, is drawn to her mama’s make-up area. Also known as (auntie Rosie says) ‘The cosmetic mother-lode.’

Sophia switches on the array of lights surrounding the huge mirror, and an entirely new world of wondrous opportunities opens up before her very eyes. Her eyes go wide at the vast array of make-up, brushes, pots, and all sorts of marvellous things (many unopened because her mama cannot be bothered, but her papa keeps supplying mama with lots and lots from the Spa) laid out before her. There are lipsticks, eye shadows, and a couple of little jewelled pots.

She reaches out a hand, her fingers just itching to explore the pretty pots, when the thought enters her mind she is NOT permitted to touch ANYTHING in her mama’s closet.

Battling two voices in her young mind, touch it versus don’t-you-dare, Sophia heaves a deep sigh as she chooses the latter.

But then, her emerald eyes linger on the bottles of nail polish. In particular a couple Anastacia had used on Sophia’s beautiful pink toenails.

The devil temptation whispers.

Between one heartbeat and the next, she’s got two bottles in her hand, and she’s back in her bedroom.

The four dolls on her bed seemed to beg, literally beg her, to paint their toes.

What was a responsible doll owner to do?*

Minutes later, and screwing the lid on the pink glitter nail polish, Sophia studies her hard work. Pink nail polish had dripped, just a little, on her favorite Frozen comforter, but it’ll probably come off in the wash. A couple of the doll’s plastic legs are streaked with drips she rubbed off with her thumb, but all in all it isn’t a bad effort. “It’s a bit like coloring in,” she says softly to her dolls. “I just need to keep inside the lines. And you’re looking good, girlies.” (As auntie Rosie would say.)

*On a roll, Sophia clutches the two sticky bottles of nail polish as she skips down the hall. She hesitates at the baby’s room. After all, little Eve has beautiful tiny fingernails. But what if the baby doesn’t stay still? Instead, she tip toes past the baby’s room and down the stairs and into the family room. She stops dead. Papa and uncle Olivier are sound asleep. Papa is snoring gently, even though he swears he never snores. Her gaze lights upon their bare feet. Nothing small about those hairy feet. But her eyes go wide as her little heart soars with a thrilled delight. Look at those bare feet. Look at all those toenails.

She skips over, places a bottle on the table, the top isn’t on properly and lands on the glass with a soft clink. For a moment she freezes as if she’s playing statues with Luca and Tonio. Unblinking eyes are glued to her papa’s face, but no one stirs. With her tongue caught between her teeth, Sophia picks up a bottle, gives it a shake, and gets to work.

Fifteen busy minutes later, both bottles are empty. Shame about the smeared drips on the floor, and the cotton tea cloth. They’ll wash off. But Sophia Ferranti is tickled pink with the two sets of beautiful pink toes. She managed to stay within the lines. Mostly. That’s ten toes for each man, that makes twenty because she can count all the way up to one hundred. Papa says she’s so clever one day she might become the President of the ‘Nighted States.

The sound of a car on the gravel driveway, has her skip to dump the empty bottles in the trash, and dance out to greet her mama and auntie Anastacia. Wait ’till they see what a good girl she’s been*

Anastacia, dressed in a linen sleeveless sheath the color of black coffee, in her usual sky high heels with her jet curls dancing down her back, bends down with arms wide open to greet a beaming Sophia. “Hey, baby girl. Did you miss me?”

“Yes! I watched Frozen two times… and…”

Anastacia spins Sophia in a wide circle making her squeal with glee.

Bronte grins at her daughter, emerald eyes running over her, and can’t see anything amiss. Makes a change. “Did you have a good time with papa and Olivier?” she asks.

Sophia shakes her blonde head. “They’ve been sleeping on the couch all day. And papa snores even if he says he doesn’t.”

Bronte rolls her eyes at a grinning Anastacia. “Might have known it. Is Eve still asleep.”

Sophia hop-skips behind her mama and Anastacia as they walk through the door, and takes time to admire Anastacia’s fabulous black curls that fall to her tiny waist. Sophia wishes God had given her hair that curls. Anastacia looks like a princess. A real one. “Yep,” she says to her mama. “She’s been good as gold.” (As auntie Rosie says.)

*They enter the family room and her mama and Anastacia stop dead*

Anastacia slaps a hand across her mouth as her blue eyes fill with mirth. “Lemme get my phone,” she whispers, digging into her purse. “I’ve gotta get a picture of this for posterity. Omigod.”

*Meanwhile, her mama’s emerald eyes go wide. Sophia’s little chest puffs out with pride. She’s done a good job. Her papa and uncle Olivier’s toenails are a dark pink and sparkly pink, one after the other*

*Bronte’s gaze turns slowly upon her daughter, and reads the beaming face and who the culprit is with no problem. No problem at all*

Bronte knows exactly who’s responsible for the mess on her coffee table, AND her floor. And those responsible were going to be very busy with nail polish remover. Honestly, MEN! She claps her hands and clears her throat, loud. Her husband cracks open an eye, sends her a slow, sexy smile. “Hey, cara mia. Have a good time?”

