Thursday, 25 May 2017

61. Bye Bye Manuscript

Usually, I’d be telling you what I’ve been doing for the past thirty odd days. And while I do have news, the reality is that I’ve spent most of that time wearing out the lenses of my reading glasses as I stare at my screen looking for grammar mistakes, overused words, plot holes, continuity issues, and that’s not counting the added stress in general as I edit my story.

I’m not sure if I’m meant to get to the point where I hate it. (I don’t.) But just like hearing Satan speaking when you play a record backwards (apparently, that’s a real thing, and yes, I know what a record is,) I’m certain I can recite my novella backwards too. Although, if anything demonic has happened around me, I’ve yet to notice. Despite any potential visits from the Anti-Christ, my staring at a torrent of words has led to a brave and long overdue moment. That novella is on its way to a publisher. Yes, dear readers, I pressed SEND! And now I feel sick!

It’s normal though. The build-up, the effort, the passion, the frustration, the what-the-hell-was-I-thinking, and the can’t-believe-I-sent-it sick feeling is all standard when you send your book baby away. Mind you, I’m not going to look at it in case there is a mistake in my submission, which there probably is. I’m just going to take a moment, okay, several moments, to pretend I’m reclaiming my sanity before I start on the next book. After all, it’s a long wait between submission and reply. There’s another positive though – I survived the challenge of a five-page synopsis.

For those who don’t know, a book synopsis describes the main theme of a nonfiction work. It explains the novel’s central characters, their conflicts, their relationships, and the outcome of the story. Editors and agents use these to get a feel for the story and determine if they want to work with a new author. Let’s just say my first effort sounded more like a summary of the story rather than an invitation to enjoy an enticing read. You think I’d know better, but no, I’d summarised my novella from start to finish. And I knew it wasn’t right.

Fortunately, I was smart enough to send it to a writing friend who sent back some sage advice and opened my eyes to my then obvious mistake. So, synopsis sorted, (I hope). But on a side note, I can also summarise a 38,000-word novella in 1,800 words. Go me!

I did manage to detach myself from the computer long enough to catch up with a friend from my hometown who introduced me to one of the best (made with real chocolate) mochas I’ve ever had. It was so good to see a friendly face ‘from home’. And by accident, I also discovered a friend from my softball days happens to live just fifteen minutes away. Oh, the stories she could tell... That I won’t be. ;) I’m looking forward to catching up with her too.

That's me playing First Base many moons ago.:)  Don't I look serious? LOL

I’ve also met some lovely writers here, both online via my ambassador’s role with Romance Writers Australia, and through the writing group I’ve recently joined. One of those writers happens to be a paranormal author. How cool it was to have a coffee with her and talk writing and books. I’m not sure what our surrounding caffeine drinkers thought about our conversation and our comments on the likes of mystical creatures, the undead, and things that go bump in the night, but we certainly enjoyed our chat.

Another of those special events happened this month and I was just a little bit spoiled for my first Western Australian birthday. :) The kids and I also made Herbed Tomato Gnocchi from scratch. Hardly restaurant standard, but we sure thought it tasted good.

These are the beautiful flowers my sisters and Mum sent. :)

And our gnocchi attempt.

I’m also pleased to report I have ten normal coloured toes again, although I’ve been living in my trainers because I’m not game to try on my boots yet. Maybe in a few more weeks. If the change into cooler weather is anything to go by, however, I’m seriously considering taking my kids to school in my slippers. Do you suppose they’ll let me through the gate in my pj’s?

The one thing I did make time for was reading, and lucky me, one of my favourite authors has released two stories for me to review. :)

Book Reviews

Beauty Conquers the Beast by Jenny Schwartz
Lady Nora and Prince Alexander were never friends, and she can’t think of anyone more deserving of the curse that made him the Beast of the Sighaway Forest. But when six princesses from neighboring kingdoms fail to break the curse, it’s more than just the big and brutish Alexander who is suffering.
For her country, and out of an overdeveloped sense of duty, Nora will enter the beast’s castle. She’ll fight mysterious magic and confront the secrets of her heart, but the elusive beast remains untamable.
The shocking solution to breaking the curse will change Nora’s life forever.

This story is a twist on the traditional tale of Beauty and the Beast – but for grownups. Nora must break her godmother’s curse to see the beast free. Never mind that she’s a Lady, not a Princess, and they’ve all failed to grant Alex the freedom he doesn’t seem to want. And why should she care what happens to a former spoiled prince anyway?

Punished for ‘borrowing’ one of Morningstar’s prized possessions, Alex finds it easier to bear the curse rather than admit the real reason he’s hiding from his kingdom. He’s no future king. He never expected Morningstar to send her goddaughter to help him after she ordered him to leave Nora alone, and he’s worried Nora’s attempt just might work, but at what cost?

