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 cafĂ© 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
Facebook profile

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. :)

Thursday, 26 January 2017

57. The Goals

Welcome to my readers new and established. Thank you for being a part of my adventures in writing. I appreciate your support, your words, and the time you choose to spend with me. :)

You may be pleased to know I’m somewhat orientated compared to last month. I’ve managed to get lost twice, (and discovered a new beach and some beautiful old buildings), but I found my way home again. While I’m still dealing with ocean sunsets (one never gets tired of those) and the Mediterranean style climate, there’s still adjustments to be made. The kids will be starting at a new school and it’s hard to tell who’s more nervous and excited – them or me. It’s also bush fire season here, so having helicopters and small planes fly so low over one’s roof that one can read their registration number is a startling novelty too. What a sight we must look to the neighbours should they see us running out of the house wondering what the noise is. There are moments where I think I’ve been dropped into an episode of MASH, the whir of the choppers is so loud. And then there’s the matter of the goals I’ve set for myself this year – oh dear. Let’s hope they’re not akin to my usual New Year’s resolution efforts.

Book Reviews

My reading material was mixed this month. It saddens me to read something where I can’t connect with the characters. It was a romance set in the fifties, a time when being an independent woman, especially one who’s walked away from a violent, loveless marriage, was frowned upon. I have no doubt this character was a strong, motivated woman who defied the odds of social convention at a very difficult time, but I found her frustrating when all I wanted to do was cheer her on. Still, there’s a lesson to be learned, isn’t there? Not everyone is going to love your characters and your story, and while it’s imperative to engage your readers, sometimes all it comes down to is a matter of taste.

One writer whom always engages me, however, is Ms Jenny Schwartz and I am happy to share her latest offering. :)

Phoenix Blood (Old School Book 1)

In a grim biker bar with wizard mercenaries on her tail and a “found” amulet around her neck, Sadie Howard needs a miracle. What she gets is the man who broke her heart nine years ago.

Marcus Aurelius is a changed man, in more ways than one. The preppy, confident medical school student is now a hard-bitten, magic-wielding assassin. He’s also a man on a mission. He has debts to pay and old wrongs to right before he dies—sometime this week.
As the secrets of Marcus’s heart are revealed, Sadie learns that nothing is as it seems and that the man who broke her heart also saved her life and paid in agony for her freedom.

With wizards trying to kill her, phoenix blood burning in Marcus’s veins, and a villain who’ll stop at nothing to acquire the amulet Sadie has promised to a friend, their road trip is a one-way ticket to extraordinary adventures. The question is, who will survive?

Phoenix Blood is the first novel in the new paranormal romance thriller series, Old School. Each novel is a standalone read. Watch out for Fantastical Island in February 2017.

Hard-bitten is an understatement – Marcus is one angry character, but the reader soon learns why he exudes so much ‘fire’. In contrast, Sadie is a gentle soul who’s trying to live life as best she can after Marcus destroyed their love. He’s the last person Sadie expected to play her ‘knight in shining armour’, but Sadie’s about to learn she’s stronger than she thought and more powerful than she believed. And Marcus is about to learn the hard way what it means to sacrifice for love.

The hot anger Marcus has just boils from the pages of this story in contrast to the coolness Sadie has built around her shattered heart. Of course, this makes for a steamy read in more ways than one. ;) There’s a quiet lesson here about believing in one’s self and as in any good romance story, what the power of love can truly accomplish. Phoenix Blood is subtle in what it hints of things to come, but I have a good feeling about where this series will progress. :)

Ms Jenny Schwartz -


Ah, the goals, not resolutions. :/

My first competition story for the year is waiting judgement. I hope that doing some things differently will pay off, but if not, the feedback, as always, will be valuable. Then there’s finishing a novella that frankly needs to be rewritten because I’m stuck in the characters’ pasts and not their present. Believe me, they’re not happy about it either. Another lesson to be learned there, no doubt. The biggest thing on my goal list - finishing those unfinished projects – although some of those are because I can’t step back and say ‘enough’. I also have a project idea I’m working on once I have the graphics sorted (translation - once my husband does his design magic – LOL). And one more thing – I’m not a scriptwriter by any means, but I’d like to see if I can do it. There’s an idea swirling around in my brain and I can ‘see’ the script, but that’s for after I’ve ‘finished’ everything else, right. RIGHT!

