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NoPlaceLikeYouI am super delighted today to be able to feature on my blog one of my very good friends, Marnie St. Clair. She has her first novel, No Place Like You, out with Escape. It’s a lovely rural romance set in country Australia, with characters that will truly touch your hear. I loved it and I know you will too.

But, before you rush off to buy it, let me introduce you to Marnie and let her tell you a little bit about herself and her new novel.

Hi Marnie. Thanks for being a guest on my blog. It’s really exciting to have you here for the first time to celebrate your new release with Escape, No Place Like You.

MSC: Thanks for having me, Leisl!

LL: Can you tell us a little bit about your new novel?

MSC: No Place Like You is a contemporary romance set in a fictional country town a couple of hours west of Sydney. It was somewhat inspired by my mother-in-law. Much to her horror—I don’t think she pictures herself as a romance heroine. She spent most of the year in Sydney’s North Shore (weirdly, she boarded at PLC even though she lived in the same suburb), but every summer her family migrated to their property somewhere in the vicinity of Bathurst. This is pretty much the backstory of my heroine Lily, and by default, my hero Josh—the station manager’s son, who lived on the property year-round. The book is a little about class differences and a lot about forgiveness.

LL: Is this a standalone novel or are you planning a little bit of a series?

MSC: A second book is in the works, featuring Kate and Saxon, who now have to deal with the aftermath of their delightful interlude in No Place Like You.

LL: Authors are always being told it’s best to diversify in this ever changing publishing environment. Do you write only contemporary romances with a rural flavour, or do you also write in other genres too?

MSC: I adore crime and tend to gravitate towards adding just a dash of something mysterious. Or sometimes a bucket-load. See next question…

LL: What are you working on currently?

MSC: I am currently polishing up a fast-paced and fun mystery romance Blue Illusion, which pits a street-wise femme fatale against a charming rake of a PI in the hunt for a long-lost sapphire necklace. It’s planned as the first in a series of five featuring the detectives at de Crespigny Investigations.

LL: Sounds intriguing. Actually, I’m being coy, I know it’s good as I’ve read the first one! Can you share with us your ‘Call’ story?

20150513_123240MSC: Picture this. We’re in the deep dark depths of the summer holidays. I’m just back from taking my girls to a chocolate festival at the Immigration Museum (a fabulous tasty cultural experience). There’s an email from Kate Cuthbert from Escape in my inbox, saying she loved No Place Like You and was interested in acquiring it. Already high on choc-related sugar and caffeine, I add copious quantities of adrenaline and Aussie bubbles. Leisl, you know I struggle for calm at the best of times…

LL: LOL. That doesn’t sound like you at all! How long have you been writing for and what led you to being published?

MSC: I started playing around with writing after the birth of my younger daughter in 2007. Quickly realised I needed help and joined the RWA in 2008. Found my lovely and amazing writing group in 2009. Finally decided I did actually want to finish something and get published around 2012. Pitched something woefully underbaked at the RWA conference in 2013. Spent another year redrafting my manuscript and finally felt it was ready to resubmit at the end of 2014. Voila, No Place Like You.

LL: What do you think is the best advice you could give to a new writer with an aspiration to being published?

MSC: Hmm, tough one. Something like, have faith and push through. Honestly, everyone thinks their first draft is shit—first drafts are shit—but just keep pushing through to the end. Don’t worry if you get there and it’s a mess—your story is in there somewhere. Have faith and revel in the torture of redrafting.

LL : What inspires you to keep writing? Where do your writing ideas come from?

MSC: Reading, I would say. When you read a book that elicits a full-body visceral reaction, whether it’s fear or gleeful anticipation, lust or love, I’m like, I want to do that. Also, although I don’t think of myself as overly nurturing, I have a strong desire to comfort. Books can hold your hand through difficult times, and I feel compelled to offer something like that.

Writing ideas? Who knows? To (mis)quote Keith Richards: they’re all up there—stick your antennae up and wait.

LL: What are Marnie St Clair’s pet peeves? What are your favourite things?

MSC: Pet peeves. You know, I really hate smug. I thought this must be universal, but talking to a friend the other day, she didn’t get the smug thing at all—she hates self-pitying whingers. Wow. I’m totally fine with self-pitying whingers. In fact, most of the time… Wait, was she trying to tell me something?

