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Friday, November 29, 2013

Taking Tea with Debra Brown

It is always a pleasure to share a cuppa and a natter with a historical writer but today's guest comes with an added extra, Debra Brown is the owner of THE ENGLISH HISTORICAL FICTION AUTHORS, one of my favourite blogs and the 'go to' place for all those quirky little facts about English history you were too afraid to ask.  

Good afternoon, Debra.  No guest gets past my door without a stated preference for tea (flavor?) or coffee? What can I offer you?

I love a Chinese brand of organic green, Royal King. I don’t suppose….?

(AS: Ummmm.... I'll see what we have in the back of the cupboard!)

You are something of an enigma… on one hand you are a published author in your own right (I’ll come back to that) but you are also the owner of one of my favourite blogs – The English Historical Fiction Authors. The contributors to this blog include some very well known names in the Historical Fiction space, including one of my own personal favourites, Elizabeth Chadwick. How did you come to set up this blog and gather such an impressive stable of authors?

I was bemoaning the amount of work needed for me to regularly research and write a history blog, and in a chat with an impressive author I got the idea that surely others like myself (some of us call ourselves Anglophiles) would love to read a bite-size bit of British history on a blog each day. Right? I thought this could be done with thirty or so authors, so I began contacting some who had written British historical novels and would have done the research upon which to base their stories.

It took only a few weeks to get a group together and organize the blog. We launched it September 23, 2011, bribing people to visit with a Kindle drawing and many books to give away.

The English Historical Fiction Authors recently collaborated in a book, Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors. How did this collaboration come about?

We celebrated our first anniversary as a group with our readers. Afterward, Deborah Swift suggested we put some of the posts together in a book. My first thought? Yes! I knew it was a wonderful idea from the start, and many of the authors were just as excited.

Where does your passion for English history come from? Do you have one particular period of history that holds your heart?

I started reading historical fiction as a child—I don’t remember my age exactly, probably about eight. I just remember sitting around for hours in the hiding places of our spacious house devouring an ancient (as old as my dad!) set of seven books called My Bookhouse which now comes in fifteen volumes. They were an amazing compilation of classic stories and poems from all over the world written by the likes of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Robert Louis Stevenson—as well as hundreds of illustrations that captivated me. I have loved England, history, and literature ever since.

I can’t say that I love one exact period more than others, though I prefer the periods in which balls and etiquette practiced in fine houses prevailed rather than a harsh life below a motte and bailey topped hill. Clothing—I prefer Victorian and Edwardian fashions and some medieval gowns. Don’t tell, but I’m not much for Regency women’s dress. (AS:  I have to agree with you... the fashions of late Victorian England, while impractical, are the epitome of elegance!)

Debra Brown, author, has penned the “Jane Austenesque” THE COMPANION OF LADY HOLMESHIRE. What was the inspiration behind this story?

I previously had a jewelry business, and when I was working on the designs I watched period movies. All of them. And then they came to an end. About that time the 2008 recession hit and my day job ended as well as my jewelry sales dropping off. I was very happy to organize all those bits of stone and metals into storage boxes and be done with them.

I wanted to fill my life with more historical drama, so I began dreaming up a story of my own. What fun it would be to write a book, I thought. I never dreamed of having it published, so I didn’t study writing. I didn’t know authors or anyone who did any such thing; I just wrote myself a story. Then on Facebook someone suggested I submit it to her publisher, and I did. It was accepted, and my new life began! I revised the book a year later….

You write “sweet” historicals. As a reader (and writer)I personally prefer the interaction of the big muscle between the ears, rather than any other generic body parts. My characters have to really earn their moment in bed and even then historical accuracy compels me to mention the terrible risks they run!  I think a great many writers are pressured by their publishers to make their books “hot”. What is your view of the trend towards “hot” historicals?

