I’m really thrilled to have Georgina Penney on my blog today. Not only has Georgina written a funny, witty and different new Chic Lit novel, Irrepressible You, but she has lived most of her fascinating life overseas in places that many romance books are set. Funnily enough, the setting of her new novel is Australia – I guess the grass is always greener!
Georgina has had many fascinating experiences in her life as an ex-pat, but one of those was trying to make certain she could still feed her addiction to romance books in places where that kind of thing might be frowned on. I find her stories fascinating. I hope you do too. Georgina, take it away…
Reading Romance in Saudi Arabia
When my husband and I decided to move to Saudi Arabia for his work, we received a massive list from the Australian recruiters detailing all the things we could and could not take to the sandy country. The list included anything that could be considered a “false idol,” as well as any photographs, books or movies. It was truly draconian and had me reconsidering our little scheme to play expat.
The false idol thing I could deal with. It was the books that had me worried. At the time we had a growing collection of about two thousand books and counting. E-books weren’t on my radar and the thought of leaving any of my collection behind was awful.
It took a lot of deliberation but in the end we decided to damn the consequences and take the lot. After all, we reasoned, what would be the worst that could happen. Everything would be confiscated? Well, we weren’t intending on moving back to Australia any time soon so if we left everything behind we’d have to sell it all or pay for storage.
Thank goodness we did because not long after arriving “in Kingdom” we discovered that most of the recruiter’s advice had been absolute bollocks. It took one trip into the capital city of the Eastern province to see that DVDs were readily available, albeit under the counter down in the souk. Paintings and figurines that could be considered false idols? They were everywhere. In fact, during my time in Kingdom I purchased a number of beautiful acrylic paintings, many of them featuring people, mostly women.
And books…well, that was the biggest surprise. The English section of the Jarir Bookstore in Khobar had shelf upon shelf stocked with romance novels, and not just any romance novels. I’m talking Fabio bedecked bodice rippers with busty ladies.
It would have to be experienced to truly understand how surreal it was to stand side by side with Saudi women dressed in a niqarb, black gloves and an abaya that pooled around their feet so no toes showed, who were inspecting the very same naughty novels that I was. I still remember making eye contact with one of these ladies and the half-guilty-half cheeky smile we shared.
I don’t know if the religious police have cottoned on to the fact that the English section of the Saudi bookshops are full of pirate captains and busty wenches but I hope they haven’t. Just the thought of those colorful shelves makes me a very, very happy lady.
You don’t become a notorious British celebrity without rubbing a few people the wrong way, which is why writer and comedian Ben Martindale has decamped to Australia until the latest media frenzy dies down.
When he meets Amy Blaine, a perky blonde who dresses like a 1950s pin-up girl, he knows he’s hit the satirical jackpot. He begins to fill his weekly London column with snarky observations about her life, clothes, and even their most intimate moments. It doesn’t occur to him that Amy, who is letting her guard down for the first time in her adult life, might be upset – after all, it’s hilarious, and his readers love her!
It isn’t until Amy discovers the extent of his betrayal that Ben begins to realise just how badly he’s cocked up the best thing that ever happened to him. But is it too late?
You can find out more about Georgina by visiting her at:
It’s Thursday, and over on Dark Side DownUnder it’s Magic Thursday. It’s a particularly magical Thursday for me, because I was invited to talk about my new novel, Dark Moon. Given the site’s magical nature, I decided to talk about how my characters surprise me all the time with the things they say and do, and mostly the way they pop into my head, kind of like magic.
I’d love you to visit and let me know what surprises you. See you there.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me in regards to guest blogs. I’ve had a bit of an overlap today, so I’ll post about each of them so you can check them out if you want over the next few days. But today I am on Aussie Bookworm as Author of the Month. It’s pretty thrilling to be called ‘Author of the Month’. I don’t think I’ve ever been anything of the month before – so I’m feeling pretty special right about now.
I’m talking about my paranormal beliefs and why I write what I do. Come and check it out and leave a comment – comments are always good. Makes things more interesting if I know what you’re thinking too!