Favourite things. Fragrant flowers. Baltic linen. Winter boots. Sand and stars. Mongolia, for some inexplicable reason.

LL: I’m with you on the flowers, winter boots and stars. Can take or leave the linen and sand. Mongolia – I think it would be fascinating.

Thank you so much for being a guest on my blog today, Marnie. It was fun finding out a little bit more about you and your writing.

NoPlaceLikeYouYou can buy Marnie’s novel, No Place Like You from:

http://www.escapepublishing.com.au/product/9780857992581

Author bio:

I grew up in country NSW but now live in a lovely leafy suburb of Melbourne with my weather man husband and two gorgeous daughters. Apart from a deep and abiding love of all things romance, I have a wide array of unusual and embarrassing passions including playing Bridge, growing succulents, visiting deserts and getting down on the Zumba floor. No points for guessing which is the embarrassing one.

You can find out more about Marnie at: marniestclair.com

Destiny Promo PhotoTonight I have Bernadette Rowley here to chat about her new novel, The Lord and the Mermaid, newly out with Momentum. She also chats about her love of fantasy and world building. So get yourself a hot drink (hot chocolate with honey is my favourite on a cold night), settle in and enjoy finding out more about Bernadette and her work.

Hi Bernadette. Thanks for being a guest on my blog. It’s really exciting to have you here once again to tell us about your new novel, The Lord and the Mermaid.

Hi Leisl, it’s great to be back!

Can you tell us a little bit about your new novel, The Lord and the Mermaid?

The Lord and the Mermaid is basically my retelling of The Little Mermaid. Mermaid Merielle flees her people, hoping for a better life. She is determined to find a human man and make him fall in love with her, believing his love will make her human in turn. The man she happens across is Lord Nikolas Cosara, a hunky ship’s captain, who has exiled himself after a past tragedy. He is the last person who would ever love a mermaid but they experience an instant attraction and the story flows from there.

It’s been quite the roller coaster ride for you in the last year or so since your last novel was released, The Lady’s Choice – something I’m experiencing a bit myself at the moment. Can you tell us about it?

Princess Avenger and The Lady’s Choice were published in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Being a new imprint when I started with them, it took a couple of years to find its way and they eventually decided to stop publishing fantasy as a genre. That left me unwilling to part with my series and needing to find a new publisher for The Lord and the Mermaid. I didn’t know if someone else would wish to take me up but didn’t want to go out on my own. I pitched my mermaid story to Momentum’s Haylee Nash at conference and she offered me a two book deal. I got the rights back for Princess Avenger and The Lady’s Choice and have self-published them. I now have the best of both worlds!

0315 The Lord and The Mermaid_v8The Lord and the Mermaid is a novel related to your Princess Avenger series – how is it related? Are any of the characters the same?

Princess Avenger is set in Brightcastle, a city about four days ride west of Wildecoast where The Lord and the Mermaid is set. Both cities are in my fantasy world of Thorius. Readers were introduced to Thorius in Princess Avenger and to Wildecoast in The Lady’s Choice. Some of the minor characters are the same. You could say that the books that have gone before are prequels to The Lord and the Mermaid.

Is it a standalone novel, or is it going to be a part of a larger series? – I love a good series.

You know me, Leisl. If I’m writing a book it’s part of a series, the longer the better. Having said that, The Lord and the Mermaid can be read on its own. Merielle and Nik’s story is the first in the Wildecoast Saga with Momentum.

Where did the idea for this series come from?

It was perfect timing, really, I had a story set in the same world but a different city with new elements (being the increasing threat from the dark elves) and Momentum wanted to start from scratch with this book. So we created The Wildecoast Saga.

Princess Avenger Ebook coverWhat inspires you to keep writing in this world?

I love this world that I’ve created. I can make whatever rules I wish for and my characters have amazing abilities. Why wouldn’t you want to keep writing new love stories that take the secondary themes, of intrigue and war, forward?

You have recently self-published your first two novels after getting the rights back from your previous publisher. Can you tell us a little bit about this process and how you’ve found it? What have you learned from it that’s helping you with your writing in general? Would you self-publish other works in the future again?