This story, to me, had a flavor of historical romance with the paranormal twist Ms Schwartz does so well. I loved the prim and proper vibe turn into something so much more. A fun read, and so not the fairy tale you’re used to. ;)

Fire Fall (Old School – Book 4) by Jenny Schwartz
Vanessa Araya is not hiding! She’s trying to find herself after the terror of being kidnapped six months ago. Who is she when her trust in people has been stripped away? How can she be free and brave and in love with life when a little part of her is always looking over her shoulder? Being the daughter of a billionaire hurts in unique ways.

Seth Bentham fell for Vanessa three years ago, and walked away. He’s a wizard mercenary: lethal, magical and in deep in a dangerous world. He would have only brought Vanessa pain. Now he’s hunting the southern Rocky Mountains for a kidnapped barrier wizard; not to save the man, but to learn more about the plot that involves him. The very last person Seth expects to stumble over while hiking is Vanessa, but here she is, strong, scared that she’s broken, and his.

This time, Seth won’t walk away.

But the price of stealing time together is high. Old enemies and new threats lurk in the mountains. There are fantastical creatures and there is the racing, hungry inferno of wildfire. Before the Fourth of July explodes in fireworks, someone will die.

Months ago, Vanessa was the victim of a kidnapping. The Stag mercenaries hired to find her, failed thanks to a traitor in their midst. Fortunately, her Old School mates rescued her. While she regained her freedom, Vanessa couldn’t recover the sense of carefree happiness she once took for granted. And that’s what she’s really doing in the Rockies under the guise of hiking when Seth, one of the Stag’s highest ranking officers, finds her – searching for the one thing that will grant her happiness.

It’s been three years since he last saw her. He couldn’t stand by and watch the woman he cared for love someone else. And now here they were, together at last. But she needs to leave because not only are the mountains unsafe, the wizard who’d betrayed the Stag, and in turn, Vanessa, is here too. He’ll have to call upon some dark and powerful magic to keep her safe because Seth won’t lose her again, even if it means losing himself.

Ms Schwartz has done it again – thrown me into the opposite direction to which I thought the story was heading. Once more I found myself changing my perceptions about a character. And, you guessed it, she managed to weave previously mentioned characters and references from the series into this story like a delicately spun web. Ms Schwartz knows how to spin a tale, and in them, I am happily caught.

More on Ms Schwartz’s stories here.

While I’m waiting to hear if my book baby has found a new home, the routine hasn’t changed – keep working through my goal list, send those stories out for critiquing, edit, hope for the best, and repeat. :)

Oh, and prepare for my first real winter. I’m so not ready. :/

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

60. Progression, Not Perfection

I heard a wonderful phrase while watching a movie the other night and it really resonated with me - much like the pain I’m feeling. I’ll explain the former momentarily, but for now, I’ll let you know why I’m feeling a little broken. A few mornings ago, one of my precious pups, who wasn’t so precious in the moment, decided he wasn’t finished being patted. As I took a step away, he planted his paws on my foot. I kept moving. Unfortunately, my little toe didn’t.

Naming and shaming the (lucky he's) cute pup who's now much heavier - Banjo

It’s been a few years since I've broken a bone, but the crunching pop that accompanied my misstep brought some painful memories screaming back. I’m certain I screamed in the now also. Or a few swear words. You choose! The result, I now have nine toes and one that’s masquerading as the purpliest grape I’ve ever seen.

My grape, that is, my toe.

Fear not dear readers, having a broken toe has some major advantages. I must keep my foot elevated so there’s not much I can do about the housework. I can’t put on a shoe, which is a bonus all its own, I don’t have to go grocery shopping, and the best thing – since I can’t sit at my desk for long, I have a legitimate reason to vanish into the lounge and read. :)

Book Reviews

Finding Paradise (The Gods of Oakleigh Book One) by Juanita Kees
From the shores of Mykonos to Melbourne Australia, Arian and Ajax find that sometimes in life or death true love is worth fighting for.

Arian Kendrick has always felt she doesn’t quite fit in. On holiday in Mykonos she rescues a little girl from drowning and discovers powers she didn’t know she had. As her long-dormant mystical talents blossom, so does her heart when she meets Ajax, the handsome, mysterious Greek-Melbournian who swears he is destined to be in her life.

After falling on his sword after the Battle of Troy, Ajax the Great is banished to Van Diemen’s Land where he must search for a way to redeem his soul. Two thousand years later, he is given a second chance when Zeus orders him to Mykonos to search out and protect the future Queen of the Faeries, Arianrhod. The last thing he expects is to fall in love.

But every romantic island holiday must come to an end, and the mysteries and fairy tales of Mykonos fade into the suburban reality of Melbourne where Arian begins to doubt Greek lore and the magic in her veins.

