Saturday, 26 August 2017

64. One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Mixed news, dear readers. At the time of posting, I haven’t heard if my novella submission was successful. I’m working on the ‘no news is good news’ theory, but I’m not holding my breath. No luck with the short story competition this time around, but considering there were over eight hundred entries, I did all right. :)

I also received my feedback from the other competition I entered, but I’m yet to receive placement results. It was a staggered entry; therefore, they’re still marking entries before they make their final announcement. This is one competition I’d recommend to other aspiring writers. Ink and Insights offer a brilliant opportunity to obtain professional feedback on a portion of your manuscript. Four reviewers critique and provide commentary on your entry. They state what does and doesn’t work, and what they thought could be strengthened in your excerpt. It's a brilliant way to gain varying perspectives of your story so you can work on your weaknesses and progress with your strengths. The top three entries then have their work reviewed by agents, who could then offer the lucky recipients the opportunity to submit their complete manuscript, and then, possible publication. :)

I found it interesting how different opinions could be so varied on a scene, yet in others, all four judges agreed. The latter gave me some much-needed guidance in ways I could improve my story. As for the former, I could see both sides of the comments, and I can adjust it accordingly. The best part was reading all four judges believed I had an original concept on my hands and they were interested to know more. I admit I was surprised they loved a character who wasn’t an integral part of the story (to me), but obviously resonated with them. And they picked up a couple of things I missed too. :/

So, while I’ve received some fantastic feedback, and scored better than I’d hoped, I still don’t know how I went overall. Again, I do recommend giving this annual feedback competition your consideration. My comments were insightful, thoughtful, and will only make my story stronger. Who’d want to miss an opportunity like that?

Ink and Insights -

Book Reviews

Lucky me, I beta -read Ms Nolan’s latest novel in her Reaper series. Of course, that means I can’t share my thoughts yet, but I know her readers will love the latest predicament for her heroine. Meanwhile, you can read my reviews of her previous Reaper stories here.

I am allowed, however, to share Ms Jenny Schwartz’s latest release. :)

Desert Devil (Old School Book 5)

Donna Keats is a seer. But when she defies fate to save her estranged foster brother she becomes fate’s victim.

As one of only three couriers alive, Forrest “Rest” Castillo can travel anywhere on Earth in seconds. However, the price of his rare talent is to be forever alone. Anyone who gets close to him becomes a potential hostage for the powerful people that seek to own him.

Two years ago, Rest retreated to the isolated beauty of the Arizona desert to save those who have his loyalty and love, but it was the wrong strategy. It’s not his life that should be sacrificed for peace. Nor will it be Donna’s.

Rest’s enemies are about to learn that this former Army Ranger is not as alone as they believed, and that no conspiracy can be buried forever.

The time has come for Rest to walk the Path for justice, and Donna will match him step for step.

Rest’s stubborn attitude in leaving his loved ones behind to keep them safe has its merits, but it’s cost him more than he thought possible. For Rest, controlling and manipulating portals, and being able to enter and exit them at will, is a valuable commodity. And to control Rest and his ability, some people are willing to do anything, even kill. When Donna, the woman he’s loved since they were teens, tracks him down with an urgent warning, he knows he’s about to break two hearts all over again. When her horrifying vision comes true days later, and he barely survives, he knows she’s in more danger than before. Only this time, the safest place for her is right by his side.

Donna’s heart broke when Rest abandoned her two years ago without so much as a goodbye. She told herself she could let him go, but when her secret Seer talent reveals a vision of his imminent death, nothing will stop her from finding him no matter why he left her behind. Thanks to her warning, she may have saved the day, but doing so not only puts their lives in danger, but also the team Rest abandoned too. When someone threatens a member of the team to get to Rest, they realise they need to work together to find the truth, one that’s buried deeper than anyone expects.

I like that there was more to Donna than her ability to have visions, abilities which impressed the jaded and distrusting team Rest once called friends. She exceeded their expectations and proved that while she might not have magical military training, she is an asset to the group. And through rebuilding the friendships he left behind, Rest learned to value not only those relationships, but to understand you don’t abandon those who love you.