Self-publishing was daunting at first but I started with Smashwords and they made it easy. I enlisted a cover designer and she also did the formatting. I was so excited when I saw my very own covers and think they are rather beautiful. I have two more to reveal when I release book 2 and 3 of the Princess Avenger trilogy. I also worked with Tracey O’Hara in editing Princess Avenger and learned quite a lot from that. Don’t we all wish we could go back and fix some of the weaknesses in our first book? I think you learn a little each time you publish a book, no matter how you do it and I definitely will be doing so again. I’m hoping to have part two of my trilogy out this year.

Are you planning any novels in the future that are set in a new fantasy world? Or have you got any aspirations to write in a different genre?

I have no new fantasy worlds planned but I do have the beginnings (first two books) of a space opera series. I also have two books in a junior fiction series written.

the-ladys-choice-cover-newYou’re a vet by day, as well as a mother. How do you find the time to write? Talk us through your process.

The first two days of the week are given over to vet work and then my five day writing week begins! I try to do some every day and when I’m writing draft I aim for one to two thousand words each day. All this year has been given over to editing but I’m currently working on a story that will be book three in the Wildecoast Saga.

I, of course have plenty of housework to take care of but usually write late morning and in the afternoon. I always try to be available to my sons who are 17, 19 and 21. They’ve been encouraged to follow their dreams no matter what.

What’s been the most surprising aspect of your writing career so far? What have you had the most difficulties with? What have you learned the most from?

I can’t believe how long the editing process is and that no matter how good your book is, there are always ways it can be improved. I’ve had the most difficulties with promoting my work – I’m not very good at talking about my books. I’ve learned heaps from each editor I’ve worked with and expect to continue to learn with each book.

Thank you so much for being a guest on my blog today, Bernadette. It was fun finding out a little bit more about you and your writing.

Bernadette has very generously decided to give away a copy of her new novel, The Lord and the Mermaid. All you have to do is comment on what fantasy characters you like reading about? Mermaids, Shifters, Vampires, Elves, Dragons, Fairies… Bernadette will pick the winner from these. So, comment away and share what your favourite fantasy characters are…

You can buy Bernadette’s novels from:

The Lord and the Mermaid: http://momentumbooks.com.au/books/the-lord-and-the-mermaid/

Princess Avenger: FREE at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/546489

The Lady’s Choice: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/546751

World of Thorius Boxed Set: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B010SDVQG0

Author bio:

Bernadette Rowley is an author of fantasy romance who grew up on rural properties on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. Her teenage years were spent training her beloved horses, reading the fantasy stories of Tolkien, Brooks and Eddings and dreaming of becoming a vet.
She graduated as a vet in 1987 and now works part time, allowing her five days a week for her passion- writing. Bernadette lives in Townsville with her husband of 27 years, their sons and Slippers the cat. Her other interests are reading (fantasy and romance), singing (a capella), cricket and music.

You can find out more about Bernadette at:

http://bernadetterowley.com

https://twitter.com/bt_rowley

http://www.facebook.com/bernadetterowleyfantasy

Daniel-de-Lorne PhotoI’m really pleased to have Daniel DeLorne back to guest here today. After working with Dan on the RWA committee (he is my VP and one of our Hearts Talk Editors) I have come to call him SuperDan. He can pretty much do anything I throw at him and do it better than I expected. I’m not quite certain why I keep being surprised – maybe I just like to be surprised.

Anyway, Dan is here to talk to us today about his new novel, Burning Blood, the sequel to his dark and tortured (and amazing) first novel, Beckoning Blood. Take it away Dan.

Burning Blood, Sisters and Sequels.

Thanks for having me as a guest again, Leisl.

For those of you who haven’t read the first book in the series, Beckoning Blood is a gruesome romantic horror that focuses on the lives of gay twin vampires, Olivier and Thierry, as they slash and burn their way through the centuries.

The sequel, however, was my chance to explore the other side of the d’Arjou family. After people read Beckoning Blood, I heard them say they wanted to know about Aurelia as she played an important part in the plot of the first book, without getting much air-time.

I always knew she’d have a big role in the overall story arc but when I began writing Burning Blood, Burning-Blood-Cover-600I didn’t realise how much was going on with her.