On that note, I need to get cracking, so I hope 2017 is a year of happiness, hope, and wonderful moments (and achieving goals) for you all. :)

Thursday, 22 December 2016

56. Greetings from the West

Hello from beautiful Western Australia – the place where everything is back to front. Well, I’m the one who’s back to front. The coastline that’s been on my right side for more years than I care to count, is now on my left. The sun sets over the ocean, which is a spectacular sight, and I’ve discovered the roundabout rules are different here too. I thought I had a good sense of direction. Now I’m not so sure.

I imagine everything will settle down once we familiarise ourselves with our new home, which was made easier by the timely arrival of our furniture. I know I’m lucky to have a roof over my head and a bed in which to sleep, but those few weeks of camping out on the floor whilst waiting for our belongings to arrive were brutal. I’ve never been so happy to see a bed – ever! I almost missed it more than I missed the computer.

A positive of not having access to a computer or furniture in general meant I had more time to read, so not only have I finished the books on my list from last, oops, I mean, October’s blog, I have a couple more that joined the reading pile. And because it's December, I've added one of my short stories to read too. :)

Book Reviews

Crocodile Virgin - A cold-blooded mating frenzy can be ridiculously hot! 

Nadia Lorre has her hard-earned college degree, a mountain of student debt, and a new job as a tour guide in Africa. The Sahara Desert, even its northern fringe, is hot and harsh—and that’s before the bullets start flying! Paul Carnarvon’s dramatic entry into Nadia’s life will change it forever. 

Orphaned at five years old, the only crocodile shifter Nadia knows is herself. But Paul is a King Croc, a shifter with the ability to compel other shifters’ transformation. He will compel Nadia to embrace her wild self. 

Ancient magic, modern terror, and a heroine afraid to love. 

Jenny Schwartz’s short story is about a young woman who believes she’s the only crocodile shifter in existence. Imagine her surprise when she discovers the man running toward her followed by a hail of bullets and shoving her into the tomb in which she’d just conducted an archaeological tour reveals he’s not only a crocodile shifter, but the king. Together they fight to keep the antagonist, a brilliant (human) scientist from discovering the secrets of the tomb and using them and the shifters’ abilities to control those secrets to power his inventions.

This had a steampunk feel to it, which surprised me as I was expecting a paranormal story, which it is, but somehow that steampunk vibe seemed to fit. I loved the ‘Indiana Jones’ vibe I felt in reading this. It had humour, romance, an element of danger, and of course the magic and mystery I love, which leads me to Ms Schwartz’s latest (and unfortunately last) in her Collegium series.

Alchemy Shift – A woman, her sword, and the bear-shifter who’ll steal her heart.

Delphi Cosmatos is an alchemist. She investigates the strange and magical objects that find their way to Collegium headquarters in New York. She has magic—and a big Greek family, all ready to “help” her (they mean, interfere). When Jet Walsh moves in next door with no family except the two young orphaned cousins he’s responsible for, it’s a situation of opposites attracting, especially since Jet is a bear-shifter.

But Jet can’t pursue a romantic relationship. He’s tracking the rogue mage who tortured and killed his cousins’ mom. Banned spells are being trafficked across the world and the centre of the trade is New York. 

Delphi knew her city was dangerous, but now her heart is in danger, too. Jet doesn’t have magic, yet he’s tangling with a powerful, ruthless mage. If she wants to save her man, she’ll need all the help she can get. No! Not from her family. Stashed in the evidence bunker at Collegium headquarters is the legendary sword Excalibur, and Delphi is just the woman to wield it. Maybe.