Ms Schwartz’s previous series and now this one often mentions a magical way of travelling where guides help magical creatures enter and exit through ‘Portals’. This is just one of the many clever ways she’s joined her stand-alone stories together. Yet again, she’s woven characters from previous stories to propel this tale. And I’m going to have a moment of cleverness that I guessed the characters for a future book. :) I also have a feeling that Rest and Donna are going to make an appearance in that book too, but I’ll have to wait to see if I’m right because she has two more books before she gets to that one. You see why she’s one of my author idols, right? :)


The copyediting job is complete, and I have a happy customer who’s one step closer to publishing her first novel. I’m very excited for her and I hope everyone enjoys her story. I enjoyed the process, and learned more about writing on the way. I also learned more about South Africa as both the writer and parts of the story embrace this culture and the language. I thought Aussies had some interesting sayings – we’re not alone there. J I was impressed though, that the writer explained through her characters what the South African terms meant. I also learned a few Scottish sayings as the story is set in the Scottish Highlands just to add to the intrigue. As I’m of Scottish decent, I enjoyed learning a thing or three. :)

While waiting for news of the competition and submission, I’ve been working on my rewrites, especially the story I sent to Ink and Insights, and on the story a dear writing friend was kind enough to structurally edit for me. Not so sure she felt kindly toward me when she was done – oh dear. But again, I have learned so much, which is exactly what the writing business is all about. I’ve also gained a wonderful critique partner / friend and we’ve been swapping chapters, and strengthening and providing guidance for each other’s stories.

Next month I have a writing conference to attend, so I’ll be meeting some more wonderful Western Australian writers and discovering more tips and tricks about writing. I can’t wait.

Until then, in the vein of I Love Lucy’s Ricky Ricardo, I have some ‘splaining (fixing) to do. :)

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

63. Flat Out Like a Lizard Drinking

It’s July, and my oldest has turned seventeen. I’m not ready to be giving driving lessons. I’m happy handing that task to the professionals and the Other Half. Less likely to have a panicked, uncertain, what-the-heck-just-happened co-pilot that way, let alone worry how the inexperienced driver is feeling about the crazy lady who’s suddenly invented hand signals to rival ‘the bird’.

As it was school holidays, we took a day trip to a beautiful coastal town called Bunbury where we spent time with a lovely RWA writer, (who’s one my Aspiring eLoop co-hosts) and her son. She and her husband are renovating the most gorgeous old house. It has huge rooms, divine wooden floors, the most beautiful rose bushes out the front, and room for a garden and outdoor entertaining area out the back. Most importantly, and I swear I’m not jealous, she has a wonderful office set up in which to do her writing. Okay, so I’m more than a little jealous. :/

They took us to the marina for lunch, and we had a bittersweet moment as we took in the spectacular views. It was just like the marina back home. The boats, the bustle, the ocean, the water views from the café – it was as though we’d blinked or tapped our heels together three times and muttered something about there being no place like home, and for a moment, there we were. The only difference was that wild westerly wind. I’ve experienced a few cyclones, so I know what it’s like to hear the wind scream to the point you want to scream right along with it. But the wind gusts roaring up from the Antarctic -  let’s just say I had a brand-new hairdo of which the Bride of Frankenstein would be proud.

It also took us longer to get to the car than it did to leave it. I like to think we put a few mime artists to shame crossing the street too. Then we visited a sweet shop where the owners made their lollies on the premises. We may have left there with a not-so healthy sugar hit. :)

We also took a train trip to Perth. It’s a novelty being so close to a capital city. Back home, visiting the capital meant a six-and-a-half-hour drive, crashing at a motel, and being too tired to eat, let alone hit the shops. But here, we’re barely fifty minutes away, can explore the main street mall to our heart’s content, and still be home to sleep in our own beds all in the one day. Bliss! It was here that I made my favourite discovery. Not a department store, although they were a welcome relief from the wind. And not the busking musicians and street magicians. Man, are there some talented people around. We found a REAL book store. We stumbled upon it by chance, but there wasn’t a second thought to descending the narrow stairs and entering that ‘cave of wonders’.