I know “hot” books came to be considered mainstream, but I think it is a long-lived fad, and we will be back to what we had for hundreds of years. I think books focused on other topics will again predominate, and steamy romance will be less emphasized. Why? Because there is only so much that can be written about sex before it becomes repetitive. A demand for less sexually focused stories is growing, and I believe eventually publishers will quit insisting upon it. But what do I know?

I even wonder if the success of certain books is artificial. Everyone I hear from on the topic of Fifty Shades of Grey says they either won’t read it or didn’t like it, for example. So how did it get so high on the charts?

That is one of the first things I thought about when I started writing my book. I didn’t really know if anyone wrote clean stories anymore (I was out of the serious reading world for a long time). The supermarket had ever so many steamy romances, and I wasn’t interested in them. I wanted a good plot, interesting characters, and such—like the classics I remembered from my younger years. I know many writers of hot romance write well, but I wanted my story to carry itself without sex.

What is next for Debra Brown, writer?

I have been working on another early Victorian story that I call For the Skylark (AS: Lovely title!). I started with a woman modeled after Dickens’ Miss Havisham, but as I introduced her adult twins, they took over the story. I thought this book would have been released long ago, but the blog and Castles, Customs, and Kings has kept me pretty busy. I work on it as I can and hope to have it published within a year.

Thanks, Alison, for having me to tea! AS: It's been an absolute pleasure and here comes George with your Royal King tea...most appropriate.

A compilation of essays from the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, this book provides a wealth of historical information from Roman Britain to early twentieth century England. Over fifty different authors share hundreds of real life stories and tantalizing tidbits discovered while doing research for their own historical novels.

From Queen Boadicea’s revolt to Tudor ladies-in-waiting, from Regency dining and dress to Victorian crime and technology, immerse yourself in the lore of Great Britain. Read the history behind the fiction and discover the true tales surrounding England’s castles, customs, and kings.  

If you are interested in knowing a little more about this book, which would make a fantastic Christmas present for a history lover, Debra is also the guest of the Hoydens and Firebrands this week, talking about the seventeenth century 

And don't forget to keep an eye open for FOR THE SKYLARK:  Raised isolated on a large estate, Evangeline cannot cope when her brother and only friend, Dante, falls in love.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Taking Tea with...Fiona Lowe

It is my very great pleasure to welcome one of my best  buddies to take tea with me indeed we do in real life.

Fiona Lowe, HMB Medical, single title contemporary author and now indie author, RITA Award winner and old chum (and my 'go to' girl)... It is lovely to have you here today.

You and I have shared many a cup of tea and other, slightly stronger,  beverages. Perhaps you can tell me what is your most memorable cup of tea?

Thanks for inviting me to tea, Ms. Stuart! It’s  lovely to be here. I’ve drunk cups of tea all around the world but the most memorable has to be the one I had at 5am on a small station in the far north of Malaysia. We’d spent the night on a very over crowded 3rd class train, complete with people on the roof and chickens in the carriage. Unbeknown to us, our night of travel coincided with the eve of Hari Raya Haji, a huge Muslim festival and public holiday and everyone was trying to get home. That train journey is my most memorable!  Anyway, at 5am and with no sleep, we fell out onto our station and I had what I call ‘The night duty nausea.’ I felt so sick and I sank onto a bench seat and said, “I need something to eat.”

My ever-loving DH went looking for food and came across a man squatted down in front of a little fire making chapattis and sweet, hot tea. Now I am usually a black tea with milk, no sugar and served in a china cup girl, but here I was holding a glass filled with black tea, no milk and about an inch of sugar at the bottom.  It was THE BEST glass of tea I’ve ever had. I got a second. I ate the chapattis and fifteen minutes later, I was a new woman! I have never forgotten that cup of tea and just thinking about it braces me with new energy!

You began your writing career writing medical romances for HMB. Your career has taken a few interesting turns along the road.  What was the best career decision you made?