My silly mug is appearing on another site and despite never liking photos of myself, I’m pretty happy about this one – it’s my Author Profile with my two books, Dark Moon and Killing Me Softly, underneath on Darksiders Downunder
Darksiders Downunder is a site that allows lovers of fantasy and paranormal fiction to meet their favourite authors, meet new authors and find out what is going on with them and their books. There are interesting blogs, good news, catch-ups and release day information. I’m going to be writing some special blogs for it over the next few months – so watch this space.
If you’re wanting to find a new fantasy or paranormal book to read, you should pop on by – and give my smiling face a wave and check out both my books while you’re there. See you at Darksiders Downunder.
I just read this and I have to share. I think it’s a wonderful, motivational ‘go write the sucker out of that thing, you writer, you’ kind of piece.
You can find it on Chuck Wendig’s oft quoted by me site. I just find what the man says to be nuggets of wonderful truth wrapped up in a loving punch. I hope you find inspiration in it too.
Now, in Chuck’s own words:’
So go write, writer. What are you still doing here?’
Yes, Lord Wendig, I will go and write the third in the Witch Were Chronicles. First there was Dark Moon, then Healer Moon (currently with beta readers) and now, on to writing Blood Moon. Hi ho and away I go.
I’ve just been over on Mary Costello’s blog where Mary allowed me to prattle on about a subject that isn’t much written about. (http://marycostelloauthor.wordpress.com) I was talking about sidekicks and secondary characters and why I think they are winners too and I thought I’d share it here too.
HOORAY FOR SIDEKICKS – an ode to the secondary characters I love.
I’ve recently blogged elsewhere about my love of paranormal books, being a mum and a writer, my love of the romance genre in general and answered a bunch of questions about my writing process and so on. I’ve loved writing all these blogs, and I think they cover really important topics, but I wanted to talk today about something that was a little different.
Everyone always talks about the hero and the heroine, the story arc and main plot, the scene or image that started the story. And I love to hear all those things – and talk about them too. The whys and wherefores, the ins and outs – they are all endlessly fascinating. But what I rarely hear about is the sidekick. The secondary characters.
Those poor duffers who have a life we never hear about. Who often are held up as a mirror/reflector to the main protagonists and their story, often having to suffer through all the misery while gaining none of the glory. I mean, where would Batman be without Robin? Where would Wolverine be without the X-Men? Quite frankly, where would any superhero be without a villain? Or looking back at the classics – where would Elizabeth Bennet be without her family and the multitude of characters that both ruin and enlighten her life? What about Jane Eyre? She would never have got to the end of her book without the honourable Blanche Ingram or her long lost cousins.
And Pip in Great Expectations? What kind of story would he have been in without Mrs Haversham and the escaped prisoner, Abel Magwitch?
In a boring story, that’s where.
Before I was published, a regular comment I used to get from judges or editors or others who read my WIP’s was, ‘I love your secondary characters.’ Well, I think part of the reason they come across so well is I love them too. I can’t leave the wallowing in the dark of obscurity. I want to breathe life into them. They should be funny and empathetic and fully realised, because without them, the hero and heroine have no-one to really talk to, to bounce their woes off, to learn from.
I’m going to go back to one of my favourite TV series that shows exactly what I’m talking about, (mostly because Joss Whedon is a genius with a secondary character and we could all learn a thing or two from him): Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
Buffy was a funny, quippy, multi-layered character with great strength but also deeply vulnerable who shone on the screen. However, none of this would have shown up so well if she was surrounded by cardboard cut-out characters. I’m not talking about Angel, because he is Buffy’s hero (although I could wax on here about him being the tortured hero set to redeem himself against the odds and how dreamy that made him – but that’s a whole other blog!) I’m talking about the sidekicks – the Scooby Gang primarily.
