Friday, 25 December 2015

45. Season's Greetings

I’m dealing with the early mornings because I’ve found a new appreciation of greeting the dawn with our new puppy and getting the most out of the cooler weather for the short time that I have it. I’m still feeling a bit delicate (hubby prefers ‘grumpy’) in the evenings, but I’ve decided it’s because of the emotional roller coaster ride we’ve had this year. I’m sure that’s why my column is a little more subdued than usual.

For a variety of reasons, not everyone celebrates Christmas. To me, it means spending time with family and friends and hoping everyone stays safe over the holiday season. Regardless of our varied beliefs, I’m sure we all want our loved ones to be happy.

It won’t be an easy Christmas for us this year. There will be another empty chair at the table and I know my family isn’t alone in this either. It’s hard losing someone, but that first big family celebration without them, yet striving to stay positive for everyone else, is a huge task.

Things have changed since my childhood. I thought that time would last forever. As an adult, let’s just say some of those celebrations were extra ‘merry’. Christmas as a parent, wow, the magic was back again. But now, as time passes and we notice more empty chairs at the table, I know the one constant has been the happy memories and precious moments spent with our loved ones.

So, from my family to yours, whether or not you celebrate Christmas, be safe, be happy and be with someone you love, especially if they’re spending Christmas purely in your memories and your heart.

To dispel my melancholy mood, I cheered myself by reading. Ms Schwartz’s stories never fail to make me smile (sometimes through my tears.) ;)

You can find Jenny's books here - 
http://authorjennyschwartz.com/

REVIEWS

Djinn Justice (The Collegium Book 2) - From the cold of Siberia to the Mountains of the Moon, Fay and Steve are involved in an epic battle against evil enslaving people’s souls. If a person’s dream essence is stolen, so is their future.

Fay Olwen is still adjusting to life as one of a couple. She never expected to have a sexy leopard-were cuddling her at midnight in his huge bed in his gorgeous villa on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. But here she is, in love and in luck—finally! There’s not a demon in sight.

Pity she can’t say the same about the invading djinn.

As romantic plans are scuttled, Fay discovers she has a lot to learn about her new lover. Steve Jekyll isn’t simply the lethal mercenary she thought him. He’s also heir to the Suzerainty, the ancient order that delivers justice for all weres.

Steve hoped he’d have more time to reveal the many aspects of his complicated life to Fay; not least, his family. But with a rogue mage teaming up with a power-mad jackal-were to enslave innocent people, Steve doesn’t have time for tact. His family are just going to have to deal with the fact that his chosen mate isn’t a were. She is, in fact, their total and feared opposite: a mage.

Let the adventure begin!

*** “Djinn Justice” is for fans of paranormal romance who like their adventures filled with humour and heart. It can easily be read as a stand-alone novel, although the novella “Demon Hunter” tells the story of how Fay and Steve got together.

Once again, another action packed story and a great page-turner. Fay and Steve’s strengths and weaknesses balanced each other perfectly. This story focused on their partnership proving that there’s more to their relationship than pure romance. Magic, humour, danger, a little naughtiness – it’s all there much to this reader’s delight. As the story mentioned, you don’t need to read the first book to enjoy the second, but go on, you know you want to.  ;) And there’s a third in the series to come. :)

I also read Three Wishes (Out of the Bottle Trilogy)
She is the Bringer of Death

Cali, a djinni, has sworn to twist the wishes of humans so they die by their own greed and evil. Her latest master is arms dealer David Saqr, a man Cali believes deserves the fate she has in store for him. But this time she finds herself up against Andrew, David's guardian angel.

He is a Protector of Life

Andrew believes David can yet find redemption. He fights Cali for the man's life, even as he tries to persuade her to give in to the sizzling attraction between them. He shows Cali another side of David, and invites her to trust again, to hope. But centuries of being enslaved have hardened Cali's heart—it's going to take all of Andrew's love to convince her to open it and let him in.

This is the third in the series so I’ll be hunting down the other two. This had a few surprise twists and turns. I liked the way Cali twisted her masters’ wishes against them and how bitter she was on the outside, yet still so fragile internally. It would be hard for most to see through her façade, but fortunately, her hero is determined to see the best in her even when she can’t see it for herself - just as soon as he stops her from killing his latest charge whose own heart of gold is hidden so deeply Andrew has to work hard to reveal it.


And finally, because it’s a time of sharing, here’s a little story to cheer my readers. :) It doesn’t have a Christmas theme. It’s my entry for the 2015 Little Gems (PG-rated) contest. It just missed out on a place, but it was such fun to write that I had to share it. Enjoy! :)


PAIR-A-DOE!