I love writing medical romances but they don’t go on shelf in the USA which is a big market . I was frustrated by that and I also  found myself at a point where I was feeling creatively stale so I wrote Boomerang Bride. It was a totally different book. For a start it was a single-title novel of 93,000 words with scope to tell more than two people’s stories. What I discovered was that it flexed different writing muscles but it also strengthened the ones I had. It brought the joy of writing back and now I love writing the two different styles of books. 

Best career decision? You know, I don’t feel I have made one. I haven’t had a lot of choice. I know we all hear the stories of a few lucky people who have publishing houses bidding against each other to secure their book, but although we hear those stories, they are in the minority.  Boomerang Bride faced 12 print house publishing rejections and I was left with a book I believed in and no one else did. I guess I had two choices back in 2010 when the publishing world was very different from the one we know today and publishing yourself was barely known. I either left it on the computer or I took a punt on it with an eBook publishing house. I chose the then new Carina Press because it was the digital-first arm of Harlequin.  Carina Press have been very supportive of me and their authors. It’s only because of their offer to print one eBook per author that made it possible for Boomerang Bride to be entered into the RWA Rita award and Australian RuBY award.

You recently launched yourself into the world of “Indie” publishing with a 12,500 word short story,  what was the inspiration for that story?

Last year I rode 591km/367miles over nine days on the Great Victorian Bike Ride. Three thousand cyclists turned tiny little towns into tent cities as we cycled up and over steep hills, through soporific heat and hypothermia-inducing cold. As I cycled along, I dreamed up a story about two fictitious people on the ride and then used the journey as the back drop to the story. On The Road Again is a reunion story. Can people change and if so, can past hurts be forgiven? It’s the perfect length to read just before you turn out the light at night.

I was with you at RWA National when you won the RITA for BOOMERANG BRIDE (which then went on to win the RUBY – the Australian equivalent), what were your emotions when your name was announced and what has it meant to you since then?

Fiona, Alison and the golden lady!
I was so blessed to have you as my ‘date’ that  night! I had taken the nomination as a win because I really thought I had no chance against the other more established, single-title authors. So that night, I was there for the glitz and glamour and to see if the author I had predicted to win, would. I remember hearing ‘Boomerang’ and then this whoop of noise went around the auditorium (there were a lot of Carina Press authors and Australian writing mates there cheering - AS: and your "date" was shrieking like she was a teenager at a Bieber concert!) and I remember  you hugging me as disbelief rushed me. I know Angela James , the executive editor of Carina Press, and I shared an ‘OMG, really?’ look.  The win took a few days to sink it. I kept stroking my golden lady and then getting out the cleaning cloth to remove my sticky prints ;-) (and of course everybody else had to have their cuddle too!)

The night I won the RuBY, Angela James texted me to say Boomerang Bride was going into print in the USA. Right now it’s out in mass market paperback!

Have you left the world of HMB Medicals behind?

Not at all! In fact, I have a medical romance out this month. Gold Coast Angels; Bundle of Trouble is a stand-alone novel but it’s also book three in the Gold Coast Angels series. The other three books have been written by Marion Lennox, Amy Andrews and Fiona McArthur.   Bundle of Trouble is a recovery book; two people have been hammered by life and are finding their way back and daring to dream again. 

Which brings us to your “Wedding” trilogy. I loved, loved, loved Boomerang Bride and I am currently reading the second one. What was the inspiration behind this series?

Oddly enough, the inspiration came from a rejection I got on Boomerang Bride. That particular editor wanted the book to focus more on the town. Of course, that would have made Boomerang Bride a totally different book so I thought, I’ll write a small-town wedding series and that is how Wedding Fever and Whitetail, Wisconsin, with its large cast of characters came into be. Saved by the Bride (April 2012) is the first novel where the good citizens of Whitetail are trying to save their town from financial ruin and a mayor who appreciates their best intentions but thinks she knows best. Of course there is a very sexy business man who is a fish-out-of-water, a dysfunctional family and a lot of laughs and the occasional tear.