Becoming an instant father figure to two young children is difficult enough, but to be involved in their lives because of his cousin’s murder is more than Jet was prepared for. Still, he’s determined to find the murderer and even more determined to ignore the siren call of the beautiful woman next door. Fate deems otherwise because suddenly he and the children are staying in her house thanks to faulty wiring and burst hoses in his house and through her, a link to discovering more about his cousin's murder thanks to the human policewoman she calls ‘mother’. And that’s one more reason to stay away. As Bear shifters, they don’t belong in what the human world believes is ‘normal’. Delphi isn’t exactly ‘human’ though and she’s more than ready to handle a bear shifter, his cubs, and the serial killer her family are tracking because magic is about to cross their paths in a big way.

Another wonderful story with strong characters that are more than capable of looking after themselves, yet are the perfect foil and balance for the other. Again, it’s a standalone, but characters from the earlier books in the series are seamlessly intertwined throughout this story. I really liked Delphi.  I like to think we'd get along (if I could just figure out how to get into the book.) As for Jet, hmm, I’m thinking I could do with a bear hug right now. ;)  :)

Ms Jenny Schwartz -

Hen Party 2 – by Ms Ashlyn Brady - The Hen Party action is heating up in the Second Novella.

Secrets are never meant to be revealed…

Unlucky in love, Kyra Jamieson, is stuck in a rut. Her career in Sales is stalled and she’s all but given up looking for Mr. Right. As chief bridesmaid, she must put aside her failings, overcome her envy, and ensure her best friend, Elin’s hen party goes off without a hitch.

It should be a happy celebration if the crazy girlfriends don’t play tricks on her. And the racy entertainment doesn’t get out of hand. Who knew a gorgeous mystery man was going to invite himself to the girls’ night out?

CEO, Jovanni Tisci has a shocking agenda—to stop Elin’s wedding from going ahead without losing smart and beautiful Kyra, the woman he desires.

One kiss from seductive Jovanni and Kyra is caught in his sexy trap. Whether she gives away his secrets or not, there'll be consequences...for everyone.

The party isn’t over. Kyra won't stop unravelling Jovanni’s shocking agenda bit by bit, and kiss by kiss. Lookout for Hen Party 3 (The Third Novella) coming in 2017.

Kyra founds inner strength in this next instalment of Hen’s Party with a sassier attitude to match proving she’s not quite the little mouse the hockey crowd believed. Back in control, Kyra heads back to the party to ward off certain disaster, this time armed with the knowledge of Jovanni’s identity. Not only does she have to keep the bride to be from making a huge mistake, but now she needs to work out exactly what he has planned for Kyra too. Kyra found her backbone in this novella and it made the character more appealing. I’m not sure our hero is ready for whatever comes next.

The Warden’s Sword by Mr Paul Summerhayes - Corruption, Betrayal, Knowledge

The terrible rumours of war, echoes across the known lands as the master rises up to steal back his most prized object--which just happens to be the warden Finn's best friend, Anna. Pushing himself to his limit, Finn fights for his friend's freedom but fighting always extracts a heavy toll. Can he pay the cost? And will he be in time to save Anna?

At a critical moment, one of Finn's closest friends will double-cross him, betraying his trust. But who and why?

And what of the black sword? ...What does it want?

The second book adds new characters, yet another plot twist and more trust issues for Finn and Anna. There’s also allies in unlikely places and the revelation of yet another secret surrounding them. The momentum is greater in this book and there’s a stronger sense of urgency to know Finn and Anna’s fate. And while this story leaves you guessing the true nature of one character by the book’s end, the hint of a dramatic conclusion awaits the reader in book three. Again, for those new to fantasy, this covers all manner of exploits knowledgeable readers would expect from this genre. I loved the fight scenes and the sword’s call is becoming harder to resist.