Can Arian embrace her mythical legacy in time to save her people as Hades threatens to destroy Paradise forever, and will Ajax rise to fight by her side, or is he destined to fall on his sword for eternity?

The quiet suburb of Oakleigh may never be the same again. Not as long as the gods are in town...

The moment he emerged from the waves, salt water dripping down a body the Greek Gods themselves would envy, Arian should have known he'd break her heart. A holiday fling was the last thing she wanted, but the odd sense of déjà vu that claimed her when their eyes met wouldn’t go away. Strong and silent, he seemed capable of handling anything, yet moments later he stood by, helpless, as she’d charged into the water and saved his little girl from drowning. At least, she thought the girl was his, just like she thought she’d seen something impossible in the water, something that wanted her dead. But what’s more confusing, the more she sees of Ajax, the harder it is to shake the feeling that together they’re meant to be so much more.

Ajax the Great, banished to Purgatory for falling victim to Athena’s treacherous ways, he’d spent more lifetimes than he cared to count trying to appease Zeus. When the King of the Gods offers him one last chance at redemption, it’s at a price he’s not sure he’s willing to pay. Protect a queen who doesn’t know she’s the ruler of mythical island paradise, a female whose beauty reminds him that women are not to be trusted, not to be fooled by, and not someone to whom he should give his heart; he should never have agreed to such a loathsome task. But if he doesn’t help her, he’ll never reclaim his soul from the treacherous Hades, and he’ll never reclaim his rightful place as one of Zeus’s chosen warriors.

When Arian learns the truth about Ajax’s identity, her own ancestry, and Zeus’ manipulation in their lives, they realise not only must they defeat the King of the Underworld, save the people of Paradise, and right the wrongs of the past, they must also battle each other’s hearts.

I love Greek mythology. (Okay, I love all mythology,) so I wasn’t going to miss reading this story and I wasn’t disappointed. Who doesn’t want their own Greek God to seduce? (My book boyfriend harem is growing.) Ajax was the perfect flawed hero, doubting his ability, wondering if he was worthy not only of the tasks he’d been set, but also of the love of woman he swore to protect despite his original motivations, yet still a man worthy of redemption. And Arian, heir to a magical world she didn’t know existed, stepping up to claim her inheritance from a dark mythical being intent on stealing it away, and learning to trust in her heart in another kind of eternal magic all its own.

When Jax walked out of the ocean and onto the beach and Arian saw him for the first time, I wanted to flick sand in her face as I elbowed her out of the way. He is the epitome of a Greek God and Ms Kees brought him to life with fan girl, lust-filled perfection. Ms Kees is a new author for me, so I’m pleased to have discovered the first book in her new series. And despite my knowing better about time frames for new books, (aka my impatience) I may have found a new writer to nag, er, encourage. In the meantime, enjoy!

Learn more about Ms Kees and her books here.

Storm Road (Old School Book Three) by Jenny Schwartz

When a woman with secrets saves a man hunted by a ghoul, the choice is stark: salvation or damnation. 

Major Dean Fortescue, JAG lawyer and former Marine, enters the Southern Appalachian Mountains to find his aunt, who has gone missing. He discovers her house burned down, a ghoul in residence, and a mysterious woman who claims to control the weather. 

Beulah Morgan is a weathermage, home after months away on a scientific research vessel in the Southern Ocean. When her mountain retreat is invaded by death magic, old memories resurface and with them a chilling terror. 

Children will die unless Beulah trusts Dean, he trusts her magic, and together they face a ghoul that was bound during the Civil War, but recently freed by a reckless wizard mercenary. 

"Storm Road" is a stand-alone novel in the Old School series of paranormal romance thrillers.

He’d come to the mountains to locate his missing aunt. As a former Marine, there’s little Major Dean Fortescue fears, but whatever exists in the burned-out shell that used to be her home, is a horror even he can’t fathom. Running for his life, he comes to Beulah Morgan’s door and discovers a world of magic and mayhem he never knew existed.

Beulah, a weather mage, knows her magic, just like she knows the truth about Dean’s aunt, but that’s not her secret to tell. However, when she follows the major back to his aunt’s home, and confronts the ghoul, even she is at a loss to understand the vileness it radiates. They barely escape. Until they can get reinforcements, Beulah’s the only magical being who can contain it before the entity consumes the non-magical population she calls home. She knows she must face it again, but the ghoul’s power is growing, and even with Dean by her side, Beulah’s still trapped in the past with a secret she could never overcome. But if they’re going to survive the ghoul’s onslaught, they’ve no choice but to face those memories, no matter what the cost.