Picture Perfect Wedding (August 2012) features the sexiest dairyman you’ve ever met, a determined wedding photographer  and a family facing the biggest change in six generations. The final book in the series comes out late January and is Runaway Groom; an Aussie riding from Antarctica to Alaska on a Harley Davidson. What’s his worst nightmare? Being stuck in a town obsessed with weddings so yeah, I made that happen ;-)

Talking about bikes….both motor and the push bike variety, have you got a story? Share it with me and go into the draw for a copy of my short story, On The Road Again

A bit about Fiona:

Fiona Lowe is a RITA® and R*BY award-winning, multi-published author with Harlequin and Carina Press. Whether her books are set in outback Australia or in the mid-west of the USA, they feature small towns with big hearts, and warm, likeable characters that make you fall in love. When she's not writing stories, she's a weekend wife, mother of two 'ginger' teenage boys, guardian of 80 rose bushes and often found collapsed on the couch with wine. You can find her at her websitefacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN (A romantic short story)

“Dr. Felicity Hamilton-Smith desperately needs a change of scene so she signs up for a ten-day bike ride around Victoria. The last thing she expects is to run slap-bang into her former fiancé. For her, the past is over and best left behind, or so she thinks.
The last time Dr. Drew Baxter saw Felicity was when he broke her heart when he left to serve in Afghanistan. Now, seeing her again, is breaking his”

Available in all eBook formats for 99cents (AS: !) from

An author can dream... getting my dirty fingerprints of the Golden Lady when FL wasn't watching!

Monday, November 11, 2013

In Flanders Field and a Director's Cut

Of all the poems that came from the blood and mud of the World War One, one of the most evocative is the poem Flanders Fields written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a doctor who served in the front lines of battle during the Flanders campaigns.

In 2005 my husband and I stumbled on the bunker where he worked, only a few miles outside Ypres (for more about how that influenced my writing see below). There we read the story of how this poem came to be written. 

The bunker where McCrae worked
McCrae came from Ontario in Canada, where he had practised medicine in Montreal. He had served with the Canadian artillery in the Boer War and when the call to arms came again in 1914, he was appointed as a field surgeon to the Canadian artillery. The death of his friend and former student, Lt. Alexis Helmer, during the 2nd Battle of Ypres, affected him greatly. He performed the burial service himself, at which time he noted how poppies quickly grew around the graves of those who died at Ypres. The next day, he composed the poem while sitting in the back of an ambulance.

McCrae did not live to see peace. He died of meningitis in January 1918 at the age of 45, his legacy this poem:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

In my own little town in far away Melbourne, 2000 young men from a total population of only 18,000 marched off to war.

As our church has done every year since the 1920s, on the Sunday closest to Remembrance Day an evensong is held where the memorial light that burns in our chapel is relit. Last night the junior school choir of one of our local schools sang Flanders Fields. The simple, lovely tune carried so clearly by the young innocent voices, evoked the spirit of the poem so strongly that I found myself wiping away the tears, remembering once again my own lost forebear and the many, many families torn apart by that terrible war.

The following video is not the school choir that performed at our church last night but still a lovely rendition of the Jacobson anthem.  Listen carefully and remember...

When you write a a director, you may write a great deal that ends up on the cutting room floor. In writing my story of the First World War,  GATHER THE BONES, I wrote all of Paul's back story - his experience in the trenches during the 3rd Battle of Ypres.

The following excerpt is one of those  "Director's cuts" and is based on that visit to the clearing station where McRae wrote his poem. It is told from the point of view of Paul's friend, Angela, an ambulance driver on the front lines.