Bronte ignores the way Olivier is eyeing Anastacia, as if he could lick her from top to toe. And talking about toes… She sends her husband big eyes. “Not as much fun as you two have had. Check out your toenails.”

*The great thing is that Anastacia is still filming with her phone and catches the entire shock, awe, and roars of male laughter in real time. Nico grabs Sophia and turns her upside down, holding her by the ankles. His baby girl screams with laughter*

“You little diavolo!”

“Serves you right,” the daughter from hell says, her head at his feet. “You’re supposed to look after little children, not snore like a pig.”

*Later… much later… Sophia is in bed sound asleep after a busy day and dreaming about featuring in the starring role in Frozen… Her parents and Anastacia and Olivier are enjoying an after dinner drink in the garden as the sun goes down*

A grinning Olivier wiggles his toes. “I like it. I could start a new soccer trend.”

Anastacia digs a sharp elbow in his ribs. “You’ll have to wax the revolting black hairs on your toes.”

Nico’s feet are propped on a chair as he admires his daughter’s handiwork. He has hairy toes, too. “Waxing will hurt. Maybe another color. Aubergine, something like that would work.”

Sitting across the table, Bronte sips her white wine, shoots the men a hard stare. “I cannot rely on you two for one little thing, can I?”

Nico sends her a slow smile, and she knows exactly what’s coming. “Ah, bella mia. Did you see Sophia’s little face? She is so happy. My job as her papa is to make her happy. After all…”

“You are Italian,” they chorus.

Nico grins, shrugs. “Si.”

 

FINITO

Many moons ago, H was looking after my youngest daughter while I was out buying shoes for her big sister, and when we returned home we found my baby girl had raided my nail varnish. She was nearly three. She’d painted dark pink varnish on her eyelids, around her mouth, and on my bedroom carpet. All I can say is it was not pretty for H or for her. Not pretty at all. MEN!

If you haven’t read the story of how Anastacia and Olivier got together, here’s the blurb:

 

Ambitious, workaholic Anastacia Morgan runs Ferranti Communications

with a cool-head and an iron will. Her latest project is ensuring sports star Olivier Conti does what he’s told in a series of adverts. Olivier is impossible with a huge ego she’s more than able to handle. His smile may do wonderful things to her libido, but Ana is determined to succeed where other women fail and resist the gorgeous soccer star.

However, in this game there are no rules and Olivier’s never missed scoring a penalty, yet.

 

 

Here’s an excerpt:

 

Anastacia studied her PA’s hurriedly cobbled together file on the footballer. According to Nico, Olivier Conti’s good looks, charisma, work ethic and skills on and off the field were going to make working with him a breeze.

Yeah, right.

Easy for him to say.

Anastacia glared and glowered at the glossy ten-by-twelve publicity pic.

Almond shaped eyes the color of bitter chocolate twinkled into hers.

She sniffed.

He looked… charming.

Anastacia didn’t trust charming.

He also had an in-your-face confidence.

Anastacia didn’t trust a man who was over-confident.

His thick black hair had been styled. Not too much.

She loathed too much hair product on a man.

Good bone structure. Strong jaw. Smoothly curved mouth. Kissable. A straight nose, sharp black brows and a taut smooth skin combined to produce a face that women all over the world (according to the gushing blurb) dreamed about.

Anastacia’s PA, Linda, was a blood-hound when it came to digging up the juicy stuff in a client’s private life. So far she hadn’t found too much juice on Olivier. However, from the photographs and gossip pages it appeared he was fond of leggy blondes. A lot of leggy blondes, which was pretty representative of his type of breed.

Footballers.

Men who were too young to deal with too much money and the pulling power that money brought them.

Men who were notoriously fickle when it came to commitment.

Men who walked away from their responsibilities.

Even if that responsibility was a child.

She’d avoided the sport and the people in it like the plague.

And she had a very good reason.

A reason which was no one’s business except her own.

Now she tossed the photograph on her desk, and spun her chair to stare broodingly out over the city.

She could smell it a mile away.

Trouble.

Olivier Conti was trouble with a capital T.

 

While Anastacia was nose deep in everything Olivier, the man himself was giving Nico Ferranti plenty of grief.

Olivier dragged his hands through short black hair. He was six foot two inches, tall for a footballer, and as lean and fast as a greyhound.

“Nico, I cannot believe that a casual conversation about an investment has led to this.”

Nico sent him a big grin. A grin that a killer whale might have been proud of.

“In five years, or less, you will be burned out. Finito. It is time you learned the hotel business.”

“I do not know what my agent is going to say about this. He knows I cannot act. I am not doing any of that modelling shit in my underwear, showing the world the size of my package, either.”

“You would probably need to fill out your package with a pair of socks.”

Nico’s droll response had Olivier wiggle dark brows and toss him an evil grin.

“I do not like to boast, but…”

Nico threw back his head and roared with laughter.

Once he’d found his equilibrium again, he shook his head.