Pulse racing, heart pounding and spine stiffening to breaking point, Professor Edmund Charles Darlington the Fourth turned to face the figure striding toward him.
He’d encountered scabbard-wielding nomads and a band of black market pirates in his quest to find the peridot artefact that would change everything. That same desperate search had caused him to cross paths with supernatural creatures too. What other explanation was there for the man who morphed into a mountain lion and chased him through the San Carlos Apache foothills. And no amount of alcohol would wash away the memory of the giant serpent that crushed him in its coils when he fell into an underground stream. The beast vanished when the churning water emptied him into the Limpopo River leaving him with cracked ribs, a broken collarbone and a mark on his skin where the peridot talisman had rested against his chest. Darlington couldn’t explain how he’d survived the encounter but it appeared the healing myths surrounding the mystical gem were true.
A shaky hand reached for his handkerchief to wipe the sweat from his face. He refused to think it and the shirt sticking to his back were a reaction to anything other than the mid-summer Australian heat. His other hand fought to uncramp itself from the archaeologist’s brush he held in his vice-like grip. The figure was closing in and he argued with the voice in his head that suggested a man who’d faced such adversity could surely manage a simple conversation with the first woman who’d fired his blood since his teens.
‘Everything okay?’ she asked as she handed him a water canteen and flashed him a look that suggested he couldn’t quite cut it in the oppressive humidity. Given that he felt as though all the moisture was on the outside of his body leaving behind a desiccated husk, her smirk was a little too close to the truth.
‘I’m fine. Thank you for the drink,’ he said and cursed the crisp, pompous sound of his voice.
He didn’t think himself superior, yet to his ears, everything he said sounded like he thought he was. It appeared as though the rest of the hardened team of ASIO agents believed it. They’d made it clear they had better things to do than watch over his lily-white ass. Despite proving he wasn’t quite the fool they seemed to think, he hadn’t seen fit to dissuade them of their lowly opinion. But her, oh he’d dreamed of meeting and impressing the sun-bronzed agent ever since his superiors showed him her photo and explained her safety was of upmost importance.
And to think she thought she was protecting him.
‘You’re welcome,’ she replied, her smile widening as he let his surprise show.
Please let her think it was because she’d mimicked his cultured British accent to perfection, and not because the brush of her fingers against his as he handed back the canteen affected him more than he cared to admit.
‘Feeling lucky?’
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘Are you feeling lucky? Is the artefact here?’
‘Oh, oh I see. No, I haven’t found anything yet but I’m close. My calculations... I’m sorry. I must be boring you.’
‘Not at all, Professor Darling, and damn him if he didn’t blush when she called him that even if he couldn’t decide whether she was flirting or teasing him. ‘I like the way you talk to me as though I have half a brain in my head.’ She took a step closer. ‘And I like the fact that you look me in the eye when you say it.’
Who wouldn’t want to look into her beautiful eyes? Eyes as green as the peridot he so desperately sought.
‘But they don’t?’
He inclined his head toward the men who’d followed her every command since his arrival three weeks ago. They’d helped him escape an ambush in the Scoria Quarry in the Victorian township of Mortlake, and again at the Brisbane Airport before making their way to Chudleigh Park in Far North Queensland, one of the few remaining places the peridot piece might be. After Mortlake, his fear of failing to procure the correct artefact had increased.
It had to be here.
He let his gaze fall back to their companions. If there was any sign of disrespect or contempt for her gender or her superior position as their commanding officer, he hadn’t noticed it.
‘They wouldn’t dare,’ she said as though she’d heard his thoughts and followed her words with a laugh that oozed seduction.
The brush fell from his hand.
Cramp, he told himself, not schoolboy nerves that had no place here, not when he longed to be as composed as the agents were even if he’d seen and done things they wouldn’t believe possible.
The men didn’t seem to notice as she bent to retrieve his brush, but Darlington couldn’t look anywhere else. She’d lose her respect for him if she knew the thoughts bombarding his mind now. She’d most likely knock him out with the butt of her gun the way she’d done to the hulk of a man who’d cornered them in Brisbane. The giant thug didn’t stand a chance just as the denim of her jeans could do nothing but cling to the curve of her...
Concentrate, damn you. Find the brooch and keep her safe.
All coherent thought vanished as she straightened, the movement coursing a longing for her touch through his veins.
‘Exactly how close are you to finding this pair-a-dot?’ she queried as she dropped the brush into his sweaty palm.
‘Pair-a-doe,’ he said, the speed at which he corrected her horrified him and yet brought a wicked gleam to her eye to which he ached to know the cause.
˜*˜
Agent Olivia Harper curled his motionless fingers around the brush and fought back the grin threatening to escape her tanned features. It would never do for the men to see her like this, but the professor’s obvious attraction for her and the depths at which he fought to hide it did wonders for her ego.