On Delicate Wings by LJ Higgins - Mia Walters is optimistic that her final year of high school will be different. She’s tired of watching the cool girls from afar, and is sick of being a stereotypical loser. When new girl, Chelsea Saint, arrives at school with her sassy and confident persona, she offers Mia the very thing she wanted. The chance to be one of the cool girls. Alcohol, boys, sex, and drugs tear Mia in two. Caught between the good girl she used to be and the illusion of the person she wanted to be, Mia needs to be careful she doesn’t lose herself in the new world Chelsea has introduced her to. Is it too late for her to go back to the girl she was before?

How often as teens (and probably far into adulthood) do we wish we were someone else – the popular kid, the cool kid, the one who has it all together. Mia believes all her dreams are coming true when new girl Chelsea thrusts her into the spotlight. It’s where she wanted to be and cool kids try everything right? Drugs, alcohol, and so much more. And suddenly Mia finds herself doing things she never contemplated or wanted in this mad race to be everything she thought would make her happy. Sometimes, getting what you want isn’t a good thing at all. Mid-teens will enjoy this story as will those who want to briefly remember their own teenage years and be glad that time is far behind them. (Says the mother of a teenager.)


Of course, the reading list never ends (thank goodness) but I’m pleased to announce that while Ms Schwartz’s Collegium series has finished, she will be releasing the first in a new paranormal thriller series in late December called Phoenix Blood with the next in the series, Fantastical Island, due for release in February next year. Seriously, I don’t know how she does it. Ms Schwartz’s story output is amazing and I’m very envious of her amazing talent. I will have more stories to read so I’m not complaining.

And finally, because it’s that time of the year – a short story from moi! :)