“Your personal business has nothing to do with your agent. No one has asked you to strip. And, there will be no modelling your impressive package. It is small scenes in three cities, endorsing hotels in which you have invested a large sum of money.” Nico decided not to mention a certain bathroom scene, which was pencilled in for the Rome shoot. He’d let Anastacia deal with it.

Olivier swore, paced to the hotel suite’s floor to ceiling window and back again.

“This is not the same thing. I am not endorsing a watch or a car. This is acting, per amor di Dio! I am going to make an ass of myself.”

He might feel like one, but he wouldn’t look like one, Nico decided, as he sipped his espresso. He studied Olivier over the rim of the tiny cup.

The boy was tall, hard muscled, lean and wore clothes with a style and flair that was perfect for the Ferranti brand. Olivier’s tanned, chiselled face, the drop-your-panties-eyes, had women all over the world drooling, while his skill and sportsmanlike play on the soccer field had won over male fans of the beautiful game. Olivier was highly intelligent, easy-going, good-looking and charismatic. And Nico reckoned he’d be a natural in front of the camera.

Plus, the boy had good instincts. He was no fool.

“You will not make an ass of yourself,” Nico said in a reassuring tone. “And I can guarantee that I have the best person in the business who is going to see to it.”

Olivier looked less than impressed as he flopped into a chair and stretched out long legs clad in black designer jeans.

“I do not need a babysitter,” he growled.

The thought of Anastacia Morgan babysitting anyone flashed into Nico’s brain. Somehow, he couldn’t quite see it. But he ignored Olivier’s sulky comment and changed tack.

“What if you get injured again? What if this time there is no going back?”

Olivier sent him a black look of sheer disbelief.

But Nico knew how much Olivier had panicked last year when an injury had put him out of the game for three months.

“I am one hundred per cent fit.”

He was indeed.

And he was scoring goals.

Si. But how many footballers, the best, disappear into depression, and worse, after they have played their last game?”

“I am not my father…”

Si. I know this. But… it is never too early to plan for the future. You have a responsibility to your madre, your sorelle.”

“I have planned for the future and I understand my responsibilities to mia famiglia. I can go into coaching…”

Nico raised his hand to brush away that bright idea.

“It is always wise to spread our skill base. What good is a business degree if you do not use it?”

“So, instead of chilling out in a hot tub with hot women in Las Vegas, this summer I will be cooped up in hotel rooms?”

“Think of it as investing in your future,” Nico said in a cheery voice, tossing in a big smile for good measure. “Plus, having a work ethic instead of partying will set a good example to young players who look up to you. And it will be good for the image of the sport.”

Silence.

“I need to prepare for the game,” Olivier said as he stood. When he reached the door, he turned and beaned Nico with a dark look. “And if I end up flat on my face in this advertising campaign, I promise to tell Bronte about you and four showgirls in Vegas.”

Nico felt the blood drain from his face.

“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Anyway, that happened long before I met my wife. I am a changed man.”

Olivier gave him a hard stare. “Si,” he said, sounding like his mentor. “Do not say I did not warn you.”

As the door closed behind Olivier, Nico tipped back his chair and finished his coffee.

Ah, he loved it when a plan came together.

 

 

new1 copy

 

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Coming to The End game of SEAN and then it goes for editing. It’s reading good, girlies.

Hugs and blessings and peace to my favorite peeps.

Christine X

Soccer star, secrets, lies, glitter and lust… It’s the HER RULES release day…

HER RULES 3D

HER RULES

A queen of hot contemporary romance is back with plenty of laughs, tears, thrills and spills! USA Today Bestselling author, CC MACKENZIE returns with a brand new, burn-up-the-sheets story to set your eReader aflame. No cliffhanger. Ooooh-la-la, we’re off to gay Paris!

“I miss you. The Old You. The new one sucks.”  Olivier.

Greetings, my darlings,

Today I am beyond thrilled to announce the release of book two of The Rules series –  HER RULES! Although the stories are linked, each book stands alone.

Readers are loving the leading characters we met in HIS RULES – Anastacia Morgan, the fiercely independent and whip-smart head of Ferranti Communications, and Olivier Conti, the drop dead gorgeous Italian soccer star determined to march her down the aisle. Shame the woman he loves is kicking and screaming all the way…

Set in the stunning city of Paris, Anastacia and Olivier have arrived to film the next stage of their Ferranti Boutique hotel campaign. The bad times are behind them and they’re looking to embrace a glittering future together. Until a blast from her past, Jake Thornton, arrives.

Jake wants Anastacia back. She wants him long GONE. And Olivier wants Jake… dead.

However, help is at hand. Anastacia has not arrived in the city of love alone. Her two best friends, Danni and T.C., are in Paris, too. And both are having their own man trouble.

Meet Pascal Wolfe, the charismatic, gorgeous and wealthy designer who has more than just shoes and handbags in mind for Danni. She might be attracted, but Danni’s not ready to trust the well-named Monsieur Wolfe.