Hell, not just her ego.
She hadn’t wanted this boring assignment. She wasn’t in to babysitting spoiled, not to mention delusional, Englishmen who thought fossicking in the Australian mid-summer heat was an ideal holiday. Harper craved excitement, danger, adventure. And while it was true she’d been without a sense of purpose for some time, the last thing she’d sought was the added complication of a relationship. She’d told him that to fill in the silence when he’d stare at her as though he’d forgotten how to work those sexy full lips of his. He’d appeared disappointed at first, but she’d liked the look of determination that followed it. He’d told her little of his true intentions outside of searching for an artefact, not fossicking as she’d first believed. Everything about him should have sent her internal alarm bells ringing, not humming with a need she couldn’t explain, yet here she was responding to an attractive man and dropping her guard because she found the professor too charming to ignore.
Harper had fought hard to get where she was and had the scars, both mental and physical, to prove it. She also had a team of loyal agents who’d follow her to hell and back. She’d earned their trust and respect, and while an occasional show of blatant femininity might cause her men to raise an eyebrow or two, crack a joke at her expense or act like overprotective big brothers, she was used to them. Harper wasn’t sure how to respond to the professor with the hot body and downright sexy accent but he was an enigma she couldn’t ignore.
How did a supposed bookworm get so buff anyway?
Harper figured she already had her answer considering she’d been watching over him, okay; make that watching ‘him’ for the past few weeks. He worked as hard as any man did in her team. She’d seen him move heavy rocks aside with little complaint whilst traversing a collapsed tunnel when their navigation equipment failed. He drove an ultra-terrain vehicle like a seasoned racing car driver and the way he’d handled himself during both ambushes had been to the standard she’d seen only amongst other ASIO agents. And he was no agent. She was certain of that. What excited her most though was the intense look his sunburned face would acquire when he believed he was close to achieving his goal. He was a man who had purpose, the very thing she lacked.
Harper took a mouthful of water and imagined she could taste the sweetness where the professor’s lips had been moments before. Their gazes locked as she lowered the canteen and she wished he’d drop his ‘proper’ façade and just kiss her already. To hell with what her men thought or the teasing that was sure to follow.
Her keen gaze noted the way his pupils dilated indicating either stress or excitement.
The latter, she hoped, and with any luck, his mouth was opening to initiate that kiss or perhaps release more of those proper sounding words that sounded so decadent to her ears. Maybe he’d linger over the pronunciation of her name again and send delicious spears of desire shooting through her body. Maybe he’d abandon whatever protocol kept him so damned restrained around her and...
‘What’s the temperature here again?’
‘Not hot enough, apparently.’
‘I beg your pardon?’
She hadn’t said that aloud, had she? Surely not.
‘It feels like forty but I’m guessing thirty-five degrees C.’
‘And the last time it rained?’ he said turning his sunburned face, though she was sure he was blushing, to the clouds that moved like grey gondolas through the darkening sky when one of the agents gave a loud, sharp whistle. Everyone turned to follow his hand signal southward to where three dust clouds churned in the distance.
She grabbed his arm and with a sharp, ‘Follow me,’ headed for a shallow creek bed that in all likelihood hadn’t seen the rain the professor had inquired about for at least a year.
˜*˜
He thrilled at the way she ordered him to do her bidding when he knew he should be concerned with finding the peridot brooch before their unwanted company arrived. He couldn’t keep her safe without it.
Apart from the words she’d spoken and the stir of steel-capped boots scuffing the hard ground, there wasn’t a sound. He admired the ten-strong ASIO team’s ability to work as if they were a single entity. Simple hand gestures had some of the agents retreating to their vehicles. Two more streaked across the open ground to hide behind the few vertical structures in which the team had sheltered, and the last three ran after their commanding officer ready to form a human shield to protect her and the Pommy git if necessary.
She may have pushed him. He may have fallen, but Harper and Darlington tumbled into the creek bed in a tangle of limbs, gun, brush and canteen and disappeared from view. His body cushioned her decent, her watch scratching against his cheek hard enough to leave a dark streak.  He didn’t notice. All he felt was the lushness of her curves pressed full length against him.
‘Stay down,’ she ordered.
Like he wanted to move.
‘Damn! I thought we lost those guys in Brisbane. What’s so special about this gem anyway?’
He tried to speak, to tell her the truth, but she shushed him.
Harper wriggled across him to reach the edge of the bank and peered over it as gunshots shattered the eerie silence. She swore as she ducked, her shoulder smacking against a withered tree root, and pressed into him again.
Darlington hoped like hell that his stupid hormones wouldn’t dare make themselves known.