Don’t get me wrong, KINDLE has its place, but it just doesn’t have the sensory delights that a book does. The touch, the smell, the rustle of turning pages, me heavy breathing because I almost fell down the steps in my rush to get into the store. We all left with something to treasure. Even my youngest, who isn’t the biggest fan of reading, (yet) found some books to love. However, for this month, I read two novellas. (Don’t worry KINDLE. I still love you too.) :)

Book Reviews

The Texan and the Egyptian: The Sky Fire Chronicles by Paul Summerhayes. (Prequel)
The Texan and his Confederate friends’ job was simple. Buy weapons for the war effort and transport them home—but nothing is ever that easy.

On a ship in the middle of the Atlantic, the people around the Texan start vanishing. Why? And is the mysterious Egyptian woman involved? Will the Texan be her next victim?

The Sky Fire Chronicles is a fantasy series set in America during the late 1800’s.
Prequel: The Texan and the Egyptian
Book 1: Coming soon

It was supposed to be an easy job watching over the cache of guns and ammunition as they sailed across the Atlantic toward America. His companions weren’t the Texan’s first choice, but they could handle themselves in a fight. He just didn’t expect the fight to find him on the voyage home. One by one, the ship’s crew, and then his men, go missing. The ship’s not that big, but with no bodies to be found, and no clues to their disappearance, the Texan is at a loss what to do. Instinct tells him a beautiful Egyptian priestess is involved, but he doesn’t know how. Now he must decide whether his fellow traveller is friend or foe, because the priestess seems to be the only one who knows what’s happening, and he’s not sure he wants to hear the truth.

What a great start to Mr Summerhayes’ new series. How interesting to combine what touches on Egyptian mythology with the Wild West. I liked the charisma between the Texan and the Priestess, and it will be interesting to see how this leads into the series, because in this world, nothing is as it seems.

Alchemy and Arcana: An Urban Fantasy Novella Collection
 – The Dragon Stone by Paul Summerhayes.
Ryver is descended from an old family of witches and warlocks, but she is young and her magic is weak – not a good thing when you live in a place where dark things prowl the city at night.

Falling on hard times, Ryver resorts to petty theft in an effort to escape the confines of the wicked city – a city full of violence drugs, death, and old memories. By chance, she ‘finds’ an old box and her life is turned upside down. What she knows and loves is not as it seems.

Will she discover the truth, and escape this veil city before she falls to its growing darkness?

When Ryver ‘finds’ a box a local drug gang has been guarding, she’s disappointed to find it’s just an old chunk of wood. But inside she discovers a beautiful stone that feels like it belongs to her. Then she learns the stone once belonged to her dead father. Bull, the gang leader, isn’t about to let his treasure go. Scouring the city, he terrorises her mother, then kidnaps a street kid who idolises Ryver. His instructions are clear. Bring back the stone or the boy dies. Now Ryver has no choice but to embrace her family’s legacy of magic. Her morals insist she save Liam, but there’s no way she’s letting go of that stone, no matter how much Bull or his mysterious ‘boss’ wants it back or what it costs her to keep it.

Wonderful novella. This was a story I could see play out like a movie in my mind. So much that it ended far too soon. I wanted more. Ryver may have been a tough teen with a heart of gold, but I could see so much for her and her future. Do you suppose if I nag him enough, Mr Summerhayes might consider expanding this story to a novel length version or even a series?

You can nag find more about Paul and his books here -


Ah, that blog title. For my non-Australian readers, ‘Flat Out Like a Lizard Drinking’ is Australian slang for being extremely busy or hard at work, and no, it has nothing to do with alcohol – usually. ;)

What it really means is that I’ve been so busy copy editing, I could only squeeze in two novellas to read and share with you because everything else I’m reading is part of the editing process. And because it’s a paying job, I want to make sure I do it, and the author, justice. Since I’ve been busy doing ‘my job’, I haven’t had time to work on my own stories and the self-editing that’s waiting for me there. So, I’d better get cracking because like the time, tide, and taxes, this editing is waiting for no man (and not this woman either.)

