Thursday 27 October 2011

Reaching for the Stars...

I’m still working on story edits at the moment but feeling happy with progress, so I thought I’d tell you a little bit more about the project close to my heart, my new novel due out as an e-book in December entitled ‘Reaching for the Stars’.

So what’s it all about I hear you cry...?

Scottish celebrity chef Finn McDuff is media stalked and disillusioned after winning his third star and losing his third wife, and decides he’s had enough of all the food campaigns, the TV cookery shows, the constant frenzy surrounding his private life and, after giving up all his accolades and closing down his restaurant, he disappears into a self-imposed exile.

With the enfant terrible of the kitchen missing, two rival newspapers, having lost their media meal ticket, begin to compete against each other to whip up further public curiosity in the missing chef. Raine Sanderson, a journalist at The Thistle, who fell hopelessly in love with the bad boy chef during their first interview, wants to be the one to write his biography. Ross Campbell, a reporter at The City News, sets out to boost readership along with his own ego by instigating a massive man hunt. To help with their campaigns they each recruit the help of Anna James, a chef whose tragic past and unresolved issues are intricately intertwined with McDuff’s.

Love him or hate him, everyone is out looking for Chef McDuff.

Who will find him first and whose side will you be on...?

I’m planning to launch Reaching for the Stars on Wednesday 14th December and will be organising a fun filled day of party blogging (more news on that soon - and I’d LOVE it if you could take part!) and I will be following this up with a Blog Tour right up to Christmas Eve.

An excerpt from Chapter One - Reaching for the Stars:

Wearing the same champagne-soaked Armani suit he had been in for the past fourteen hours, Finlay McDuff was slumped in an armchair inside the Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh, on a bright January morning. He was reading about himself in the newspapers and reflecting on why, after finally achieving his life’s ambition, he should be feeling so utterly miserable.

‘Bad-boy chef wins three Golden Stars,’ declared The City News.

‘Infamous chef wins third star in Edinburgh,’ reported The Scotsman.

‘McGolden!’ boasted The Thistle.

Finn lit a cigarette and groaned. His blood-red eyes, set in dark hollows beneath heavy lids, looked as though they hadn’t ever closed during the years he had been chasing those coveted rosettes. The macaroons, as the French liked to call them, the ultimate symbols of gastronomic success. Only what use were they now?

He had put ambition over love: pride over marriage: his ego over his emotions.

Three sins for three stars, he told himself.

He longed to sleep. Not that he could sleep. Not since Gina had left. Not since she had got on that plane back to Italy and disappeared from his life. It had been three weeks and three days and he’d heard nothing from her. No phone calls, no letters, no emails, no requests for money, and no demands from her lawyer. It wasn’t like her. Gina made a point of demanding and now she’d stopped, it was driving him crazier than her constant whining ever had.

A nervous young waiter approached him from across the foyer.

‘Sir, you cannot smoke in here, it’s the law.’

Finn searched for an ashtray while his deposits threatened the Balmoral’s marble floor.

‘I’m a-afraid we don’t have any ashtrays,’ stuttered the waiter.

Finn took off a shoe and used it instead; further jeopardising the hotel’s clean air policy.

‘A d-drink, sir?’

Finn yawned and tried to check his watch but his eyes were unfocussed and rolling in his head from the as yet unprocessed alcohol still making its way round his body. ‘Nah, I’ll have a cup of tea and two paracetamol. I’ve to do an interview with some journo tosser and I need some pain relief quickly.’

He cast his mind back to the last time he had seen his wife. It had been ten o’clock on Christmas Eve, when she had stormed into his restaurant and had screamed at him over the passé in a mix of Italian, Scottish, and English, while tears poured down her face.

He remembered the restaurant being excruciatingly quiet as she had served her ultimatum. He had been tearing herbs onto a plate of foie-gras and had looked up to see if she was serious.

In full view of his diners, she had strutted back and forth with her nose and chin raised provocatively, her dark eyes fixed firmly upon him, her perfectly manicured fingernails strumming her thrusting hips, while one Italian leather shoe tapped the terrazzo-tiled floor.

Everyone in the restaurant had waited open-mouthed for his response.

But he did what he was trained to do under pressure; he cooked.