Not here. Not now.
In spite of himself, he let out a moan of pleasure as his pelvis rocked against hers, turning his head away as if the futile gesture would ensure she couldn’t hear him. His averted gaze caught a flash of something.
A ricocheting bullet? A glint of a knife? No, it was...
‘I don’t believe it.’
‘Believe me, if you don’t be quiet...’ She let the threat hang for a moment before adding, ‘And keep still, damn it. I can’t concentrate on saving you if I’m thinking about.’
She moved again, one hand on her gun and the other on his chest to steady her.
Torn between the desire to stay and his duty, Darlington hesitated before inching downward and stretching out his hand. His fingers waggled uselessly in the air. His other hand landed on Harper’s thigh to brace himself as he twisted toward his goal. Her gun fired above him and she swore but whether the curse words came from the liberty he’d just taken or the heat of battle, Darlington didn’t know. He reached for the brush he thought he’d placed in his pocket and let out a similar profanity when his hand came out empty. He glanced to the right and found it balanced precariously on the edge of the canteen. He strained, praying his fingertips would flick the brush toward him and not out of reach. His grip on her thigh tightened hard enough to bruise at his efforts.
Harper fired again and rocked back just as the brush fell into his hand. He twisted and grunted in pain, the movement aggravating his tender ribs. Once more he stretched, his collarbone launching its protest with a sharp jolt of pain. The bristles connected. Bullets whizzed past the stump. One of the agents crashed into the creek bed behind them with no sign of rising. And then, despite the dried mud covering it, Darlington spied a glimmer of green as the brooch dropped into his hand.
The second his fingers closed around it, the shooting stopped, the heavens opened and droplets of warm water fell upon them.
‘Agent Harper! Agent Harper, I found it.’
She slid down, her cheek coming to rest on his shoulder.
‘Olivia, I found it. I. Oh, bloody hell.’
˜*˜
Agent Olivia Harper was floating in a sea of green. Sparkles of foamy water carried her to a distant shore. She knew she was dead. Two bullets to the chest and another in her throat - she hadn’t stood a chance. She’d died honourably. There was peace in that thought, but more than anything, she wished she’d kissed the handsome professor she’d given her life to protect when she’d had the chance. And then her hand moved in another’s grasp and she opened her eyes to see the professor press his lips against her flesh.
‘I thought I lost you,’ he murmured against her tingling skin.
Well he had, hadn’t he? This wasn’t happening, however much she wished it were.
‘But it worked. It really worked.’
Wait! What?
Harper almost knocked him over in her haste to reach a sitting position, an action she immediately regretted.
‘What worked? What happened?’ And then, ‘Where are we?’ she asked, clinging to him as another wave of dizziness engulfed her.
‘HQ, London.’
‘London? How did we get here? And whose headquarters exactly?’
‘It’s a long story. Cliff notes version – I belong to a secret society that collects powerful artefacts and keeps them from falling into the wrong hands.’
‘Well damn, Indiana, where’s your whip?’
‘I beg your pardon. Oh wait, you’re making a joke about that Jones fellow. As it turns out, his adventures aren’t so far from the truth. Now let me finish,’ he hastened to add as he took in her sceptical look. ‘There are items that have amazing abilities if the proper portents are in place and terrible consequences if used incorrectly. HQ charged me with the task of finding a peridot brooch known to restore life to the wearer.’
His determined look told Harper he spoke the truth.
‘It was my job to find the peridot that would save a woman who.’
‘Who’d what? Save the world?’
It was a lame joke but logic was battling with her emotions now.
None of this was real. It couldn’t be.
‘I travelled the world to find it. A tiny Egyptian-owned island in the Red Sea. The Mogok Mines of Myanmar. Then the Arizona foothills, and even within the diamond mines of South Africa. The moment the trail led to Australia, HQ contacted ASIO and had you and your team meet me in Victoria. When I failed to find anything in Mortlake, I knew Chudleigh Park was my last chance to find the brooch.’ He paused, his face overflowing with emotion. ‘Only the brooch would save you.’
‘Save me? I don’t understand. A gem can’t restore life.’
‘Look at your shirt.’
She saw it then. The bullet holes, the dried blood, and pinned to the carmine-stained pocket was the brooch.
‘Darlington HQ believes you’re destined to be one of our protectors. It’s dangerous work. There’s not much of a health plan but it has its bonuses - a sense of purpose, excitement, adventure... and me.’
His shy smile made her want to scream ‘yes’ to whatever he was asking and everything he wasn’t.
‘You knew about this? Even before we met?’
His worried gaze met hers as he nodded and she could see how much he wanted her to believe, to understand, to stay.
‘And my agents?’
‘That depends on your decision, but either way, we will look after them.’
‘So,’ she drawled and she wasn’t sure it was her accent or her smile that caused his expression to change into one of deep longing. ‘All this because of a pair-a-dot?’
Darlington froze when she winked but his hopes soared as she raised her lips to his. Then he grinned and uttered a single word before claiming her waiting mouth.
‘Pair-a-doe!’