Contemporary Romance
Rated Naughty but Nice

Her eyes opened, surveyed the unfamiliar room, and then shut tight again as realisation struck.
            Pressed between the hard warmth of his limbs and the cool silk of the sheets, Emma took a deep, calming breath. While accusations screamed inside her head, she eased herself from his embrace, her goal to escape the bed before he awoke.
            The thigh moving above her own gave her an odd sense of loss as she freed her legs. The fingers that brushed against the underside of her breast sent her pulse racing but she didn’t dare linger. She couldn’t bear to face him, to see what he must think of her after the brazen way she’d acted last night.
            Emma’s feet touched the carpet in a silent whisper, her toes curling in the luxurious fibres. It was nothing compared to his feverish caresses, his lips, his tongue, his hands.
            A scowl crossed her face as she turned away, searching the dimly lit room for her clothes. She spied one high heel in the pot plant beside the door. The other lay half-concealed by the quilt that escaped its lofty position on the bed minutes after they entered his room. One more step and she’d have found it the hard way. She’d have no hope of escape then.
            Now where were her clothes?
            Her dress was a crimson puddle on the floor, the colour not as bright now as it had been under the lights of last night’s function. It was the first thing he’d noticed, he’d told her, before spouting some ridiculous line about her being the only red rose in a garden of ‘plastic’ flowers. Stupid, pathetic, and overrated. Yet she’d fallen for it, hadn’t she? She’d stood there, basked in his compliments, and felt her insides clench with desires the depths of which she couldn’t comprehend.
            As she clutched the dress to her nakedness, Emma questioned her motives. She hadn’t been drunk. Tipsy, certainly, but she was careful enough to be certain no one had spiked her drink. No thoughts of revenge on an ex-boyfriend either, she’d been single for some time. She wasn’t an innocent despite her less than modern take on the world of sex and dating and she wasn’t into one night stands, so why had she given in to her desire?
            The stranger rolled onto his back. Frozen with the fear of discovery, Emma couldn’t help but appreciate the view as the sheet moved down his body in much the same way she had done earlier. She swallowed hard as the slow, sensual tease of silk revealed delicious male flesh inch by glorious inch before her traitorous gaze. It was only when his hand searched for her that Emma spurred herself into action. Even when his hand stilled, she could scarcely breathe.
            Half-blinded by desperation, it took precious seconds to discover what she thought was his tie was the straps of her bra hanging off the bedside lamp. As close as she dared, she reached for it, almost knocking the lamp over in the process. There was a sharp click as she righted it, then soft light revealed a face that was beguiling, mysterious and filled with a raw sensuality that made Emma ache with lust all over again. She had to get out of there before her desire stomped over her common sense and left what little there was of her sanity in the same state as he’d left her body – limp, exhausted and strangely bereft. And then there was the matter of feeling completely satisfied.
            Oh no, she couldn’t forget that.
            This time, she exercised great care as she lifted the offending article of clothing from its resting place. She didn’t bother putting on the bra. The dress might hug her in all the right places but she could get from here to her room without worrying that she looked improper. At least she only had to travel down three floors and then she’d be free. She’d never have to see him again.
            Of course, there was one scrap of material she couldn’t do without.
            It was undignified to be crawling around the bed in a stranger’s room looking for an indecent bit of lace. He must have done something to her. He’d seduced her somehow, made her forget herself and what she believed was right. Perhaps he’d hypnotised her. Dark with mischief, those eyes had seen right through her, caught hold of her innermost desires, and acted upon them without ever letting her know his true intentions.
            And the things he’d done to her willing body.
            Damn him! She wouldn’t forget that either, not even if she tried.
            Resolved in her urge to flee, to bow to the instinct that told her to run, Emma resumed her search for the evasive piece of underwear with renewed vigour. Even his foot moving across the edge of the bed to hang as if suspended in the air did not detain her from her quest. At least, not until she looked up and saw the offending piece of lace hanging off his big toe like a decadent banner.
            Emma leapt up, grabbed the skimpy material, and forced her feet through its fragility. She paid no attention to the protests her tender skin made as she smoothed over the dress, collected her shoes, and squeezed the bra into as small a ball as possible.
            Now she could leave.
            Despite herself, she turned and took one last look, committing him to memory. Each hard angle, every strand of dark hair and oh yes, that particular piece of anatomy would sustain many a lonely night.
            It took but a moment to reach the door. Seconds later, she was in the elevator, mercifully unseen. And it wasn’t until she reached her room that Emma realised she’d left her purse behind.
            He heard a soft click but his languid brain told him it was the bathroom door closing. David smiled as he imagined the shower starting and contemplated joining her. It took little thought to picture what would happen next and his grin widened with mischief.