Initially I was trying to wrap everything up in the second book but as my first and second attempt at this story broke beneath the enormity of what I was trying to do (this is a good advertisement for plotting over pantsing), I realised I had to give her the space to tell her story. And that’s what Burning Blood is.

The book goes through the same three timeframes that Olivier and Thierry went through in the first book, that is, Carcassonne in the Middle Ages, Saxony in the late 1700s, and the present day. While the brothers make brief appearances, this isn’t their book. This might be a relief for some readers who want a break from the blood and violence of Beckoning Blood.

We watch Aurelia’s struggle through the centuries, her battle with Henri, the head of the d’Arjou family. We see her trauma and experience her attempt to find some happiness while under extreme pressure. Thankfully, she has a friend in Hame, a red-haired oracle who helps relieve some of the burdens she has to bear…until Carn enters the scene.

I don’t want to give too much a way but readers can expect an epic story where what we want and what we get aren’t always the same thing, and how family traumas leave deep scars. But as always, there’s hope for a better life.

To celebrate the launch of Burning Blood, Im running a giveaway where you can win a Wild Wood Tarot Deck and both of my books. Just visit my website to enter.

Beckoning Blood Cover 1000Burning Blood (Bonds of Blood: Book 2)

No one gets to choose who they spend eternity with.

Aurelia d’Arjou has vampires for brothers, but it is as a witch that she comes into her own power, keeping balance and control, using her strength to mitigate the death and pain that her brothers bring. When she is forced to take on the centuries long task of keeping the world safe from the brutal demon that wore her father’s skin, duty dominates her life. But rare happiness comes in the form of a beguiling, flame-haired oracle who makes the perfect companion…but for one thing.

Hame doesn’t want to be an oracle, but when a demon destroys the closest thing to a father he has, he has little choice but to aid Aurelia with his visions. Unable to love her as she would wish, their centuries-old friendship comes under attack when a handsome Welsh witch enters his life – and his heart.

As treachery and betrayal push Hame to choose between his closest friend and his lover, it becomes clear that when it comes to war, love doesn’t always conquer all, and happy endings are never guaranteed.

Read an excerpt or order now from Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook | GooglePlay.

Daniel de Lorne writes dark tales of ruin, romance and redemption. His debut novel, Beckoning Blood, came out in May 2014. You can find out more about him on his website (you can also get a free short story), Facebook and Twitter.

Madeline AshToday I have Madeline Ash as a guest blogger. Madeline is a pocket-sized powerhouse who writes stories that are real and have sweet sizzle. I’ve enjoyed her other books and am looking forward to reading her latest, Love & Other Lies.

Madeline’s new heroine is an interesting mix of sweet, sexy and flawed. I love a flawed character and so was really interested to hear what she has to say on the matter. Take it away Madeline.

Writing Immoral Heroines (and why I think that’s okay).

Abby, the heroine in my new release Love & Other Lies, has a history of compulsive lying. Honesty is highly valued in our society, so liars are understandably regarded as immoral, and due to that, when I was first struck by the idea for her character I worried readers wouldn’t accept her. Even I had difficulty relating to a character who had lied to people she loved for so many years.

Concerned, I researched immoral female characters and came across this blog post on The Border House, entitled Immoral Women: Why We Need More of Them. At one point, the author Katherine Cross says,

“Consider my title here: “Immoral Women.” Even now it conjures images of promiscuous, ‘loose’, or otherwise proudly sexual women, which is a testament to the suffocating and dehumanisingly limited framework with which women are saddled. I want that notion of immorality to be expanded to be something more fully human.”

Katherine raises a good point. The immorality of female characters is often related to their sexualities. And when a female character isn’t immoral, she’s often virtuous to the point of flawlessness. She’s an inaccurate representation of what it is to be a woman; what it is to be human.

Humans aren’t perfect. We make mistakes. Our experiences shift our behavior. Sometimes humans do bad things for good reasons, sometimes for not so good reasons. Imperfection is real, and this made me feel better about writing Abby’s story – it made me feel more confident about the way readers would react to her history of lying.

While romance has had its fair share of virtuous and morally pure heroines in the past, times are changing. We now have heroines that fall within, around, and outside of morality – they cheat, lie, and steal – and we still love them. They’re real, raw, and refreshing.