The End.


For now, I hope you enjoy spending time with your loved ones and I look forward to chatting to you in 2016. By then, I’m sure I’ll be used to the early mornings, the ‘grumpy’ evenings will be a distant memory and hopefully, there’ll be some more good news on the writing front.

All the best. :)



Tuesday, 24 November 2015

44. Long Days and Early Nights

It’s been a busy few weeks in the Line household and my column explains why.

It’s been a while since there was a baby in my home. I’d forgotten all about the sleepless nights, the little ‘accidents’, and all that biting, chewing and yipping.

Oh yeah, the new baby is a puppy.

Before Children, our first ‘baby’ was a sweet-natured, chocolate coloured kelpie cross. He was always excited to meet people and would welcome anyone into our backyard with a vigorous wag of his tail and his soccer ball ready for them to play catch. Letting visitors leave again was another matter entirely. The only way to escape was to hope he grew tired of chasing the ball before they did. Our pooch was there when we brought our children home and he loved his ‘pack’ dearly. Cancer claimed him a few months short of his sixteenth birthday. Losing him was devastating.

Three years later, a little grey fluff ball with gorgeous blue eyes captivated me and begged me to take him home. The kids’ faces when we told them we were getting a puppy were priceless. They’re learning puppies are hard work, but we’re all enjoying our newest family member.

Our cat, on the other hand, is yet to be convinced.

This cute little bundle of energy answers to the name of Dante since it’s the only one of the half dozen names we tried that he actually acknowledged.  You see why he’s heart meltingly cute as well as mischievous with a capital ‘M’.



I’m pleased to report he’s started sleeping through the night. He crashes around eight-thirty and starts calling (crying) for company anywhere between five and six am. It’s taken a while for me to adjust to this new schedule. The shock for this long time night owl rising at such a (dare I say ungodly hour?) and trying to function has been beyond a joke. I pity the early risers who have to watch a woman stumbling alongside a puppy whilst looking more like a rambling drunk wearing goodness knows what sort of ensemble that’s meant to pass for walking gear. (At that hour of the day, I’m probably wearing odd shoes too, never mind the odd socks.) And all the while, I’m wishing the little fluff ball had slept for just five minutes more. On the positive side, I’m certainly getting plenty of fresh air and exercise, and most of our morning company is very happy to see us. Well, they’re happy to see Dante. I’m sure they’re still wondering about the crazy looking lady on the other end of the lead. :/

The early starts have provided another benefit. More time for reading, writing and ‘meeting’ more authors. :) I hadn’t planned to do another interview so soon, but when you’re presented with a wonderful opportunity to learn more about an author and his or her thought processes, get to read their latest release and enjoy a little friendly conversation, this fashion challenged dog walker writer wasn’t about to let such an opportunity pass her by. I wish I could say the same for dog bomb duty considering the puppy prefers not to go on the training mat. The rug in the front hall is apparently a better option.

But back to more pleasant things. :)

Ms Fiona Greene generously agreed to answer my twenty author questions after an email chat organised by RWA’s Dee Scully for aspiring writers. Ms Greene told us a little about herself and then prepared to answer all the questions we threw at her. And now I get to share them as well as a review of her latest release – Home for Christmas.

First, the blurb.
What began as an impersonal-but-cheerful holiday gift for a soldier far from home becomes so much more...

Sergeant Tate McAuliffe, stationed in Afghanistan, opens his Christmas care package from Australia and is stunned by both its contents and the sender.

Fun-loving Christmas tree designer Layla Preston is a breath of fresh air for loner Tate. Although they’ve never met, their email friendship quickly develops and their feelings for each other deepen.