            He splayed his hand over the silk of the sheets. His fingers found the lingering warmth of her body, the weave of fabric no match for the delicate softness of her skin. His nostrils flared as he caught the scent of her perfume. He inhaled, committing the intoxicating aroma to memory as his senses stirred in appreciation.
            Perhaps he’d stay right where he was, strategically posed, ready and waiting for her reappearance. She wouldn’t have to say a word to seduce him; she’d managed that feat with one sweep of her startling blue eyes last night. He’d never seen such a colour before. Clear, calm, and confident, they’d drawn him closer, ensnared him, and he couldn’t have moved away if he tried, not that he wanted to. No, he’d bought her a drink, showered her with the kind of compliments to which he normally only paid lip service, toyed with the notion of voicing some instinctual desire to drown in those limpid pools, taken her by the hand and led her to his room.
            When no sound of rushing water was forthcoming, he decided she must have been making use of the bathroom facilities. Another grin traversed his features. That meant she would soon be back in his arms and pressing that beautiful body of hers so tightly against him that he couldn’t be certain where she ended and he began. The expression of pleasure deepened as the decision to take things slower this time evolved, though neither had complained at the eagerness of the other in the hours that had transpired.
            His eyelids flickered before the thick lashes crimped together in an ebony tangle, allowing the semi-darkness to drag him back to his dreamlike state.
            He hadn’t wanted to attend the function to celebrate his company’s latest business merger. All he’d wanted was a quiet drink and to pore over his company’s latest reports.
            A chuckle escaped the sensual pout of his lips.
            He’d had no problem drinking in the shapely figure who looked as though she’d been poured into her dress.
            It was the first thing he’d noticed – that dress. That and the way it caressed the curves of her body the way he longed to. He almost felt envious. Then she’d turned and looked at him and all thoughts of a quick exit vanished. In seconds, he was at her side, guiding her to the bar, (no way in hell was he leaving her alone so some other guy could make his move) and hoping the words that spilled from his mouth didn’t scare her away.
            He thought he’d lost her when he’d mentioned her necklace, the stone of which nestled so invitingly in her cleavage. He’d compared it to the dazzling blue of her eyes.
            ‘It was my mother’s,’ she’d said, and her eyes had shimmered with the promise of unshed tears. ‘It’s passed down to all the first-born daughters in my family. Sapphires are meant to bring us good luck.’
            She’d turned away from him then and David knew there was more to the story, but he didn’t press for an explanation as to the change in her demeanour. He’d simply offered her a drink in the privacy of his room, smoothly adding that the view was almost as impressive as she was. He couldn’t believe his luck when she said ‘yes’.
            They’d barely made it inside the elevator before they were reaching for each other. Her heels placed her at the perfect height for the kisses he bestowed on her wanton lips. With deliberation, he’d leaned forward to unbalance her, forcing her to cling to him and press those soft curves against the hard angles that ached to claim her.
            David wasn’t exactly sure how he’d managed to manoeuvre them from the elevator to his room, but it was easy to recall the way she’d kicked off one shoe and pulled him in for another ravenous kiss the moment the door closed behind them. The other soon followed. He had no idea where they landed and he didn’t care to find out. Minutes later, he’d let her go long enough to grab the covers and fling them back before picking her up and depositing her on the bed in the manner of some lust-crazed Neanderthal. To his delight, her response had been just as primitive.
            His tie disappeared. His shoes and socks followed suit. Her dress slithered to the floor and his hands were quick to reach behind her, unhook her bra, slide it down her arms and toss it over his shoulder. What happened to the rest of their clothes, he hadn’t a clue. He only knew they were gone and he was touching her at last.
            David swore as the ring tone of his mobile phone shattered his preoccupations with the goddess that he’d made love to for most of the night. Arm extended, he reached for it but his hand closed around an earring instead. Another chuckle escaped him as he raised himself into a sitting position, briefly wondered when he’d turned on the bedside lamp, and glanced at the bathroom door. His eyes widened as he realised it was open and the bathroom was empty. With the phone ringing again, he moved around the apartment and felt his stomach clench inexplicably at the realisation that she’d gone.
            The phone gave one last indignant ring and fell silent.
            David walked back to the bed and sat down. He stared at the main door then let his vision shift bringing the pot plant into view. A moment later, he was smiling again for on the floor, almost out of sight, was a small, rectangular shape that could only be a purse.