I swear Ms Schwartz likes making me cry. The emotional moments in this story are heart wrenching. The secret Beulah’s been keeping messed with my head, such is the strength of Ms Schwartz’s writing. I also liked the quiet strength both main characters possessed. They’ve both seen and experienced terrible things in their past, which the ghoul used to its advantage, but that quiet, inner strength is what made them push forward. And again, I love that previous characters made an appearance or were mentioned in this stand-alone story to tie the series together.

More on Ms Schwartz’s stories here.

I’m also beta-reading a wonderful novella, which I’m loving. It’s an honour to be trusted with someone’s book baby and I’ll be taking good care of it. I can’t wait until it’s published, and then I can officially share a review. :)

Special Events

For those who celebrate it, I hope you had an enjoyable Easter. Unlike me, I hope you didn’t overindulge on the chocolate. For those who don’t celebrate the occasion, I hope you spent precious time with your loved ones just the same. :)

And I can’t post an April blog without mentioning something so important to my country and to New Zealand. To our ANZAC’s, who sacrificed so much so that others may live on in their memory. 

We sat on the foreshore today (the family walked very slowly so I could hobble along behind them), and gave our thanks to those in service who protect our country whilst honouring those who’ve gone before. It was wonderful to see so many uniforms, the many medals proudly displayed, and respect with which everyone gave them. I don’t condone war, but I do honour those who gave so much to keep my loved ones safe.

All gave some
Some gave all
Some are still giving
Lest We Forget!


The goals – This is where my title for the month comes into play. I am progressing through my goals, finishing my stories, and letting them go. They’ll never be perfect, even though I cling to them in desperation, terrified the moment I press SEND, that book baby I scoured for errors is on its way, mistake riddled and laid bare for all to see. So, I’m moving forward, trying to put less ‘perfection pressure’ on myself, and methodically plodding along – much more of the forward stuff though, right?

Therefore, the novella is finished and in the more than capable hands of two beta readers whom I know will tell me the truth – the good and the bad. Another wonderful beta reader asked me the right questions regarding a second story I was editing, so I’m a step closer to sending that to the publisher I’m coveting, and when I get my beta comments back on the original novella, well that’s two stories I’ll have finished to send away. (I did mention I was terrified.) And next, another of those unfinished projects, a novel this time, is going to get the evil eye. So far, I’m on track for what I want to achieve.

I’m also grateful for those who are keeping me honest and making sure I continue to work on my goals. I shared them for that reason, to keep me honest and motivated, otherwise the next one to be named and shamed in the blog might be me.

For now, I’m off to ice my pretty toe, (it’s recovering from being forced into a shoe,) continue to ignore the housework (good thing it’s school holidays and the kids are being more helpful than usual – and yes, I am milking it), and get back to what I love. :)

Saturday, 25 March 2017

59. Creative Ventures

I’m beginning to think there’s been a bit of a conspiracy happening since I left my home town. Two exciting events that I would love to have attended, have been organised whilst I’m ‘way’ over on the other side of the continent.

There’s some talented writers, singers, actors, dancers, and film makers back in Central Queensland, and wouldn’t you know it, Mr Luke Graham, the producer behind locally filmed hit movie, ‘Broke’, (featured here - along with the Capricorn Film festival cohort organised a get together recently to give all those talented people a chance to meet. Can you imagine it? Writers sharing stories with the actors, singers, and dancers who could bring those words to life, and then an opportunity for film students to capture those moments – what a learning experience. How exciting to be involved in it all, even if it’s just to meet like-minded people and share one’s creative inspirations. They’re planning another gettogether in a few weeks so I’ll be experiencing the meetings vicariously through friends. Isn’t that right, friends? :)

The other event is a Pop Con in my hometown on April first featuring regional authors, Sue-Ellen Pashley, and Shelley Russell Nolan. I’ve enjoyed reading books from both these authors so I know attendees will be meeting some very talented ladies on the day and hopefully there’s be more local writers joining them. Learn more here - because there’s plenty to keep the fantasy fans, young and old, in all formats happy.

I shouldn’t be too sad. There’s an OZ Comic Con coming to Perth that I just may make, if I feel I can brave the crowds.

After all, fantasy writer Isobelle Carmody, who hosted an excellent workshop in my local area a couple of years ago, (featured here - will be there along with a rather charming English actor/musician, Arthur Darvill. I know, I’m letting my inner Doctor Who / DC Legends of Tomorrow geekiness shine through, but you know the drill – fictional characters and all that. ;) And speaking of fictional characters. :)

Book Reviews

Numbers and the TangoA contemporary romance with a hint of suspense.

A dance lesson and a white lie bring two lonely souls from different worlds together.

Derek Durrant, mathematical genius and respected actuary, has a heart of gold but his tragic childhood has left him shy, socially awkward and prisoner to his world of numbers and certainty.

Passionately beautiful Tango instructor, Alessandra Aquilar, lives in the shadows of her dark and dangerous past. Fear makes her keep everyone at bay.