But Layla knows the heartache that loving a soldier can bring and when Tate is injured, her deep-seated fear drives them apart. With their relationship in tatters, can Layla and Tate work through their differences, so Layla can welcome Tate home for Christmas?



If this story doesn’t tug a little at your heartstrings, I’ll be very surprised. Either that or I’m a much bigger sook than I care to admit. It’s hard not to get the feels when you’re reading a Christmas story this close to the festive season. Layla and Tate’s relationship began with a series of email exchanges after Layla leaves her business card in the care package she’s sent to the Aussie troops stationed in Afghanistan. By coincidence, the care package is given to Sergeant Tate McAuliffe, an avid cricket fan, for inside the package are collectable cricket cards Layla’s ex-army father coveted. Despite the loss of her immediate family, her brother was killed serving his country and her parents have both passed, Layla is a huge believer in all things family and Christmas. She’s the very opposite of Tate who, thanks to an alcoholic, abusive mother, never knew a day of happiness in his life, let alone at Christmas. Somehow, her cheerfulness breaks through Tate’s emotional barriers. The emails progress to photo exchanges and talk of meeting when Tate’s tour finishes but a sniper attack ruins their fledgling relationship. Not knowing if Tate’s dead or alive, the fear of repeating the heartbreak of losing her brother becomes all too real to Layla. She’s no longer sure she wants share in their first Christmas together. This is a sweet story of innocent romance where you definitely want the couple to have their happy ending.

And here’s the interview. :)

1.   When did you first consider yourself a writer?

At high school, I wrote, during Uni I wrote, but only for myself. Up until about 1995, I did courses, and I wrote. Then I got married and I put it away because there were other things happening. I stored my writing in a box and considered myself a failed writer. In about 2006, our dog was sick. While staying home with her I started cleaning out cupboards and found the box of writing. I started writing then and there (that cupboard was still open when hubby arrived home four hours later and I had eight exercise book pages). I wrote for about four months, and then decided I wanted to pursue it. Really. I joined Romance Writers of Australia and started entering romance contests.

2. Do you have support from family and friends?

Yes. My family is very supportive, especially my closest-in-age sister. She’s my biggest cheer fan and I wouldn’t like to be going on this journey without her.

Some friends are openly supportive but some of my work colleagues are 1. disparaging of romance and surprisingly 2. almost envious that I have "found the time" to write a book.

I don’t hide anything about my writing. I had to apply for a new job recently and openly said I had good written communication skills because I was a published author.  (I got the job.)

3. Do you have a particular writing style?

I'm a sweet romance writer, more so than a sexy romance writer. I'd like that to change as I become more experienced with my writing because the market for sexy can take you in different places. Having said that, if it’s not your thing writing hot sex, don't. Because the reader will know you're not comfortable, and they won't enjoy your book.

4. What are your favourite story writing genres and authors and what draws you to them?

Futuristic/Sci Fi Romance - Susan Grant is my absolute favourite. She has a great sense of humour. I also like SE Gilchrist (Aussie) and her books are hotter.
Contemporary Romance- Aussies like Nikki Logan, Rachael Bailey, Bronwyn Jameson, Fiona Lowe. There's a sense of the familiar in their works. I also love snowy Rocky Mountain stories of all sorts (so different to the heat in Queensland) and intrigue/category romantic suspense.
Historical Romance- Eloisa James for her witty characters, Anna Campbell, Christina Brooke/Christine Wells. I cut my teeth on Kathleen Woodiwiss and Johanna Lindsey books.
YA - I've been reading a bit of YA - The Gallagher Girls series (Teen spy academy disguised as girls’ school)
As I get busier with more responsibility I'm tending towards shorter word counts over longer unless I’m on holidays and able to devote time to reading a longer work.
5. Where can we buy or see your works?

Home for Christmas is available at e-tailers via this link  http://www.escapepublishing.com.au/product/9780857991973
I've also have futuristic stories in the Little Gems Anthology Moonstone and Peridot available from the RWA Website.

6. Can you tell us what are you working on at the minute?

I’m doing NaNoWriMo and I’m working on another futuristic romance set in a world with domed cities, rebels and secrets. I’ve got another futuristic in edit and about 80% of a contemporary romance complete.

For me, the accountability of NaNoWriMo helps me to complete books. If I don’t have a deadline, I struggle to complete the work.

7.  How much research do you do?

I don't research anything until after the first draft is done, because that gun I put in scene one might end up on the cutting room floor when the first draft is edited. So I have to be sure its staying before I research whether there are any guns with silver hilts small enough to fit in Oroton purses. I don’t waste writing time researching.