And meet Sean Kennedy, the tough ex-mercenary turned personal protection expert, who rubs T.C. up the wrong way. On the face of it the pair have nothing in common, and when they meet, they have even less. Except what they do have is a wise-cracking nothing held back chemistry.

With an ex-boyfriend creating mayhem for Anastacia and a stalker causing big trouble for Danni, the stage is set for an explosive summer…

BUY NOW

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In the next post, the cover reveal for A DADDY FOR DAISY!

Do I hear a yay?

With much love and lots of hugs,

CHRISTINE X

Pre-order for HER RULES out now and exclusive extract

pre order banner for FB for Her Rules with release date

It’s been a busy week in the MACKENZIE household.

Like everyone else we’re shocked that it’s only four short weeks until the fat man in the red suit slides down the chimney. Where did autumn go?

For once I’m ahead of the game with my book releases, she says.

The first book of the Ludlow Hall off-shoot series, Ludlow Nights – HIS RULES, is gathering amazing reviews.

“I loved Anastacia and Olivier. Like all of CC’s heroines she had spunk! Olivier reminded me soo much of Nico sometimes I must admit I wanted to reach into the book and smack some sense into him, but through it all you just know his hearts in the right place, his machismo just gets in his way sometimes. I laughed each time she put him in his place as I pictured a puzzled expression on his face while he tried to figure out what he’d said wrong this time!

Anastacia faced some very difficult times growing up and it’s made her a very strong woman. There were a couple of scenes that brought me to tears as she came face to face with her past, I don’t want to give away any spoilers so I’ll leave it at that.

I can’t wait for the next book to come out!”

Readers are loving more Nico and Bronte (Nico is a gift as a character and a joy to write) and they’ve fallen hard for Olivier and Anastacia. Their journey to the land of happy-ever-after is proving to be a rocky one.

And their story continues in HER RULES. It’s full of laughs and many challenges as they move the advertising shoot to Paris. Unfortunately, everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Mix a professional disaster with a personal crisis and Anastacia is ready to swing for a certain someone.

Daniella Pebbles is with her best pal in Paris, too, covering fashion week. She meets her Waterloo (pardon the pun) in the city of love when one Pascale Wolfe decides that she belongs to him. Unfortunately for Pascale, Dani’s having none of it, and so the fun begins.

And T.C.’s in Paris, too. Will she finally meet the one? Or will she find herself in very hot water? Read the story and see.

Here’s the blurb:

Style guru Danni Pebbles is in the stunning city of Paris for fashion week and discovers that the powerful and wealthy Pascale Wolfe has more on his mind than business – but, given her past, that makes Danni even more determined to keep him at arms length.

One woman stood out, a fragile rose, among hot-house blooms at the show in Paris fashion week. Imaginative,  innovative and shy – Daniela Pebbles is nothing like any woman wealthy designer Pascale Wolfe has ever known. The cynical Frenchman was determined to discover why Daniela wanted to keep him at arm’s length. But, given her past, could Pascale really convince Daniela that their night of passion could become a lifetime together?

EXCLUSIVE excerpt HER RULES

 

Anastacia rose and moved to the window to stare down at the busy river Seine flowing through Paris. Oh, it stuck in her craw that her boss had had to clean up her mess. It was the first time she’d failed so spectacularly, and she had no intention of ever repeating the incredibly humbling experience.

“Ana…” Olivier took a step towards her. Anastacia hardened herself, and her stupid emotions, against what she knew was coming.

“I can’t do this with you.” She faced him, took the hit to the heart, but for once in her pitiful life listened to her head. “In fact I won’t do it. Let’s just keep our relationship professional. Get the job done. Go our own way.”

He stood utterly still.

Any flicker of warmth in his eyes for her now gone.

“If that is what you want.”

“It is what I want.”

She told herself to just hold it together.

She could do this.

“Ana…”

When he shifted to take another step toward her, she held up her hand in the universal signal to halt.

He stopped dead.

Logic in total control now, she spoke,

“I want my life back. I want me back. I want the life I had before you were in it. I was happy then. I’m not happy now. I want a life where I’m not abused on social media. I want a life where people don’t care if I’m too fat or too thin, too tall, too short. Where people don’t care about my hair or whether my breasts are my own. Where I am not measured by what my boyfriend does for a living.” Her steps were jerky as she stalked to the window and back again. Her hands thrust through her curls to her scalp, gripped and pulled. “Jesus, all this nonsense, all this hassle because of football. It’s crazy!”

She took a deep and cleansing breath, desperately trying to ignore how grave, how devastated and how shocked he looked.

Her eyes found his and held firm as she said, “So… I’m stepping off the crazy.”

“I did not handle today well,” he said, his deep voice a rumble in his chest. And she could see by his face how much that admission had cost him. But she refused to listen to the clarion call of her heart. A heart begging her to forgive and to forget. Eyes fixed on her face, he continued, “I did not realize how much the negative attention of my fans has affected you…”

Her double hand-swipe through the air had him stop again in his tracks.

Was he serious?