Willow could have just been the brainy and dorky best friend, a 2 dimensional character whose sole purpose was to show up and point Buffy in the right direction, and show us how super and kick-arse amazing Buffy really was. But she wasn’t. She showed up Buffy for her flaws as much as for her kick-arse amazingness. Some of the funniest lines in the show were given to her or Xander, even though Buffy was the recognised pop-referrential quipster. And I think the reason the show worked so well as a whole was because all of the secondary characters had their own life and story breathed into them right from the first episode. Willow was the heroine in her own story – a story that often ran parallel to Buffy’s and yet wasn’t on the main page like Buffy’s, but an important story all the same. This was true for Xander and Giles, Cordelia, Spike and so on. As the series grew, the characters were given episodes that focused on their story which just made it so much more worthwhile for me (especially when the unexpected happened in that story – who could forget Cordelia being killed by vampire Willow and Xander when she wished for a life without Buffy?)
For me, the secondary characters come to life at the same time as the hero and the heroine, and even though they may not be telling their story on this page, it is still an important story, and I make sure they have at least one person to tell it to – me. Their stories are all in my head. And luckily for many of them, I love the kinds of novels that extend into series – which means many of them will end up being able to explore their story on the page in their own books.
I have already had a bunch of reviewers love the main romance but then ask if some of their other favourite characters from Dark Moon and Killing Me Softly will get to come out and play – which for me, is so rewarding. I love that readers want these other characters’ stories to be played out for them. Because it means I’ve done my job. It means I’ve breathed life into my whole story, that there is depth beyond the surface picture with a vast, glistening spiderweb of tangled and interconnecting stories underneath. And for me, there can be nothing better than that.
Long live the sidekicks – you are eternally awesome!
My guest today is my release buddy and fellow Destiny Romance author, Mary Costello. Mary is one of those people that when you meet her you can’t help but like her. She is warm and funny and passionate and this is reflected in her writing. Her new novel, Irresistible Enemy, was released alongside Dark Moon last week and is a fun, contemporary romance set in farmland Victoria.
But Mary isn’t just here today to talk about her new book (although, there is room for that too!), she is here to share with us her Top 10 Turn-Ons for the romantic Hero. Take it away, Mary.
Top 10 Turn-Ons – The Stuff of Romantic Heroes
The best thing about being a Romance writer is that you get to conjure up your own idea of a hero. By the time I was a couple of chapters into Irresistible Enemy, I was besotted with my hero, Hart Huntingdon, and that made the rest of the story great fun to write.
When it comes to heroes, readers want characters who know how to attract, and also how to connect. As women, we’re increasingly demanding about what we want from both the men we encounter in real life and the fictional heroes we dream and drool about. We can afford to be. We’re now more independent, more highly educated and more financially secure than any previous generation. We have a lot to offer, we expect a lot in return.
Our high expectations may rarely be met in our everyday reality, and that’s why we turn to our Romantic heroes who can fulfil all our fantasies, at least in the imagination.
Romance novels abound with all sorts of fascinating and desirable men, but there are some characteristics common to most swoonable heroes.
1) He must look good.
Looks aren’t everything, and first impressions aren’t the last word, but who’s going to fall for a daggy character? A hero doesn’t have to be Beau Brummell, and he needn’t be conventionally handsome, but he must be physically attractive, and he must take care with his appearance. It’s not just about aesthetics; good grooming means he cares about the heroine’s feelings, and he’s prepared to go to some trouble to show that.
2) He must have something to say.
The strong, silent type is fine, but only up to point – there’s nothing appealing about a man with no conversation. Don’t expect dazzling wit and pithy pronouncements unless you’re reading a Regency Romance, but if our hero can talk about his ideas and opinions, and ultimately reveal the truth about his feelings, it’ll be worth hanging on his every word.
3) He must be prepared to listen.
Women, like all human beings, want attention and want to be heard; and we demand the same for our heroines. The odd bunch of flowers might make a woman feel special, but a man who listens with interest makes her feel real, and lets her know he takes us seriously.
4) He mustn’t be obsessed with money.
Sure, it makes the world go round, but a money-grubbing hero is unlikely to put many women in a spin. These days, women are financially savvy. We’ve got our own mortgages, income-protection insurance, super plans and investment portfolios. We just don’t want to talk about them all the time. There’s an old saying, a woman knows the value of love, but a man knows its cost. Our heroine is there to help teach our hero what really counts.