            The sapphire’s luck must be with her after all, Emma had thought as she hurriedly packed her small suitcase. Thank God the Night Duty Manager happened to be in the elevator as she was about to re-enter it and had gallantly come to her rescue. Though she’d been without ID, he’d remembered her from her late check in the night before and let her into her room. He’d been kind, not to mention discreet. She’d seen no signs of judgement in his expression either, just a look of concern. Emma could only hope the stranger would be as discreet when he took her purse to Reception, if he bothered, of course. And even if he had wanted to see her again, (and she was sure he didn’t) and looked inside the purse, all he’d find was her room key, a licence with an old address, some cash, a few tissues, and a lipstick.
            She’d miss the lipstick; it was her favourite shade. The money wasn’t something she wanted to throw away either but it was for the best. She wasn’t worried about him finding her here either. She knew his type. He’d had his fun and would move on. She told herself he was a ‘one night only’ kind of guy and as far as Emma was concerned, that was all she wanted too. What a pity it was that her body wasn’t inclined to agree.
            Emma crossed the room to stare at the bathroom mirror. Her necklace shifted with the movement and the reflected sapphire glinted as if giving her a conspiring wink. Her gaze met with her mirrored twin’s and her heart hammered beneath her breast as she recalled the way he’d compared the gem to her eyes. Eyes just like her mother’s.
            Now other memories swarmed in her head and not all of them were happy ones. Her father died when she was sixteen and her mother had never remarried.
            ‘There was only one man for her,’ she’d say. ‘The sapphire had brought them together and one day the precious gem would find Emma the love of her life too.’
            Emma had thought that part of the story was a load of nonsense brought on by her mother’s illness. When her mother succumbed to the cancer that ravaged her, Emma had found herself quite alone and in desperate need of a change.
            She’d kept the necklace. Despite knowing selling it would bring her a small fortune, she couldn’t bear to part with it or the memories it garnered. She’d sold the family home, found herself a job with a Brisbane based company, and moved her belongings into a modest apartment a short distance away from the main offices where she’d begin working in a week’s time. She’d attended the Surfers Paradise function in hopes of meeting her new boss in a less formal setting only that hadn’t happened. Instead, Heaven, Hell and an abundance of mortification had intervened.
            She felt ridiculous as she opened her door just enough to ascertain the corridor was empty. And dare she admit there was a touch of disappointment that he hadn’t come looking for her?
            She made her way to her car without incident. With hands gripped tight around the steering wheel, she stared through the windscreen as if she could see through the floors to the room where perhaps he still slumbered.
            Was he dreaming of her? Were the night’s events repeating themselves in sensual delight on the flickering screen of his mind? Or was he just waking up with some vague notion that he’d had a good time and didn’t care that she’d gone?
            Emma squeezed her eyes shut to keep the tears from falling. She was being ridiculous and she knew it but she didn’t understand why she felt this way. Wasn’t she certain that while she’d had a night she’d never forget he’d probably had a night he barely remembered?
            ‘Stop it!’ She told herself stubbornly. ‘You’re not the kind of woman who looks back and wonders ‘what if’.’
            As she struggled to remind herself that last night had been what she wanted, Emma moved her necklace from where it had twisted around her seatbelt, drove out of the parking garage, and didn’t notice that the sapphire had brightened.
            David stared at the report he’d meant to read a week ago without taking in a single word. Memories of ‘that night’ and the frustrating knowledge that somehow, he had let the best thing that had ever happened to him slip away consumed him. It was a ridiculous notion. One night! One night and he thought, well, he didn’t know what he thought.
            He reached for his phone, located the picture he wanted and lost himself in those incredible, sapphire coloured eyes. It was out of character but he’d taken a photo of her licence before returning her purse to Reception and discovered to his dismay she’d already left the hotel. At least he had a name now - Emma Louise Monroe - not that it did him any good. He wasn’t going to look for her, was he? He wasn’t the sort of crazed stalker who searched the internet looking for information on people to use to their advantage. But if he wasn’t that kind of guy, how was he ever going to see her again?
            The intercom buzzed on his desk and the dulcet tones of his personal assistant filled the office.
            ‘Your first appointment is here, Mr James.’
            David released a sigh. His father’s habit of meeting his new employees personally was something David had been pleased to continue, but the last thing he wanted was to converse with whoever was waiting on the other side of the door.
            With another sigh of resignation, he glanced at the day’s schedule and saw the name that all but leapt from his computer screen. A quick clatter of keys and David had all the information he needed.
            For the first time in a week, he smiled. With his finger pressed firmly on the button he spoke into the intercom.
            ‘Thank you, Margaret. Would you please tell Miss Monroe to come in?’

The End

Until next time, seasons greetings, happy holidays or whatever this time of year means to you, I hope you are safe, happy and spending time with someone you love. :)