“Yes, you did know, because I told you time and time again. But you just shrugged it off as part of the circus that is your life. That circus is not my life, Olivier. I knew it going in. I knew it was a mistake to get involved with you while trying to work together. I knew it and I did it anyway.”

All of it, every single part of the mess they were in, was all her own damned fault.

She refused to acknowledge how sad, how pale, he looked.

His Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat. “So, this is it?”

“Earlier this evening you dumped me. You made your feelings crystal clear,” she reminded him with a bite to her tone.

He nodded. “I was upset…”

“Yeah, well, we’re both upset. Let’s for once be adults about this.”

A wave of exhaustion swept over her and washed away all the conflict, all the anger, leaving her feeling nothing but empty.

His dark eyes burned into hers and she thought, Here we go, he’s going to fight.

“I will not give you up.”

She merely raised her brows.

“You do not get to choose my future. I do.”

*****

PRE-ORDER LINKS – RELEASE ON 15TH DECEMBER 2015

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And if you missed HIS RULES – here are the links:

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I’ve already begun BREAK THE RULES, which is out early 2016 so stay tuned.

And I know you’re all waiting for the next Ludlow Hall story, A Daddy For Daisy – I can confirm that I’m writing the story right now, and it’s rocking! Do I hear a YAY? So glad I waited until my head was in the right place for Janine and Josh’s tale. There is no way I could ever release a book unless it was the very best work I can do. I can confirm that I’ll be sharing an exclusive cover reveal with you guys along with the blurb very soon.

AND I’ll have some Vampyre news, too.

Right, back to the grindstone.

Love and Hugs,

Christine XX

“One Day, I Want To Write A Book”

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This is a long post, so grab a coffee or a glass of wine, settle down and relax.

You know, I can remember the exact moment I said those words. I was ten and an avid Enid Blyton fan. Who remembers The Famous Five? I read them all, again and again and again… well, you get the picture. At eleven I found Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. Who remembers The Chalet School books? Read them, too, until they were in tatters.

 

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Then I went to High School and over the years was force-fed Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, Albert Canus, Donald Rawley and of course Mr. Shakespeare. Many authors are much loved but my favourite author of all time, the one who really sparked my imagination, the one whose characters made me laugh and cry and read her books again and again was the fantabulous Georgette Heyer. One of her best has to be The Grand Sophy – still makes me laugh out loud.

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During this time I wrote a descriptive essay that made my English teacher, Mr. Henderson, cry, in a good way. He read it to the class (I was so embarrassed my face was radioactive) and the story made two of my mortal enemies cry, too. (I defy any fifteen year old girl not to have the odd nemesis in her life.) And Mr. Henderson said I should seriously think of becoming a writer. My parents immediately vetoed that brilliant idea, nipping it brutally in the bud, by stating that, ‘Writers make no money, honey, and we cannot afford to keep you. Become a shorthand/typist and live in the real world.’ So I did, which is why I can touch-type at over 100wpm. (Ha!) Karma, as they say, is a beetch.

And so, I scribbled stories, lots of stories. Mainly about love (I’d hit puberty and had strict parents who banned boys) so I wrote about my ‘perfect man’ (Ha!) and listened to David Bowie and Bryan Ferry (loved Bryan). As for books, I found romances, lots of romances and paranormal/fantasy, lots of those, too. Then I fell into international banking (trade finance) and met H, got married and had three children, dabbled in many things. Travelled the world. But right at the back of my mind I kept thinking, ‘One day, I want to write a book.’

By this time I was reading thrillers and fantasy like Eric Van Lustbader and devouring every single thing he wrote.

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Then we were back home in the UK, H had retired early (due to overseas service) and I joined a multi-national construction company. Wrote a ‘How-to’ book for sales staff that the staff, strangely enough, enjoyed because it was ‘chatty’ and ‘funny’ and ‘relevant.’  And all the while I was thinking, ‘One day, I want to write a book.’ The construction company was sold, the recession was knocking at the door, I was implementing change in the company, stressed and overworked.

So H sat me down and said, ‘What do you want to do?’ and, you guessed it, I said, ‘One day, I want to write a book.’ He looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘Then do it. You’ll be good at it.’

How’s that for confidence?

So, then the decision became, ‘What will I write?’ And more importantly, ‘What sort of reader will I write it for?’

My first ever serious attempt was a fantasy about mages and witches and alternate realities. It didn’t have a title. But it did have a ten year old hero and dark and gothic castles, blood feuds, demons – blah, blah, blah. Then I wrote a short ghost story about a banshee, which was so bloody and gothic and horror-filled I actually scared myself. But I was so gripped and excited and tormented by the thing that I knew right then writing a story was what I wanted to do. But I wanted to do it well. And so began the intensive journey of applying myself to learn my craft, including how to edit. This was 2009.

After many pitiful attempts at fantasy and a complex futuristic vampyre paranormal (the first chapter and pivotal moment finaled in The Romance Junkies competition in the USA) I decided to write a romance. After all, I thought, how hard could it be?

Right?