Gina, having interpreted his reticence as indifference, had pulled at her finger and thrown something down onto the passé in front of him. It was her wedding ring.

To his disbelief, it had landed straight in the foie-gras.

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Friday 21 October 2011

Sometimes naughty and sometimes sweet...

I have a guest blogger and yes, I’m sure she really is a combination of naughty and sweet, but mostly she is a clever, witty and very talented reporter/presenter/writer, who has a fabulous new e-book out which is also available as an audio book! You can tell I’m a member on the Gilly Fraser fan club can’t you - and once you’ve read/listened to Forbidden Love and Other Stories - I bet you will be too!

Take it away Gilly...!

When I was a kid, we had an old tree in the back garden which was just perfect for sitting in. I used to scramble up to my favourite perch among its branches with a pad and pen and scribble away to my heart’s content, writing story after story after story. In those days they all featured ponies - the first great love of my life. Now despite the fact that I’m a Gemini - well-known as the flighty, fickle, flibbertigibbets of the zodiac, I have remained true to those two early passions - I still love all things equine - and I still love to write.

I was lucky enough to have nine books published by Mills and Boon under my pen-name of Rachel Elliot, and now I’m diving headfirst into the exciting and brave new world of epublishing, but this time without the lifejacket of a nom de plume. I love the freedom that epublishing affords - freedom to write on any subject under the sun, freedom to wander at will from your normal genre without an irate publisher hauling you back by the scruff of your neck, freedom to write without worrying that you might get ignominiously dumped for unsatisfactory sales.

I particularly enjoy writing romance - sometimes naughty and sometimes sweet - but I’m also keen to explore other avenues. A story has been bobbing about in my head for the past couple of years which has a darker side to it, and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into it to see where it might lead. It’s not a romance, it’s not a thriller, it’s not crime - and that in itself would be a no-no for most agents and publishers because they do like something they can pigeonhole.

Nowadays when I write, I sit in a tatty old leather chair before a desk liberally strewn with letters, magazines, post-it notes and books in a room which lays claim to being an office but is really a glory-hole, providing a home for all the stuff in the house that didn’t quite fit in anywhere else. Which probably includes me, come to think of it!

A few years ago I visited Gracelands in Memphis and came home with a poster of a young Elvis on a lovely Palomino horse with the words… ‘Getting up in the morning is always easier when there’s a horse waiting for you.' Elvis said it - and I ain’t about to disagree with the King. To that I’ll just add - ‘the day gets even better when there’s a half-written story waiting for you as well…’

My first ebook Forbidden Love and Other Stories’ can be downloaded from Amazon or Smashwords, or you can buy an MP3 cd version through my blog It will soon be available as a hold-it-in-your-hands and turn-the-pages book as well - just as soon as it comes back from the printers. Please let me know what you think of it!

Gilly Fraser is a former reporter/presenter with Carlisle-based Border TV, a Mills & Boon novelist under the name of Rachel Elliot, and the owner of pony-trekking centre in the Scottish Borders. She is currently the Co-Presenter of BBC Radio Cumbria Show, Gilly & Kim Let Loose with Kim Inglis, she is also a Freelance Journalist writing for magazines and newspapers, and the owner of small PR and dvd production company. Gilly is also kickstarting romantic novel-writing back into life after a long sleep and in the future she plans to be the winner of prizes for wonderful romantic novels, many of which will be turned into Oscar-winning movies. Obviously! She also loves horses, dogs, cats – and her husband Malcolm, who apparently sings great songs.

Gilly's Blog: Reclaim The Romance
Gilly on Twitter: @GillyFraser

'Forbidden Love and Other Stories' on Amazon UK and Amazon.Com and Smashwords

Janice says: This week, I'm still busy working away on edits for 'Reaching for the Stars' but next Friday I'll have an excerpt for you together with exciting news about a launch date. Do come back then!

Thursday 13 October 2011


This week, I’ve got some fabulous shiny new links for you!