I have a science background, I watch a lot of sci-fi and space documentaries and my futuristic writing is light sci-fi. Sci-fi romance is a Regency or a contemporary in costume. So the core romance/emotional connection is the same, it’s the dressing that's different. My sci-fi is sprinkled in, given in enough detail that we can see they are on a space ship, but without giving the specs for the ship.

If anyone reading this is writing sci-fi/futuristic/space, my first writing tutor suggested this technique. Grab the remote, find reruns of classic sci-fi and watch it with the sound down. Write descriptions of what you see - describe walls, doors opening, scenes on the bridge and teleporting. This is a setting/situation you’ll probably never experience. Then describe those uniforms - do they cling, are they shiny? (Definitely don’t plagiarise plots & characters, just watch without sound and use this technique to hone your writing)

8.  Why do you write?

I like making things up and it gives me somewhere to get away from my black and white/life and death day job.

This last week I had to review a coroner's report to identify areas where the service at my day job could improve. As a result, I couldn't settle that night but immersing myself in make believe redirects me from overthinking, "what might have been". I like to think it stops me burning out.

9. Do you have a writing routine?

To write routinely :-)

Seriously, I schedule the year at the start, then I break it down by book but I add in "wiggle room" because we all have bad days where nothing happens writing wise. I transfer the plan to my diary, treat a writing entry like its work and try to stick to it.

When I get to "work" - I either work on the iPad in pages or in word with internet turned off until I hit my target for the day. This involves coffee and quiet space. I have been known to put a load of laundry on, stay in the laundry with my writing till the next load needs to go on. Funny how no one bothers you when you're in the laundry...

10. Do you ever get writer’s block and if so, how do you get through it?

Yes. I’m guilty of procrastination and sometimes suffer from block. “Shaving the Yak” (procrastination) is where I put off sitting down and writing. I'm big on targets (1000 words per day), rewards (chocolate at lunchtime if I meet my target) and writing on my iPad using Pages with internet turned off (this used to be an old-fashioned pre-computer called an Alphasmart). This allows me to write forward from a point, and not edit the first draft.

If I can't figure out where to go next, I call that block. Nothing is happening in my head with these characters. There are two techniques I use here. First, I get active - go for a walk or run or swim to get the blood flow in my body and brain changed and while I’m doing that I try not to think about the book.

When I come home I take what I know about the main character in the scene and give them a 180 degree shift in attitude towards the situation and write what happens next. This won’t stay in the book, but shocks both me and the other characters in the scene enough to get some action going. Alternatively I find a writing prompt online and write 500 words on it. If you’re looking for writing prompt try the #writingpromts hashtag on Twitter.

Most importantly, keep writing.

11. What book/s are you reading at present?

Fly In Fly Out by Georgina Penny
 
12. What do you think of “trailers” for books?

I haven't dipped my toes into the trailer waters for my book but I do like looking at them, and I do want to learn. Trailers are essential for the younger generation, who want movement and entertainment. If you satisfy that want, they may buy your book.

13. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write. Finish. Edit. Submit.

My creative writing tutor back in 1990's had the figures but only about 1% of writers who start a book finish it, and 1% of those submit it. If you want to publish, you have to write, finish, edit and submit.

Also, remember in grade one when they lined you up with your peers and made you run to the end of the oval and one person won, and everyone else didn't. Writing is not like that. We're all at different points in our journey and if you keep writing and keep going, you will get to the finish line. Don't compare yourself to others. Ever. You are running your own race. Learn from those that have finished that first race (and yes, we sometimes end up back at the starting line), and support your writing friends who are struggling to get across the oval.

14.  What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I like activity (aka I don't sit still well) so I walk, sometimes run, sometimes bike and having two big dogs, I spend a lot of time at the park (and at dog training). We have a rural block two and a half hours south west of Brisbane - the aim was to fit out the shed where we leave our camping gear as a habitable dwelling and retire down there when the time comes. Five floods and one bushfire later, I'd be happy to have finished the fencing repairs.

I love it because I can plot and dream to my heart’s content while I'm out fixing fencing, so long as I hand the right piece of equipment to hubby when he needs it. The split living arrangement has made me an expert at packing and pre-preparing meals and that’s a good skill to have when you're a writer. I used to write a lot at night down at the shed until hubby managed to get TV reception. Now, there's really nowhere to hide from the TV...

On TV, I grew up in a house where children did not watch TV. I don't watch a lot of TV as a result and I believe that is good (more time) and bad (less viewing of story structure, characters etc) for writers.