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It didn’t take long to discover that there’s a hell of a lot more to this romance business than meets the eye. A lot more. So I joined an online writer’s group. And we set ourselves goals and tasks and scenes and swapped stories about our characters. The girls were ruthlessly honest but great fun. Through those wonderful and generous women, I joined Harlequin’s on-line forums where the editors run tons of wannabe author competitions where thousands (yes, thousands) of readers can vote and comment honestly. Competitions like ‘The first 1,000 words of a contemporary/sweet romance’ and ‘A 3,000 word pivotal moment of romantic suspense.’  But, best of all, were the online workshops run by their bestselling romance authors – most of whom were USA Today and New York Times Bestselling romance authors – and these girls knew the romance genre inside out. They shared techniques. They answered seriously dumb questions and gave honest feedback with a generosity of spirit that I came to realise is prevalent in the romance industry. As for the fans, well, all I can say is that they are THE most voracious readers and utterly loyal when they find a writer they like.

And so we come to ‘So You Think You Can Write?’ competitions and ‘New Voices.’  Of course, I entered those (under the name Scottygirl) and had lovely feedback. And I found amazing friends that I still have today, among them finalists. Meanwhile, I was writing scenes. Scenes that had to grab the reader. I experimented with manipulating reader emotions, making the reader laugh (came second). Then I wrote a heart-wrenching scene about a young widow of two years who has a one night stand with a hot Spaniard (came joint first. I won author Tessa Radley and she spoke to me all the way from New Zealand to give me writing advice – I’ll never forget it. It’s still a highlight of my life. She said she’d buy everything I wrote. Gulp.) Then I finaled in two more competitions, one where I made readers cry. I felt I was finally getting somewhere. Time to submit the first three chapters of my book I was polishing to such a shine it could be seen from outer space. It took six long months to receive a reply. A rejection. But it was a good rejection because it was two pages long and told me exactly what to improve and to please re-submit. So I knuckled down to re-write it and…. got breast cancer.

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Now, to most people breast cancer is pretty devastating news. Don’t get me wrong – it was more than devastating to me and my family. I had a long road ahead. BUT, overnight I lost the fear of failure. I don’t think I’ve ever written so much so fast before or since. Everything that was buried deep in my subconscious spilled onto the page. Everything. Meanwhile, I underwent half a dozen operations and began treatments. When I couldn’t type, I wrote in journals in bed. H used to find me switching on the light in the middle of the night and scribbling like a demon because an ‘idea’ or ‘a plot twist’ had entered my mind and I just had to ‘get it down’ because believe me, when we wake in the morning our mind is empty.

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It was during this time that the Italian Nico Ferranti sprang to life in my head as a three dimensional character as did Bronte Ludlow and her pal Rosie (about whom, the editor of the publisher I’d submitted the work to who read the first three chapters said to ‘tone Rosie right down’.) So I worked on Nico’s back-story, what or who had made him the man he was today? What age was he when the worst thing that could happen to a child happened? What are his strengths? Weaknesses? Goals? And I did the same with Bronte. Poor Bronte, God love her, I killed her parents; her fiancé betrayed her; she lost her family home; she discovered her father was not her father; she had endometriosis, which meant maybe no children. She was beautiful, but couldn’t see it. She hated her breasts, etc., etc. BUT I made her resilient, she set up her own business with her pal Rosie and they triumphed; she wasn’t looking for love; she fell out with her (half) brother because she wanted to reach out to her real father; she stood up to Nico who wanted to buy the home left to her by her mother; she was her own woman and she rocked!

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And so the time came to send the entire re-written book to the publisher. However, there’s a twist to the tale. During the time of my return to health and re-writing the story, in the United States of America, a movement had been born. Independent authors. I’d been following a couple of bloggers who were talking about it, especially J.A. Konrath & Co. Interesting, I thought. At the same time the publishing industry was going through (still is) a seismic change. Did I, I wondered, have the time to wait, maybe six to twelve months for a publisher to get back to me? And after I spoke to some Big Name independent romance authors who were ‘breaking through’ and took their advice, I decided I didn’t have the time to waste. H and I talked and talked and talked for weeks, did our due diligence and H said he’d format and deal with the technical side of submitting digital books to the distributors, accounting and the tax authorities. In the meantime two romance editors I’d met on-line offered to edit and proof my book. So, on the 12th April 2012 we published Reckless Nights In Rome. To say we were petrified would be putting it mildly. I didn’t worry about the book or what was happening to it, got my head down and wrote A Stormy Spring and then Run Rosie Run and they were both published by Christmas 2012. That Christmas Reckless was a perma-free and Stormy and Rosie were all in the top ten of iBooks in thirty countries and selling in Barnes and Noble and doing well in Amazon.com. And that’s when I found my readers. Readers who buy everything I write. Everything. Each story is written with them at the front and centre of everything I do.

 

Some of you who are reading this have followed the ups and downs of the journey. In 2014 I had a sudden bereavement and a couple of health challenges connected to cancer treatment. But all the while I’ve never stopped writing, even if I had almost a year of not publishing new stories. My readers have been patient and loving and understanding and I want to thank each and every one.