First up: Thanks to lovely columist friend Gilly Fraser, I’m mentioned in the November edition of DG Life (Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland) magazine - most regions of the UK have these wonderful newsy glossy coffee table style magazines and it’s really exciting to be featured as a ‘local’ author - so do have a wee read by clicking here: DG Life Magazine

Next up: I was a guest on fellow loveahappyending author Mandy Baggot’s blog this week - on what she calls Author Meet and Greet - which was great fun because Mandy asks the most amazingly different questions. If you want you find out what I answered click here: Mandy’s Meet & Greet

Lastly: thanks to talented writer Pauline Barclay, I discovered there IS a way for a Kindle author to sign their e-books! Kindlegraph is a website that features thousands of books and thousands of authors. All you have to do to request a Kindlegraph from the site, is to sign in with your Twitter account, and provide either an email address or your Kindle e-address (there are 1-2-3 step instructions on how to do this). You will receive not only a signature and book cover, but a personal message from the author of your choice, and you don’t even have to have bought a book yet (although you know you’ll want to soon, right?) How e-fabulous is that...?

So, if perchance you would like ahem.... my special personal message to you... ahem. Click here: Janice Horton’s Kindlegraph

Coming up: The e-edits......... I’ll keep you posted!

Janice xx

Thursday 6 October 2011

The story behind the story...

I can’t tell you how good it feels to have a completed manuscript right now!

I did say completed - but I don’t mean finished - as Reaching for the Stars has now been sent to my lovely editor Kit Domino for a story edit and, after revisions, it will go back to her for a copy edit before it is launched upon the world. This novel has been a labour of love and to write ‘The End’ was a major moment for me I can tell you!

I’ve been working on this novel whilst at the same time working on many other projects over the past few years, and this manuscript has been put on the back burner more times than I can count. So much so, that at one point, I never thought it would ever see the light of day. So I thought I’d share my writer’s journey with you to this point and hope you will celebrate with me in a couple of months time (mid-December launch date still to be announced) when Reaching for the Stars will be available on an e-reader near you!

This novel started off as an idea sparked by my fascination for the rock stars of the culinary world - celebrity chefs - and everything chef related. I also have an insatiable appetite for TV cookery shows, from Hell’s Kitchen to Ready Steady Cook and everything in between.

So before I wrote a single word of this novel, I immersed myself in watching chef TV and reading chef biographies to find what drives a three starred kitchen and then I went on to interview some pretty hot chefs in person, both male and female, for research purposes.

Fabulous freelance chef Cathro Brook, who has travelled all over the world cooking for VIP’s and celebrities, told me the most amazing stories, from gundogs getting onto the shooting party luncheon table to her oven gloves catching fire during a diplomatic dinner. I don’t have a photo of the lovely Cathro - so if you are reading this Chef Brook please send me one!

Top chef Colin Masson shared his afternoon coffee breaks with me on several occasions, and told me lots of wonderful anecdotes about chefs, restaurants, and kitchens, giving me lots of ideas for my novel in progress.

Top Chef Colin Masson and Janice Horton

Chef Ian McAndrew, who has a gastronomic CV and cookbook backlist to make other chefs weep, was the youngest UK chef ever to have held a Michelin star. As the stars being ‘reached for’ in my book Reaching for the Stars are loosely based on the Michelin stars (I call them Golden Stars) Ian generously invited me to his the hotel to answer my research questions. He and his sous and commis also demonstrated what it takes to run an award winning kitchen in one of Scotland’s best romantic and award winning hotels, the Blackaddie Hotel, Sanquhar, Dumfries and Galloway.

Award winning Chef Ian McAndrew

Interestingly, on the same day I visited the Blackaddie Hotel, I had an camera crew in tow, who were filming my novel research techniques for a ITV news feature and the resulting short film can be seen here:

Just before completing the manuscript for Reaching for the Stars, I commissioned the cover from professional designer JT Lindroos, whom I can recommend highly as he is so fantastic to work with. I already had the cover picture in mind, but JT proposed many and varied options on my theme before we fine tuned the final cover. These are some of the first stage design ideas followed by the finished version:

So that’s all my exciting news for now - more on Reaching for the Stars soon - with an update on a launch date and more details about the storyline including an extract!

UPDATE: Please do pop over to Lady Mandy Baggot’s blog where I'm currently a guest on her Author Meet & Greet page! 

Oh, you may have noticed that I had to move my Blog Followers Box down a bit, but it is still there - and I'd LOVE you to follow this blog officially if you haven't already done so - and of course if you too have a blog that I don't know about yet, I'll be sure to Follow you back.

Love, Janice xx