Loving these heroines of course relies on them being well-motivated. When I wondered how well Abby would be accepted by readers, I came to realise that it would come down to her reasons for lying in the first place. It’s like Helena in Orphan Black (anyone else watch that?). Because we understand why she acts the way she does, we can love her despite her (horrifying) flaws.

Katherine Cross also states, “Evil manifests itself in our world mainly in the form of people who are utterly convinced they are doing the right thing. Morality is rather tricky like that.”

Although I’m not talking about evil, just immorality, the above still applies. We can forgive a character when we believe they are doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. Due to this, characters aren’t necessarily immoral – just morally compromised.

Love and Other LiesPersonally, I think it’s okay to write about female characters who aren’t perfect – who are particularly imperfect. And I LOVE that digital and non-traditional publishing has opened up opportunities for unconventional characters and storylines within romance. I know I wouldn’t have been able to sell Abby to a traditional publisher five years ago. They wouldn’t have wanted to take the risk.

What do you think? Do you prefer writing/reading about female characters that represent the best of humanity, or are you okay reading about (well-motivated) immoral female characters in fiction?

Thank you for having me on your blog today, Leisl! X

It was an absolute pleasure, Madeline, and thanks so much for being here. And by the way I LOVE Orphan Black – fantastic show and a great example of a flawed heroine – in fact Helena isn’t the only one in that show who is immoral in some way and yet we love them (Sarah and Mrs S anyone?)

Love & Other Lies:

Small town vet Abby Benson has fled to the country to put her shameful past behind her. She’s just beginning to find her feet again when handsome stranger, Rue Thorn, arrives in town and begins to stir things up. Rue is gorgeous, kind and thoughtful and the two share an instant attraction. But convinced he’ll despise her if he learns about her history, Abby reluctantly keeps him at arms’ length.

Determined to win Abby over, Rue tries to reshape himself as the sort of guy he thinks she might be interested in. And for a while it seems his act is working. But when he finds out that Abby has been lying to him, it isn’t long before everything start to unravel …

A moving story of trust, forgiveness and the power of love from the author of Uncovered by Love and The Playboy’s Dark Secret.

Available from Amazon, iTunes, and all other good ebook distributors.

Author Bio:

Madeline has always lived in Melbourne. She is emotionally allergic to spontaneity, and yet doesn’t mind the weather that drags her into rain when she’s planned for sunshine. She likes to call this her wild side.

She’s a Virgo, vegetarian, and once had a romantic suspense-style dream in which the hero was a shredded lettuce sandwich and the villain was a cherry tomato. The tomato got away. She took the dream as a sign that she’d better stick to writing contemporary romance.

Her stories have spunky heroines, strong heroes, and as much dialogue as she can cram in. As for why she writes romance, she’s in a long-term relationship with the genre and writing such stories makes it happy.

 

Enchanted Maze - Mark and boysIt’s been a bit of a big weekend for me. Yesterday, after having many things over the holidays upset my writing schedule, I actually managed to finish the final draft of Blood Moon – hooray! I thought I wasn’t going to get it done before the end of January. But I got some time yesterday and just went to it and now it’s all ready to send off to my Beta readers. I’m both nervous and excited to hear what they’ve got to say. So we had that to celebrate last night. But we also had something else to celebrate too.

Today is my 16th wedding anniversary. We celebrated together (just hubby and I) by going out to the movies at Gold Class last night and then today we went to the Enchanted Maze Adventure Garden with our boys. We’ve had a lovely day going on big zip lines and racing through mazes and having a ride at the tube park and just appreciating each others company in the gorgeous gardens there. It’s one of our favourite places to come with the family and today was no exception.

We had so much fun. Our feet are aching and everyone is smiling – what more can you ask for?

PrintWell, I can answer that. I came home to see that I am a guest on AusRom Today in their fabulous Aussie Month – celebrating new and established writers of romantic fiction in Australia. It’s my anniversary and I get to talk about romance and what it means to me…how serendipitous is that? I didn’t even know it was going up today.

So, I’d love you to drop on by and leave a comment or share on whatever social media tickles your fancy on this special day. And I hope everyone else’s days were as good as this one was for me.