 

It’s also true to say that as authors we don’t work in a bubble of one. My covers are done by Frauke and Gabrielle Prendergast who also designed the CC MACKENZIE brand. Formatting, distribution, sales accounting, invoicing and Chief Operating Officer of More Press is H. Author Engine, particularly Jennifer Lewis Oliver and Greg Carrico are awesome.

CC MACKENZIE now has ten books published in the Ludlow Hall franchise. This year there are the first books of a new Ludlow Nights series, books that are fun and fast pace with laugh out loud moments. The first of which, His Rules, is under the New Adult romance genre, will be available free and exclusive to my mailing list for a short time, with more to come. Four, yes four, vampyre books, the first and second out together on 28th March with book three on pre-order coming at the end of April and book four on pre-order coming at the end of May with more to follow. Plus A Daddy For Daisy – date to be advised. More short novels, but they’re a surprise. I love surprising readers.

I’ve truly been blessed by the support of generous authors who write in a variety of genres (not only romance) – Diane Capri, Jillian Dodd, Steena Holmes, Ruth Cardello, Marie Force, Lindsay J. Pryor, Natalie G. Owens, Dana Delamar, Kristine Cayne, Stacey Joy Netzel, L.C. Giroux, Liz Matis and Katherine Bone.

More recently I was part of a group of authors who wrote a continuity series based in the Island of Eden a world written and created by Lauren Hawkeye. This month we published an Eden boxed set with contributions by Lauren, me, Avery Aster, Opal Carew, Steena Holmes, Mari Carr, Cathryn Fox, Eliza Gayle, Adriana Hunter, Roni Loren, Sharon Page, Daire St. Denis and Elena Aitken.

On the night of Wednesday 18th April 2015 something amazing happened, we made the USA Today Bestsellers list. So now I can say I’m a USA Today Bestselling author. The reason I’m sharing this is not to toot my own horn, but to encourage those who don’t believe they can follow their dreams to – Go For It!

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So tell me, what are your innermost dreams and what are you doing to make them come true?

 

Big hugs,

Christine XX

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT?

Hello my darlings,

What on earth is this, I hear you cry? Well, along with working on five books – yes five – I’m almost finished the first story of a new venture called LUDLOW NIGHTS. This will be an Exclusive for a short time to my MAILING LIST  six part story. And the first part of the story is called His Rules.

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Ambitious, workaholic Anastacia Morgan runs Ferranti Communications with a cool-head and an iron will. Her latest project is ensuring sports star Olivier Conti does what he’s told in a series of adverts. Olivier is impossible with an huge ego she’s made up her mind to ignore. His smile may do wonderful things to her libido, but Ana is determined to succeed where other women fail and resist the gorgeous soccer star.

However, in this game there are no rules and Olivier’s never missed a penalty, yet.

EXCERPT:

“A footballer, Nico?” Anastacia shoved heavy curls the colour of jet over her shoulder, sat back in her butter-soft leather chair, and raised imperious black brows. “You cannot be serious?”

“I hope that is a rhetorical question,” Nico Ferranti returned mildly. His wife Bronte always said that good things came in small packages. Well, Anastacia Morgan was a size zero, five foot two inches in her size four bare feet, and a prime example of how good things did indeed come in a small package. She was dressed in an immaculately tailored business suit the colour of bone, personally designed for her. A suit that fit in all the right places. He knew for a fact Ana wore the fashion equivalent of stilts to boost her height. He also knew those stilts were even now discarded under her desk. At the moment she resembled a very angry angel. Nico wasn’t worried. He’d had plenty of experience of dealing with angry angels. He had two of them at home.

Now she was glaring at him over the reading glasses perched on her small nose.

She read the look on his face, uncompromising, and tossed down her silver pen in disgust. Her behaviour reminded Nico forcibly of his three year old daughter, Sophia, throwing a temper tantrum.

Dark eyebrows shot into her hairline.

“Can he speak in declarative sentences?” she wondered in a droll voice that made him raise his own brows.

“Tsk, tsk, Ana. Sarcasm is not a good look on you,” Nico told her in a very soft voice. A voice that made heat rise in her cheeks and told him his rebuke had been received loud and clear. “Just think of the nice fat fee you will make.”

The look Ana sent Nico was her own version of uncompromising.

She could stare down the Queen of England with that look, but not Nico Ferranti.

At thirty-six Nico was head of a global business that spanned hotels, and digital technology. A business he’d begun with a legacy from his paternal grandfather, brains and balls. Nico ran things his way, and everyone who worked for him knew it. Including the tiny angel who was showing her fangs and glaring at him out of navy blue eyes.

Four years ago he’d taken a big chance on Anastacia Morgan.

And he’d never regretted it.

One of Nico’s greatest skills was recognising raw talent in another. In Ana he’d seen a creative ambition, and a need for a financial freedom that matched his own. Ana was twenty-six and one of the top brand manager’s in the business. And since he knew that Anastacia Morgan cared as much for the Ferranti brand as he did, Nico had Ana on a very long leash.