It had been a long day and a longer night. Angela pushed a wayward strand of hair out of her eyes and steered the ambulance around the new shell hole across the Ypres road. She had not allowed herself the luxury of conscious thought for twenty four hours, now she allowed the familiar anger to start coursing through her. She had lost count of the broken bodies she had carried from the front lines back to the field hospital. For what? For what? she thought on a note of rising hysteria.
            The men had told her that whatever ground they had taken had been lost as high command dithered and failed to push forward to consolidate the gain. More men had been lost in retreat then in advance.
            She longed for a cigarette and a hot drink and as she brought the ambulance to a screeching halt at the dressing station, she saw the opportunity for both. Rubbing her hands down her filthy trousers, she strode over to the group of medics gathered around the field oven.
            One of them thrust a hot panniken into her hand with something that passed for breakfast. She knew them all and they knew how long and hard she had worked that night.
            “One more trip,” she said, “and that’s it for me. Someone else can bring the jalopy out.”
            One of the men smiled, his teeth uneven in his unshaven face. “Reckon you’ve earned it,” he said.
            She finished the rough breakfast, gulping gratefully on the hot, sweet coffee. “Where’s my patients?”
            “We’ve a couple for you there and if you can wait a bit, we’ve got one just come in. He’s with the doc now.”
            Angela nodded and strolled over to inspect the patients, a young boy, barely able to shave with a chest wound and a veteran corporal with a shattered leg. Both were conscious and stable for the moment. She greeted them cheerfully and was rewarded with smiles. It always amazed her the difference the presence of a woman could make.
            The young Canadian doctor who staffed this aid post worked from a bunker, dug into an earthen bank. There were times when German shells reached this far behind the lines but he continued to work on.
            The door to the bunker was open, allowing the daylight in and Angela could see by the boots that he had an officer on the table.
            “Going to be long?” she enquired.
            The doctor looked up. “Well if you want to come and lend a hand, I’ll be quicker,” he said.
            She washed her hands, found some gloves and a mask and slipped into the bunker.
            “Oh, God!” she said.
            “You’ve seen worse,” the doctor commented.
            “I know him,” she said.
            “Oh. Good friend?”
            She nodded. “Very good friend,” she replied. “Is he bad?”
            “Who knows?” the doctor said with a philosophy born of two long hard years in the front line. “Pass me those forceps.”
            Angela wet a cloth and began to wipe the mud and the blood from Paul’s face. His eyes flickered open at the touch and held hers.
            She gave him what she hoped was a reassuring smile but lucidity faded as quickly as it had come and he lapsed into unconsciousness again.
            The doctor gave an impatient grunt. “I’ve done enough to hold him together for the moment, but we’d better get him back to the field hospital.” He signaled the medics who came forward to collect the stretcher and load him into the back of the ambulance with the other two men.
            “How bad is he really?” Angela asked through tight lips.
The doctor shrugged. “Shock, loss of blood... He was out in no man's land the better part of twenty four hours.” The doctor looked at her closely. “Angela, you should know better than to allow them to get to you.”
“It’s never been anyone I knew before,” she replied.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Taking Tea with...Krystal Shannon

Today's tea guest walks on the wild the wolves and bears sense... Paranormal writer, Krystal Shannan

Krystal Shannan, lives in Texas and is married to the love-of-her-life. They have a spunky young daughter who believes in fairies. Krystal professes to loving shoes, but avoids wearing them at all costs. She teaches in the public schools and writes as much as she can in her free time. If any more spare time can be squeezed from her day, she enjoys reading romance in all genres, but especially paranormal. If it has a 'Happily Ever After', she's on board!

Hi Krystal, welcome to my tea table.  Whenever George, my butler, knows I am entertaining Texans he pulls out the coffee dripolator thingy… what is your preference,  tea or coffee?  If you don’t mind a good old fashioned cuppa tea, do you have a favourite?

I enjoy a good cup of tea. Thank you. (AS: George, you can put away that coffee thing...and brew us a cup of Australian Afternoon Tea)

You are my first “paranormal” writer…What attracted you to the world of shapeshifters and magic?

I think I’m attracted to the escape. It’s a completely different world. I’m such a science fiction and magick geek. I’ve always like Star Trek, Star Gate, Merlin, anything to do with fantasy. Shapeshifters and magickal creatures are just an extension of that fantasy. Plus they are just awesome! And SEXY. 

(AS:  Magick? KS: It's just a quirky old english/celtic way to spell it and I spell it like that in all my books.)