When they meet through Tango, neither can deny the strong emotions the dance brings to life. But can Tango empower Derek to find the courage to confess his love to Alessandra? And can Alessandra return the love and kindness the enigmatic Derek shows her, or will threats from her past return to destroy her future happiness?

Awkward and shy, mathematical genius, Derek Durrant, is comfortable with the numbers on his computer screen, not so the feminine figures that fill in his workplace. On a whim, his secretary decides to force her boss out of his comfort zone by enrolling him in dancing lessons. And what better way to do that than to learn one of the most passionate dances – the tango. Derek is determined to walk right out again, but something about the beautiful, yet mysterious, dance teacher makes him stay. It doesn’t take long for him to realise that ‘dancing by numbers’ can lead to so much more.

Feisty and fiercely independent, Alessandra finds serenity and an overwhelming desire to claim not only the protective aura the shy Derek projects, but everything else he’s offering. His heart is there for the taking. A pity then, that darkness has followed her from her homeland and threatens not only their budding happiness, but their very lives.

MC Dalton’s debut novella is as passionate as you’d expect a tango story to be. The stakes are high, the suspense verging on nail biting, and the romance is a dance all its own. I enjoyed Derek’s quiet, inner strength in contrast to the wildfire that was Alessandra. The sparks flew in more ways than one. You can learn more about Ms Dalton here.

Twitter @mcdalton76

The Warden and the Shadow Queen – Book 3 of the Warden Saga.

Anna slips further away from Finn, and looks doomed to fall into darkness. Her fate is in his hands. To save her, he must travel across the sea, storm a castle, battle an insane enemy, and a horde of undead soldiers.

All the while, the ancient order of mages scheme in the background. Their ambition for power threatens to cover the land in death and darkness. Can Finn stop the horrors their magic unleashes in time?

Will he finally discover the secrets of the Black Sword? And why does it thirst for blood? 

Imprisoned, half-starved, and despairing, Anna’s hopes of rescue are fading fast. Finn and his promise to save her seems a lifetime ago. Instead, her enemies are gaining ground and weaving their dark magic. Not even the promise of death can give her salvation from the horrors to come.

Desperate, and half mad with the thought of failing not only his love, but also his entire Eldon race, Finn feels the pressure to rescue Anna from her fate. The black sword leads him ever onwards, but not even Finn truly understands how he, Anna, and the wicked-sharp blade’s futures are entwined.

Mr Summerhayes excels at fight scenes and book three was no different when it came to sword fights, demon wrangling, utilising his characters’ thirst for revenge and their desire to prevail over great odds. The growing inner strength, maturity, and self-discovery of main characters, Finn and Anna, was evident in the way they handled adversity. Villainy abounded, curses flew, and dark magic, well, dark magic did what it does best - left the reader wanting more. :)

Author Interview

Mr Summerhayes also kindly agreed to answer a few ‘intense’ writing questions. ;)

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Like most writers, I wrote or told stories from an early age. It was always my dream to be an author and create worlds.

In 2015, I wrote freelance for a gaming company, and saw my name in a printed book – it was then I started thinking that I may just be a writer, and that’s when I decided to take my hobby more serious. I now have five stories in print.

Do you have support from family and friends?
My family and friends have always given me encouragement – which initially surprised me. Writing is a lonely pursuit, and if your family gives you the time and space to write, that is often all the support a writer needs. Thankfully, nobody has told me to forget writing and get a real job.

Do you have a particular writing style?
That’s a hard question as writing styles are subjective to the individual reader. We all interpret stories slightly differently, based on our own likes or dislikes.
My aim is to write adventure stories, with protagonists who develop and grow as the story unfolds. Most of my stories contain a young protagonist, and would be classified as YA (but not all). I like YA as the young protagonist has room to grow and learn who they are as the story unfolds.

What are your favourite story writing genres and authors and what draws you to them?
I like many genres; Sci-fi, Mysteries, Horror, Westerns, but Fantasy, and Sword and Sorcery have always been my favourites.

I grew up reading JRR Tolkien (he taught me to day dream), Gene Wolf, Frank Herbert, Edger Rice Borroughs, Dragonlance, and Robert E Howard’s Conan novels. I prefer stories with a fast-paced storyline with heaps of action – I am currently enjoying Joe Abercrombie’s style of writing.

What inspired you to write the Warden Saga?
I was inspired to write about Finn and his friends because of my love of the Fantasy genre. Growing up, I always day-dreamed stories of wizard and dragons, and now as an adult (I use that term loosely) I get to write about them! We write stories that we love to read.

Can you tell us what are you working on at the minute?
I don’t like talking about a book before it’s finished - I guess I’m secretive. All I will say is that it’s a Fantasy story with a dystopian twist. It’s over half written and I’m excited to see it published soon. I am aiming for a May-June release date and it’s the start of a new series.