Then Ana pulled out the big guns and gave him the death stare.

Nico waited.

After another minute had passed, Ana gave up.

“Okay. You’re the boss. But Nico… a footballer?” The last two words were said in a whine that made Nico bite down hard on his bottom lip. And Ana wasn’t finished, “What’s wrong with Tobias Aidin? He’s the next big thing. Dontcha watch prime-time TV? In less than six weeks he has over five hundred thousand followers on twitter. Not only does his voice make women’s toes curl, he can take direction and…” She stopped when Nico’s brows rose. He had to admire the way she took a breath and battled on. “Sportsmen, especially soccer stars, freeze, or take the piss when a camera’s rolling.”

Without comment, Nico focused on brushing a speck of dust from the sleeve of his immaculate grey suit.

“As you are aware, the new Boutique hotels specifically target young business executives and tourists who demand quality, cleanliness, and value for money. We need a well-known face and a name that resonates world-wide.”

I’ve never even heard of Olivier Conti,” Ana threw back.

“Every soccer fan in the world has heard of Olivier.”

She shrugged off his comment.

For a moment Nico wondered just who was the boss here.

“We’re selling a lifestyle here, Nico. Not flashy cars and even flashier women,” she said with a sneer that made him again bite down on his abused lip.

Little devil.

“Seven goals in the world cup in Brazil,” Nico went on relentlessly. “He’s the leading goal scorer in the Seria A.” He shook his head at her blank stare. “The Italian football league, for four consecutive seasons. Two of the top clubs in the Premier league are prepared to pay over one hundred million pounds for him.”

Ana narrowed her eyes until they were blue slits.

“How come you’ve got the skinny? Since when do you follow football?”

“Ana, cara mia,” Nico drawled. “Soccer is in my DNA. I am Italian.”

She couldn’t help but grin at the way his voice deepened, the way his accent grew stronger.

“Since he’s in such high demand, how the hell can we afford him?”

Nico unfolded his tall frame from the skinny chair.

“Let us just say the boy owes me a favour. Do not make plans for this evening. A car will pick you up at six-thirty. I have tickets for the game tonight. Milan against United.”

“Who?”

Nico gave the question and the cranky tone in which it was delivered, the attention it deserved, none.

He strolled towards the door.

“Hang on just a minute there, buster.”

Nico opened the door, turned to look at her over his shoulder, and almost burst out laughing at the unspeakable scowl on her face.

“Si?”

Ana sat back, and in an dazzling move that belonged to ballet, stretched up a long leg, pointed to a soft leather platform shoe with five inch heels. “These shoes and this suit are Victoria Beckham. How is this a good look for a football game? I’ll need time to go home, get changed into skinnies and a T-shirt that says, ‘Hump Me.’

“Nothing wrong with standing out from the crowd. The clothes and shoes are fine. If I were you, I would spend the next few hours boning up on the offside rule,” Nico advised before he closed the office door behind him.

With language that turned the air blue, Ana spun her chair around to stare unseeing over the city of London and Tower Bridge. Vast glass structures, tall buildings and clogged traffic, with a river running through it. In her past, she’d had other views of the city, but they’d been at street level. These days she gazed down upon the city from the fifteenth floor. And one day, Ana promised, she’d look down from the top floor.

One day.

Anastacia Morgan only looked forward, certainly not at the past. The past was behind her now, thank God.

Ana shoved back her hair. Hair that was too long, too curly, and it drove her nuts. However, her hair had become something of a trademark. It hung past her waist in glossy curls the colour of rich ripe chestnuts. A gleaming brown shot through with a rose gold that her friends told her was gorgeous.

Her friends also told her that her eyes were the darkest blue they’d ever seen. A couple of men had also said they felt they could drown in them.

At the moment Ana could care less about her hair or her eyes or her looks. All she cared about was the Ferranti brand, which encompassed the five star hotels, spas, and resorts world-wide. And now the new boutique hotels. Working for Nico Ferranti meant there was never a dull moment… but football? Her wide mouth was marred by the sneer on her full lips.

Then Ana remembered how much she owed Nico Ferranti. Four years ago, in the middle of the worst recession in living memory, she’d marched into Ferranti Enterprises with a marketing degree, a gut-searing desperation for a job and a smart mouth. And twenty pounds in her purse. Never look back, she reminded herself. Nico had taken a chance on her and she would never, ever forget it. Ana wanted only the best for the Ferranti brand. If that meant working with a football player, then she’d make damned sure the prima-donna (weren’t all footballers drama queens?) did the job.

Determined, she spun back to her desk.

Ana snatched up the phone, jabbed buttons.

“Linda, get me everything you can on Olivier Conti. Oh, and find me someone who can explain to me in words of one syllable the soccer off-side rule. No, I’m not being funny.”

*****

So that’s a tiny taster of part one! Want more? I need the promise of your first child, and chocolate and wine for a year!!  Kidding!! All y’all need to do is to subscribe to my mailing list either on the top right hand of the blog or on the link!

Easy peasy.

Big hugs,

Christine XX