 

I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas again – this year has gone way too fast, right? One of my favourite things about Christmas time (apart from the time with family and friends, the decorations, the tree, the anticipation and celebration, the food I never eat at any other time, the making of gifts and sending of cards and the general craziness of this time of the year) is the holiday novel. And I have the perfect one for you.

Louise ReynoldsMy lovely and talented friend, Louise Reynolds, who I first met through Romance Writers of Australia, has a wonderful Christmas novella with the kind of delightful Australian setting she does so well. She’s here today to talk about writing it and to give us a little taste. Take it away, Louise.

A Kirribilli Christmas

It has always been a puzzle to me that people who haven’t bothered to catch up all year suddenly simply must catch up before Christmas. Similarly, family who aren’t in touch regularly throughout the year are hell-bent on squeezing into one twelve to fourteen hour period, multiple visits – and gargantuan meals – with not only their own blood relatives but those of their spouse or partner. And as many of us acquire more complicated family arrangements, this can reach almost ridiculous levels as we hurtle about the countryside trying to please everyone.

Can there be anything more fraught than the delicate negotiations about whose family will be graced with your presence this year for Christmas lunch? How do you politely extricate yourself from a meal running overtime in order to drive 100 kilometres to another home to start all over again?

In my latest release, A Kirribilli Christmas, Shelby Collins has turned her back on her upbringing in Sydney and headed for the bright lights of LA. But years later, let down by her boyfriend at Christmas, she travels home to the reunion of a very unusual family. I loved writing this coming home story not least because it was a chance to showcase a hot Australian Christmas, with not a snowflake in sight.

A Kirribilli ChristmasExcerpt:

Christmas Eve

There was a woman in his garden.

Dan Sayers climbed down from the ladder, laid the brush on the paint tray and swiped an arm across his sweaty forehead. He picked up a rag, wiping his hands as he moved closer to the window.

She was at the bottom, where the path that wound down through the steep front garden, snaking through dense foliage and vines, met the street. In the slanting, late afternoon light her face should have been exposed, but she’d stopped, shrouded in the deep shade of the arbour, as though uncertain whether to climb the path or run.

Just like Dan had been when he’d first entered that garden as an eight year old boy: dirty, rebellious and unloved. He hadn’t known it at the time but that steep path had been the highway to a new life.

Maybe she was just resting in the shade before moving on. He couldn’t blame her. The dense humidity that had made painting such hard work cloaked the afternoon, rendering it a hushed torpor. Even the birds and insects seemed too tired to stir. His gaze shifted to the suitcase sitting in the sun and he frowned. It was one of those glossy, expensive hard-sided affairs, gleaming like oyster shell.

If she’d arrived by ferry and lugged that bag up the dozens of steps from Kirribilli wharf, she was probably exhausted. An easterly would come through later but right now Sydney wilted in the heat.

He wasn’t expecting anyone, not until tomorrow when the old house would be full of people, none of them related by blood but the best kind of family, the sort cobbled together with love. He couldn’t wait.

The clean, pungent smell of paint was overlaid by a honeyed floral scent that seemed crushed and distilled and carried on the warm afternoon air. He stepped through the French windows and onto the veranda as though drawn by the scent but in reality he knew it was curiosity.

A prickle of awareness shivered up his spine as he gazed down the garden. If it wasn’t for the defeated tilt of her head, the slightly bowed shoulders, he’d swear it was— He bit off that thought. Of course lots of people were on the move the day before Christmas, travelling to be with family and friends.

The woman straightened her shoulders and stepped forward, out into the sun. It glinted on the blonde hair which fell shimmering to her shoulders. Could he see or did he just imagine the deep breath she took, as though she were marshalling her reserves? Or maybe it was in preparation for a sigh.

Then she tilted her face upwards, looking directly at the house, and Dan swore softly.

Shelby Collins had come home.

 

Thanks for that, Louise. I can’t wait to read it over Christmas. You can buy ‘A Kirribilli Christmas’ here: 

iTunes

Amazon

Amazon AU

Destiny Romance

Kobo

Google Play

And you can find out more about Louise here:

Web: www.louisereynolds.net

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LouiseReynoldsauthorpage?ref=hl

Blog: www.louwrites.wordpress.com

Twitter: @LouiseHReynolds

 

 

Romance Writers of Australia