Don’t worry Warden Saga readers, I will return to wardens soon.

How much research do you do?
I do as much research as a story requires. For example, many of the languages in the Warden Saga are modified present day languages (German, Nordic etc.) and the same with the food – mostly traditional German food.

When I wrote the background stories for The Devil’s Run board game, I researched bikie gang structures, military and civilian weapons, nuclear fallout, and studied maps of western USA, where the game takes place. Looking back now, a lot of research went into those stories.

Do you have a writing routine?
Yes. Finishing a story is all about routine, and I try to write every day. Unfortunately, I’m not productive at night, so that’s when I do marketing or social media.

Do you ever get writer’s block and if so, how do you get through it?
I haven’t had writer’s block (I personally don’t believe it’s a real thing). I have been stuck, deciding which way to take a story, but the more I plan a story prior to starting the less I have this issue. When you are ‘stuck’, stop writing and plot out your next few scenes or chapters. You’ll find in a few hours (or days) you’ll have the creative juices flowing again.

What book/s are you reading at present?
I’m currently reading Joe Abercrombie’s ‘Before They Are Hanged’, the second book of The First Law series. I really enjoy his writing style and how he weaves a story with both intrigue and action – it’s highly recommended.

Do you edit as you go or finish the story first?
I write the story first and then go over it several times. The story changes slightly during each draft, as I add in new information or tweak a plot line. After I’ve written a few drafts and I’m happy with the story flow, I send it to my editor for the final polish.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write every day. There is no other secret to completing a story.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I spend time with my family; going to the kids’ sports and school activities. I like to unwind by reading or watching movies or TV series. I am also restoring an old car in my shed, which I hope to finish by the end of the year.

What do you think makes a good story?
For me, a good book either contains interesting characters that I want to know more about, or the story is just fun. As I read for entertainment, if it’s not interesting I will stop and read something else.

If you write more than one genre, how do you balance them?
I don’t have a problem writing in different genres and I find it’s actually fun. It gives you a break from your main genre. I wouldn’t want to write two different genre stories at the same time though – that would be too hard.

Last year, while I edited one of my fantasy novels, I also wrote a post-apocalyptic novella for a board game with no issues.

Are you a plotter, panster or a combination of both?
I do both. I plan out all of the main characters and all the key plot points for the whole story and then start writing. I often change things as I write with only the start and end of the story normally remaining unchanged. If I get stuck, it means I need to do more planning.

What question do you wish someone would ask, but no one ever has?
I wish someone would ask me to write an official Conan the Barbarian novel! That’s one of my childhood dreams.

Any writing rituals / superstitions?
Yes! I always write wearing my lucky hat!
Actually, no superstitions or rituals. I know that’s boring. Sorry.

How did you deal with rejection letters (if you had any?)
I’ve not had a rejection letter from a publisher before as I am an indie author. Be your own boss!
I have written in IP’s which were not mine, and I also have a story in a paranormal anthology. If you’re writing for another person, get all the information you can. It’s a great experience to work outside your comfort zone. Give it a go. You might just learn something about yourself.

Thank you so much for your time, Paul. :)


The goals – I’m down to the last chapter and then the novella is finished. Then there’s the editing, so it’s going to hide in a corner for a little while until I can look at it with fresh eyes. And while it’s glaring at me from my peripheral vision, I’ll start editing another novella with which I have a definite publisher in mind. Scary stuff! :)

Alas, no luck with the short story competition as far as a place is concerned; I just missed out there. Oh, but the feedback was brilliant. I know I’m onto a good story here considering all three judges wanted more, so it’s something I can build upon and feel confident in sharing. That’s a win in my books. :) (pun SO intended) ;) I’ll have news on that in a few months. Still have my schedule to get through first.

Back to writing, reading, (and perhaps Comic Con-ing) for me. I hope you’re making time to do the things that inspire you too. :)

Saturday, 25 February 2017

58. Moments and Memories

I like to pretend I’m cool, calm, and articulate (aka interesting), and for the most part, that’s very easy to do online. However, out in the real world that’s another matter entirely. How I envy those extroverts who can walk into a room, strike up a conversation with anyone, and immediately look as though they belong. How they manage to put everyone around them at ease is beyond my understanding. There are times though, when doing one’s best to blend in with one’s surroundings just isn’t going to cut it. In those situations, making the effort to force words out and hoping it sounds like intelligent conversation are worth every little cringe, panic, and fear I’m holding inside.

I apologise in advance for any embarrassment I may cause although there’s a better chance I’m just going to embarrass myself.