Until next time, happy reading. :)

Sunday, 25 June 2017

62. Winter Wonders

It’s past June twenty-first, which marks the Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. Therefore, I am now officially spending my first winter in South Western Australia. :)

I doubt you want an official report, but apart from chilly mornings, and cold, stop-hogging-the-blankets evenings, it’s been beautiful weather. Bright, sunny days. Curls of smoke hanging in the air over the chimney tops in the neighbouring houses. A playful breeze messing with my hair. In all, (apart from the chimney smoke), it’s been like what I am used to in Queensland. And here I was worrying I wouldn’t handle the cold now that I’m living closer to the Antarctic circle. I’ve got this.

And then a week ago, one of the lovely locals let it drop that, apparently, it’s been an unusually warm winter.

Er, say again?

So now the cool change is sneaking in and I’m wearing socks and shoes constantly. (An almost unheard-of occurrence back home.) The woollen gloves come on at night. (Fingerless, so I can still type.) I’ve progressed to wearing two pairs of socks in bed, and I’m kidding myself if I think I’ll be acclimatised by Winter’s end. Seriously? What do I think I’m going to do when the ‘real’ winter arrives? And why am I now imaging a horde of White Walkers (aka George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones) are now breathing down my neck? It’s just that playful breeze, right?

Warming up the gloves while I make my cuppa.

Fear not! I have managed to steal, er, acquire, some warmth. The dogs have become extra cuddly during the day, and the cat is my new best friend as she settles on the bed at night, curled around my feet. (She also stops the other half from stealing the blankets.) I can’t move until she decides to wander off again, but my double-sock covered toes aren’t complaining. And of course, Winter is the perfect excuse to snuggle into a comfortable chair, overindulge on the coffee and chocolate, and read. :)

Book Reviews

Her Robot Wolf: Gift of Gaia by Jenny Schwartz

Jaya Romanov is an independent star ship shaman. She studies the energy flows of the universe and—for a price—will harness them to her employer’s purpose. Wormholes are a whole lot safer to travel when a shaman guides the jump.

Vulf Trent is a bounty hunter. It was that or join the family business, piracy, and Vulf is too much the lone wolf to tolerate the demands of a large pirate crew. Where his family enjoys the bonds of pack, he prefers the freedom of ranging the universe, alone.

Seven generations ago, humanity evacuated Earth and the shifter clans’ ability to transform into their animal forms was one of the most terrible losses of that time. Now, the werewolves, werebears and other shifters are trapped in their human bodies and slowly losing the essence of their primal souls. Jaya is determined to heal their torn transformational abilities, but Vulf doesn’t believe her.

He didn’t kidnap her for her healing abilities.


“Her Robot Wolf” is a fabulous adventure in which rare, mystical science replaces magic, pirates are taught to respect lone women, the galaxy is imperilled —and perhaps, rescued—and a fated mate pair contemplate kicking Fate in the teeth. Have fun! Don’t forget to buy Galactic Insurance before leaving Earth!

Space opera, paranormal romance and a galactic array of aliens, mysteries, startling revelations, and breath-taking heroics.

Jaya is a natural born shaman, and an orphan. No wonder she pledges her loyalty to the one man who acts like he gives a damn about her, even if he has a strange way of showing it. For him, she’d do anything, without hesitation. But that loyalty is questioned when he steals something precious from her whilst escaping a formidable bounty hunter. And in that one moment, she’s gone from betrayed to kidnapped because that bounty hunter knows there’s a connection between the two humans that Jaya can’t or won’t reveal.

Vulf Trent is a bounty hunter, werewolf, pirate, and determined to live alone. Kidnapping Jaya isn’t his first choice, but if that means using her to capture his target, he’ll do it. But the damn woman knows too much about his kind. And why should he care if she claims to want to help the Were community regain its ‘shifter’ abilities. He’s heard enough lies to last a life time. Yet there’s something about her that goes far beyond appearance, however unwilling he is to admit it.