15.  What do you think makes a good story?

Characters you can feel empathy for. If you never have, watch the start of the animated film "Up." Probably only the first ten minutes (that shows the backstory), and then think about starting the movie without the flashback. Do you have empathy for the grumpy old man without seeing his life prior? Even murderers can be likeable characters if their motivation is believable and makes you feel empathetic for them.

Reducing Unicorns (aka making it believable). I recently read a story of a 28 year old virgin who had been working in movies in Hollywood and all the way through I wondered if this was a "Unicorn romance" (my term). I didn't believe the setup, so I had no empathy for the character and didn't enjoy the book. Reimagine this setup - the girl is fifteen, it’s a young adult novel, she's just been discovered and discovers the way that Hollywood eats its young. I would want to read that book, but the 28-year-old Hollywood virgin didn’t work for me.

A goal to work towards and obstacles to getting there.

Character growth for every character. as they meet the challenges

A happy ending. I truly hate stories with unhappy endings. I read for entertainment, so entertain me. Don't make me want to reach for the antidepressants.

16. If you write more than one genre, how do you balance them?

This is hard. Futuristic is my passion, but contemporary is where I’ve been published. The futuristic market is smaller, so I am trying contemporary as well. I tend to do one futuristic, then one contemporary and I use the lure of the futuristic to drag me kicking and screaming into the completion of the contemporary. I'd love to answer this question again in 10 years and see how it worked out for me.

17. Are you a plotter, panster or a combination of both?

My logical brain tells me I'm a plotter, and I do try to work to a general outline, but once I've done that my creativity takes over and the detail tends to be pants-ed. So in Home for Christmas, I wanted my hero, who wasn't acting heroically at the start to be more heroic. During the edits I added the "save the donkey" scene, which I completely pantsed. I have no idea where it came from.

Saving a donkey is a good thing to do if you're a hero - not because the heroine saw it (she never knew) but because it made the hero believe in himself. Note: I saved the donkey by pantsing the first draft, and then I researched how you attach a donkey to a cart, and what you'd have to cut to set it free. I truly hope I never have to use any of that information to save an animal of any description in real life.

18.  What question do you wish someone would ask, but no one ever has?

Secret superhero thing: Well, now that you mention it, I was once a pinball expert. First job was at my dad's petrol station where he turned an unused workshop bay into a pinball parlour. I ran drinks/chips etc over to the teenagers on weekends and on school days I watched for the two buses (one north, one south) that delivered kids to the high schools in the next towns. I alerted the teens the bus was coming, and they gave me their banked games in exchange. I played pinball for an hour each morning. My sister can tell a similar story about playing pool at the snack bar they had before the service station. We recently did a road trip and played pool at the pub and pinball at the servo. It was fun.

19.   Any writing rituals / superstitions?

No. I do like a coffee when I write but nothing superstitious. I figure it’s a job and I'd better get my butt in the chair and do it.

20.  How did you deal with rejection letters (if you had any?)

Rejection is part of being an author if you submit.

I’ve had rejections. I cried. Maybe a few times. I ate chocolate. Probably a whole block. I sat on the couch and sulked. A day later, I was spotty, bloated, face swollen and I felt awful. I realised while the rejection was bad, it was possible to feel worse, and that was my own doing. So I dusted myself off, re-evaluated and kept going with my writing. If I share, it’s done in private (verbally, not via technology) with trusted writing buddies then I use the fire in my belly to spur me onto turning that manuscript round and sending it out the door to my next choice of publisher.

A great piece of advice I always remember is that rejection is one person’s opinion of your manuscript on one day. If they are having a bad day, or they see seven manuscripts with the same premise, you might be rejected. Remember also, that sub-genre popularity dictates how many slots each month a publisher offers. You can’t control who else submits in your genre.


Thank you for such informative answers, Fiona. :)

‘Home for Christmas’ wasn’t the only book I read this month, but I’ll save that for the next blog because Ms Jenny Schwartz has been spoiling me again. Also, as it’s become a little tradition for me, I’ll be sharing a story next month. As always, I’m hoping I’m improving. I’m still finishing edits for the new anthology whilst waiting for a burst of inspiration for an upcoming contest. Since Little Gems is about sunstones this year and I’ve been witnessing many dawns lately, I’m sure I’ll come up with something. Dante may even feature and find himself immortalised in print. (The pup, that is, not the poet for which he’s named.) Although for the first few nights of trying to settle the puppy and having very little sleep, I was convinced I was sinking into any number of Dante’s several levels of Hell.  I just have to keep reminding myself it will get eaZzzz...