Since I began taking writing seriously, I’ve been blessed to have met some wonderful, talented authors both locally in my hometown in Queensland, via workshops in my region, online through RWA, (Romance Writers Australia) and those whom I contacted just because I loved their books and they were kind enough to respond. I’ve also had the good fortune to stay in contact with some of those authors and they’ve all willingly shared their advice and expertise on writing and the publishing industry. There’s been one author who’s been particularly wonderful to me, and I hope someday I can return that gift.

From the moment that we ‘met’ online at RWA’ s 2011 Clayton’s Conference, this author has been nothing short of amazing. She’s gone out of her way to give me tips, advice, critique when I needed it, praise when I earned it, and the benefit of her own experiences, yet all the while she made me feel like I was worthy of her time and interest. I never once imagined we might meet. Since life moves in mysterious ways, or perhaps as good fortune would have it, the big move to Western Australia came with an unexpected benefit – having coffee with the author I affectionately call my unofficial mentor. This is the person who, despite her VERY busy writing schedule, took time out of her day to meet and spend time with me.

I imagine the ‘unofficial mentor’ mention gave away her identity. Ms Jenny Schwartz is as wonderful in real life as she is online (as if there was any doubt.) And if she noticed my hands were shaking or that I could barely string sentences together in the first few minutes, she was kind enough not to mention it. We sat in a cute little café that overlooked the most beautiful beach. It was cool, thanks to the playful ocean breeze, and the only other noise was the occasional car driving past, and most likely the hammering of my heart. So, while I may have looked cool, (totally thanks to the breeze) the frozen-with-excitement look on my face could have been mistaken for calm, was I articulate? Not even close. But then we started talking about writing and why we love it so much and I forgot how nervous I was. Instead, I hung onto every word she uttered. The muffin I ordered stayed almost untouched. My coffee went cold, and I probably unnerved the poor woman even though I tried to glance occasionally at my surroundings rather than stare at her the whole time. The best parts – one, that she liked a story idea I have and two (and more importantly) I could tell her in person that I love her stories and how much her encouragement and kindness means to me. Total fangirl moment right there.

So, before I embarrass either of us any further, thank you for being you, Jenny, and thank you for another story for me to read and review. :)

Book Reviews

Fantastical Island (Old School Book 2)

Someone is hunting the fantastical creatures of Catalina Island.

When a magical amulet gives marine biologist Naomi Twain the power to see through glamours it plunges her into a world of danger and intrigue. Fantastical creatures are everywhere, but hidden, on Catalina Island—and someone is hunting them, putting at risk a unique, magical ecosystem.

Corey Madrigal is bathing a behemi, a flying miniature pig, when Naomi crashes into his life. With a natural talent for seeing through glamours, he feels a responsibility to the creatures of his island home, creatures who were the friends of his childhood. Now, he’s a Hollywood special effects artist, and he’s going to be an amazing ally for Naomi in her quest to capture the hunters of the island’s fantastical creatures.

But the hunters have their own agenda.

And then, there's the ghost...

Intense danger, wild storms, and passionate loyalties put to the test. Fantastical Island is a stand-alone adventure in the Old School series.

Naomi carries a certain innocence about her, an inane sense to do right, and to provide protection for those she cares about, but she knows she can’t do it alone. When she realises Corey Madrigal can see fantastical creatures without the amulet on which she so heavily relies, Naomi knows he’s the one for her - the creatures, she meant the creatures. The fact that she trusts him wholeheartedly from their first meeting only adds to her belief that she has found an ally. And when it comes to protecting Catalina Islands most magical of secrets, she’s going to need all the help she can get. For the man who’s grown up accustomed to the protection and care these creatures share, any change to that safety net is an intolerable threat, but it’s nowhere near as threatening as the thought that Corey might lose the most magical gift of all - her.

What a sweet story woven through a serious amount of danger. And fantastical creatures are right because I’m torn between wondering whether they’re made up and thinking there’s some aspects of mythology and legend I just haven’t discovered yet. All I know is there’s a certain hybrid creature in a cave that I NEVER want to see. Taking out the magical / paranormal aspect, I think this could easily have been a contemporary story of activists fighting to keep the natural fauna and flora safe from poachers and that is itself a powerful message. This story had just the right amount of anticipation, dangerous climaxes and the sweetest of developing romances to keep the reader turning pages to reach the happily ever after.

Ms Jenny Schwartz -

Angel Fire

A family secret.

A lifetime of deception.

Haunted by nightmares of fire, considered flawed by her adoptive parents, Andie Sherman just wants to be normal. She moves out of home, ready to start her life afresh, only to discover the dream that has plagued her for fifteen years is actually a memory of the night she lost her identical twin, Angel.

Then Angel’s spirit calls to her, begging Andie to save her.

With the help of Nick Foster, her brother’s best friend, Andie searches for answers about what really happened the night her sister died, determined to save Angel from whatever is stopping her from resting in peace.