Sci-fi romance is a new area for Ms Schwartz, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that by reading her story. I found it seamless. It didn’t hurt that it had a that paranormal twist I love so much, but seriously, is there nothing she can’t do? My envy for her writing skills is skyrocketing. (Pun not, well, maybe just a little,  intended.) Again, Jaya and Wulf were characters who balanced each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and what do you know, Ms Schwartz has plans to continue their tale. J

More on Ms Schwartz’s stories here.

Streamer by Sue-Ellen Pashley

How can you disappear, only to appear in a new location, and not know how it happens?
How can you have any sort of life if you can’t control when this happens?
And how can you find the answers when you don’t even know your own name?
For twenty-year-old Rhiannon Clarke, the last three days are all she can remember. And they have just been a series of flicking in and out of different locations with only vague memories to guide her. But as she slowly starts to build a picture of her life, the questions are getting harder. Why is this happening to her? Why does the thought of her brother fill her with unease? Why does her father’s name make her break into a cold sweat? And who is the mysterious man in the bed?

This is a great new adult story teeming with shock, betrayal, distrust, and intrigue.

Imagine the despair and confusion of having lost your memory, yet images and thoughts fight to resurface. Desperate to make sense of what is happening to her, and maintain her grip on sanity, Rhiannon Clarke is terrified, alone, and determined to find the answers. Just as soon as she learns how to stop moving through space without knowing how to control it. Sometimes she arrives at places with non-knowledge of what she’s doing there. The next, everything seems so familiar. But every time it seems someone recognises her, and she them, something whisks Rhiannon away once more. And then she lands in his bedroom, he calls her name, and slowly the truth is revealed. But is the one man who promises to help her, who swears they know each other, the person who betrayed her heart and soul?

Find out more from Ms Pashley here.

Kadin: A Sci-Fi Alien Romance (Dragons of Riddich - Book 1) by Mel Teshco

The dragons will search the universe for their one true mate...

Grace has a special ability. She senses paranormal beings. It’s the perfect trait to have as an operative for the Paranormal Detection Agency. A pity her next target, Kadin Marres, doesn’t just trigger her paranormal senses … he triggers her lust too.

Kadin has been aware of the elusive Grace for some time now and has waited patiently for her. She’s a dragon breeder, and once he finally has her, he isn’t about to give her up. Not even if it means she goes from hunter to hunted.

I love when Ms Teshco brings me another naughty little story to read. This is the lead-in novella to her new Sci-fi/Paranormal ‘Dragons of Riddick’ series.

Orphaned at an early age, Grace swore she’d make whoever killed her parents pay. Or should that be ‘what’ ever, because even then, Grace could sense those who were different from humankind. That ability found a home with the PDA - Paranormal Detection Agency, its members utilising Grace’s abilities while giving her the means and skills to someday fulfil her vow. But this talk of dragons is too far-fetched. They don’t exist, and if they did, surely, they would have triggered her senses. Then she closes in on the PDA’s person of interest and discovers that not only do dragons exist, her genetic code could save their entire race.

Kadin has been watching and waiting for the opportunity to meet Grace, but he never expected their intense reaction to each other. She’s the answer he’s been scouring the Universe to find, and now that he has her, he’s not letting her go. Being an alien might complicate matters, but nowhere near as complicated as the revelation that Grace is his fated mate, and the PDA, once her saviours, are now their enemy, for a mated pair of dragons is a sort-after commodity indeed.

Here’s more on Ms Teshco.


Nothing back from the competitions and the submission yet. August is going to be nerve wracking. I’ve enjoyed my second writers group meeting. We had a critique day. There’s some great storytelling happening with this group. :) I also discovered they have a Writers Festival in September. That means I’ll be meeting more fabulous writers, though it’s more likely I’ll be grinning at them insanely from behind a pot plant or some dark corner of the room.

The editing is progressing, but let’s just say one of my stories needs some major surgery. Fortunately, one of my critique partners is handy with a scalpel and is cutting away the dead words. I can only hope my critiquing in return is just as valuable.

My next dilemma is - do I edit another old story or start the new one? I swear, some of those ‘voices’ are becoming ‘very’ insistent. Either that, or my husband is having trouble breaking the sound barrier that is my headphones.

I’ve discovered they make excellent earmuffs. ;)

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. :)