5) He mustn’t talk about sport all the time.
We get enough of that in real life! A hero who’s obsessed with nothing but footy/rugby/car racing will have us yawning by page 3. Okay, maybe some of us don’t mind ogling big thighs in shorts, but that doesn’t mean we want to hear details of league tables, test scores, and endless stats on everything from horsey handicaps to free-kick counts. Our hero’s got to be more obsessed with our heroine than with David Beckham.
6) He mustn’t drink too much.
It’s been claimed that beer is a contraceptive – it’s certainly no aphrodisiac; and beer breath is an instant turn-off, even on the written page. Our hero wants to spend his time and money on our heroine, not on pints and chasers.
7) He mustn’t love himself too much.
Vanity is a passion killer. No heroine wants a man who thinks he’s more attractive than any of the females in the room. As for those who flash serious muscle – a good body is great, so long as he spends more time with our heroine than in the gym.
8) He mustn’t put himself down.
A misery guts will never make a hero. If he thinks he’s a loser, he probably is. Readers crave a man who is positive, who has goals, and the belief in himself to achieve them. Self confidence in a man is more of a turn-on than a chin dimple.
9) He mustn’t patronise our heroine.
If he calls her ‘Babe’ or ‘kitten’, or refers to women collectively as ‘chicks’, then our heroine needs to kick him in the teeth. He needs to understand that women aren’t small, helpless animals; au contraire. Respect is a minimal requirement.
10) He mustn’t be scared of commitment.
Most heroines won’t be satisfied with a one-night stand. They may not necessarily want to have the hero’s baby in Chapter 1, but a heroine wants to know that the man she’s sleeping with sees her as something other than a temporary recreational option. As readers, we want to know that their relationship has a future – that they’ll become friends and partners as well as lovers.
Thanks Mary, that was fun and pretty well spot on! Now it’s time to tell us about your book and it’s top 10 winning hero, Hart Huntington.
Cassie Bowtell is a plain, no-nonsense girl, and Hart Huntingdon is a man surrounded by glamorous women, but Cassie attracts Hart with her courage, honesty and her dedication to the injured animals in her care. Hart stands for everything Cassie despises, and having been badly hurt in love, she’s determined to repress any emotional impulses that go against her better judgement.
Mary Costello is an Irish-Australian freelance writer, and despite living most of her life in Australia, she hasn’t lost her accent, or the sense of being somewhere exotic. She lives in Melbourne’s bushburbs with her husband of many years, who, oddly, bears no resemblance whatsoever to a romantic hero. They live with a flock of recovering battery hens and their two daughters, for whom Mary aspires to arrange advantageous matches to men of large property.
Mary’s first book, Titanic Town, Memoirs of a Belfast Girlhood, was published twenty years ago, but she only recently turned her pen to Romance, inspired by the heroics of the men of Aussie Rules football. The result was The Reluctant Wag.
Her new release, Irresistible Enemy, is a very different book. Set in the bushy fringes of Melbourne, it brings into collision a dedicated wildlife warrior and a high-powered property developer for whom ‘habitat’ means luxury houses.
I’m talking today on the Destiny Romance blog about how I handle writing and motherhood and why I do it.
So many people ask me how I manage to fit it all in and why I would do such a hellish thing. How on earth did I manage to write my first novel, Killing Me Softly, let alone a second one in Dark Moon and all the others I’ve written and am working on.
Sometimes, I’m not sure how to answer them because I’m not at all sure myself, especially when it feels like this:
But at other times it feels like this:
and things are so wonderful that I feel like I’m flying (or skiing on a beautiful day like this with the people I love the most!) All I know is that it is necessary for me to do it and because it’s necessary and because I love it, I find the time.
What do you find the time to do that other people might think is crazy?
People often ask me when they find out that I write paranormal fiction, why I write it. The short answer I give them is that I enjoy it and I read it and those are the stories that come to me. It seems simple. But the long answer is something far more involved.