Her quest leads Andie to the sinister Wood’s Estate and an unscrupulous doctor who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

And what she wants is Andie.

A little tablet could solve all her problems. One swallow and the voices and the nightmares will all go away. The stranger who looks exactly like Andie, who screams and begs for her help, won’t be able to bother her anymore. But taking that tablet means she’s weak and disturbed just like her adoptive parents claim. Not even her brother believes in her. But Andie’s world changes when she takes a chance on Nick, her brother’s best friend. He believes what she’s seeing is real, but when the truth is revealed, more than lies wait discovery.

This story, to me, had a timeless vibe. It could have happened in the 80’s just as much as a contemporary setting. It made me feel the way I did as a teen reading my first Stephen King and Dean R Koontz books – a little on edge, wondering whether I should read on, and then being compelled to read regardless. Ms Nolan knows how to make the reader despise a character just as she makes them want to cheer on the heroes. She also leaves you wanting more, which is why I was happy to learn a sequel, or possibly more is in the works. I hope she’s ready for more nagging, I mean, gentle encouragement. :)

Twitter: @ShelleyRNolan
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Realm Shift: The Balance (Book 1) Alan Baxter

Isiah is having a tough time. The Devil is making his job very difficult.

Samuel Harrigan is a murdering lowlife. He used ancient blood magic to escape a deal with the Devil and now he’s on the trail of a crystal skull that he believes will complete his efforts to evade Lucifer. But Lucifer wants Samuel’s soul for eternity and refuses to wait a second longer for it. Isiah needs Samuel to keep looking for the crystal skull, so he must protect Sam and keep the Devil at bay. Not for Samuel’s sake, but for all of humanity.

RealmShift is an engrossing Dark Fantasy thriller; a fascinating exploration of the nature of people’s beliefs and their effect on the world around them. Magic, action, and intrigue, from dank city streets to the depths of Hell and beyond.

Questioning the orders of a higher power is not part of Isiah’s agenda, but even he finds it difficult to believe a soul as disgusting and vile as Samuel Harrigan’s is worth saving. Would it be so bad to let Satan have him? Samuel believes himself clever enough to cheat the Devil. All he needs is the crystal skull recently discovered in a remote part of the Central American jungle and he’ll be immortal and beyond Satan’s reach. Isiah’s been to Hell and back more than once, but as secrets are revealed, Isiah becomes aware that nothing is as it seems and that even for the most devilish of human souls, they still have their part to play.

I enjoyed this story. One’s beliefs can be a powerful thing and that is evident in this story from how Isiah came to exist to the people he encounters. A soldier in the balance between Good and Evil, the lines are blurred when it comes to doing what he needs to comply with the task he’s assigned. Sometimes as a reader, it’s easy to see the difference, but then the writer twists the story to another viewpoint and you question who is right, who is wrong, and if everything is as clear as it seems. I also liked the way magic weaved its way through the story and the hints and nods toward other supernatural beings and beliefs. Although this novel is a stand-alone, there is more to Isiah’s story in Mr Baxter’s second novel, ‘MageSign.’

Ah, the memories. Almost forgot. ;) The novella I’m currently writing reminded me of a scene I’d written several years ago, so I went searching through my archives to see if I could find it. Now, I didn’t find the scene, but I did find myself reading a few chapters of an old story. I want to tell you it was good reading, but while there were (tiny) sparks of self-proclaimed brilliance in there, oh there were some shameful, shameful things too. There’s a reason we shouldn’t look back at our early writing and it’s a good one. Do I have a degree in Literature? No. Did I think I understood basic grammar and vocab? I thought so. Oh, the mistakes I found. Sentences that ran into lengthy paragraphs. Commas that appeared mid-sentence for no good reason. Adjectives and adverbs that annihilated any cool sentence I may have created. I am hanging my head, dear readers.

But it’s not all bad. Not finding the piece I was looking for means I won’t be repeating those particular mistakes. And reading the chapters came with many wonderful moments of times gone by. My emotions are forever captured in those words. The friends I made while writing them are still in my heart, and the healing I received through the power of putting those words onscreen hasn’t dimmed. It’s learning from those mistakes that have pushed me forward. And while I know I have a long journey ahead of me, and undoubtedly more mistakes to make, I don’t think I’d have it any other way. :)


The goals – Next month should bring results of the short story competition. The novella is down to its last few chapters after the third rewrite. I’m pleased with some scenes, but there’s still work to be done. Fortunately, there are victims, I mean, volunteers, waiting to attack it with their trusty red pens. Hubby has not worked his design magic yet for the other blog, but I’m working on the parts I can do, and I’m still on a high from meeting Jenny, which is an amazing, yet unexpected goal too. :)

Until next time, all the best for making your dreams come true. :)