Right from when I was little I was attracted to the mystical and mythical, the fantastical and purely far out. My mother used to watch episodes of the old Star Trek and Dr Who and The Twilight Zone while breast feeding me and my brother and I think somehow it seeped into my psyche. As I grew up, the programs we loved to watch together as a family were sci-fi and fantasy style programs and the movies we most loved were always the same. To this day, I still love Dr Who and Star Trek and Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, Tron and Gremlins – stories of the fantastical mixed with the larger epic themes I so loved in mythology and with strong story arcs for those that were series.
And the books I loved to read tended to be the same, with stories of mythology and retellings of ancient legends, of Gods and Goddesses and magic and faeries mixed in. I loved stories set on other planets, either in outer space about little green men or in some far distant time where pieces of our history were blended with pieces of mythology from all across the globe. Grimm faerytales were devoured alongside Aesops fables and stories of the Tuatha De Dannan. I loved ghost stories and stories of mediums and people who had been reincarnated and tales of the eternal fight between Heaven and Hell. I went through a gothic horror phase, reading the classics – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Grey and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – as well as more modern versions by masters of paranormal suspense like Stephen King, Peter Straub and Anne Rice.
I loved Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire series, but it was her other books, The Mummy and her Taltos series that really influenced my reading choices as I moved from my teenage years into adulthood. I ‘found’ Raymond E. Feist and fell in love and from there a whole new world opened up before me. He mixed fantasy and mythology with an almost Stargate like travelling through worlds. He had magic and Elves and Dwarves and dragons and invaders from another world living alongside the average regular overshadowed by an evil so great it scared the Gods right through the entirety of his series. Just brilliant.
But I also longed for books with a fantasy/paranormal bent that had more romance in them. For years there was a dearth of such books and then holy guacamole, after the brilliant Buffy the Vampire Slayer hit our TV screens with her hot, forbidden romance with Angel, there was a surge in the kinds of books I longed to read to complete my literary sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal/romance diet. And this led to a resurgence of not only paranormal movies and TV shows with a romance bent, but more and more wonderful shows with a mix of scifi, fantasy and paranormal, hit our screens and sent me into viewing nirvana.
Vampire Diaries, The Originals, Teen Wolf, True Blood, Sanctuary, Warehouse 13, Haven, Lost Girl, Once Upon a Time, Torchwood, Dr Who, Stargate, Firefly, LOTR, Game of Thrones…the list goes on and on. Too much fabulous TV and not enough time to watch it, especially if I’m going to get through all the series I love to read.
For a nerdy girl like me, it is a wonderful time to be a reader and a viewer and I wouldn’t have it any other way. So, why do I write paranormal and fantasy? For my answer, see the above! J
Today is the day I’ve slaved so hard for – the release day of Dark Moon. Big thanks go to so many people (family, friends, writing groups and critique partners) but especially on this day to my editors at Penguin’s Destiny Romance and my agent, Alex Adsett, who took a chance on it and me and saw something special.
I am so proud of this book because it was the start in a new chapter of my writing. With great trepidation I took it to my writer’s meeting and sent the first few chapters off to competitions in the US hoping to get some decent feedback – but I got far more than that. It immediately struck a chord with judges and with my writing group and it encouraged me to keep trying this new thing I was doing. That all seems like an age ago. But finally it is here and it already has some wonderful reviews written up for it.
So, I was already feeling really positive about it, but then this morning I got up at 5.30am to write and one of my sons woke up around about 6.30am and came into my ‘office’ (the loungeroom where my desk is set up) to say goodmorning and give me a hug when he said, ‘Mummy, look at the full moon. Isn’t your book about the full moon and what it does to the werewolves and witches?’ I looked out the window and sure enough, there was the full moon glowing in the dawn sky. It felt like a good thing, given my son was right (he actually listened to me rabbit on about it! – go figure) and the full moon features prominently all through the book, and in the rest of the series, which I am currently writing. So I quickly took a photo of it (excuse the bluriness, I was being bumped my Mr 8yrs who still wanted a mummy hug)
And, as of today, you can get Dark Moon at:
and other eBook retailers. I hope you all love Skye and Jason’s journey as much as I enjoyed writing it.