I’ve read quite a few shapeshifter stories and it always bothers me…what happens to their clothes?

Well, depends on the author’s lore. Some have magical rings or enchantments that take care of the clothing option. My books keep it natural. They have to strip. Transforming in clothes isn’t an option. So in one of my stories the newest werewolf makes a comment about all the little stacks of clothes they have stashed around the outside of the mountain inn where they are living. It’s quite a comical moment when she realizes ‘why’ there are clothes laying around.
(AS:  I'm very relieved to hear that!)

What did you do to celebrate Halloween this year?

I stayed home and watched movies with my husband, just like I do every year. We aren’t huge Halloween celebrators. I know, shocker, right? (AS:  Even I donned a cute little halloween fascinator and waited in vain for some trick or treaters!)

What are your interests away from your writing?

I love to read… play with my 3.5 year old daughter… we used to have a dog, but she passed away. I really like to garden, but I’m terrible with plants and constantly have to buy more because somehow I invariably kill them. (AS: Me too...I am death to anything in a pot!)  My husband and I enjoy going to the local aquarium and zoo for outings. Movies are good, too…when there’s something good releasing. Mostly we are homebodies. I spend a lot of time at my mother’s. We are very close.

You are writing in 2 series: “Vegas Mates” and “Pool of Souls” (Love the title of that series!). What is the difference between them and what was your inspiration for them both?

Vegas Mates was inspired by a photo. I saw this picture of a gorgeous woman staring off into the distance. She seemed sad, but strong, and Samantha Demakis was born from that. Usually the characters tell me the story and I build around them.

Pool of Souls was inspired by my obsession with Greek mythology. I’ve always wanted to write a story about Aphrodite and Ares, so I just dug through mythology until I found a hint of a reference to two versions of Aphrodite. One, the daughter of a titan and one, the daughter of Zeus. My Aphrodite in Pool of Souls is the first, the daughter of a Titan and the only one still on Olympus. The only one the Pantheon couldn’t get rid of. She is a such a fun character and I look forward to getting back to her story later next year. (AS:  What a terrific source of inspiration!)

Your latest book, WAKING SARAH, is the 3rd in the Vegas Mates series. What is the premise of this story and where did the idea come from?

This story came from one of Samantha’s (CHASING SAM) friends in high school who was the descendant of a werewolf, but nobody knew. I wanted a ‘coming-of-age’ type story where a human who had struggled with something finally felt whole when the truth about magick came out into the open for her. The magick from her lineage completes her. She gets to feel the wholeness that she’s missed her entire life. Both the hero and the heroine are dealing with the loss of a loved one and both are able to reach each other and help heal the other. I really feel that it ‘takes one to know one’. If you’ve never experienced that loss, I don’t think you truly can understand a person who has.

I love a well written paranormal you say it takes you out of a safe world into a world of raw animal instinct and endows a human with extraordinary powers so if you are looking for something a little different, try Krystal's stories and why not join Krystal and I for a chat... 

Vegas Mates, Book 3

Council threats and Renata’s deadly attack leave the Vegas pack scrambling to regroup… 

Heartbroken over the death of her fiancé and tortured by a voice in her mind that’s haunted her since childhood, Sarah McLain learns her true ancestry after attending her best friend Margaret’s wedding. Can the pack save Sarah from the darkness that threatens to overwhelm her? Or will the wolf inside drive her over the edge before they can show her being a supernatural being is a good thing?

Chris Michaels is in charge of training the new latent werewolves at the O’Hearn mountain inn, now known as Woodhaven. His focus is tested when he finds out the beautiful but sad redhead, Sarah McLain, is his trainee.  The connection he feels to her is strong but not magickal, and his wolf claims it foolish to listen to his human instincts.  Can Chris heal her broken heart in time, or will he lose the woman he knows is perfect for him.

~ Excerpt ~


Sarah’s mind drifted as her friend Margaret Taylor recited her vows and became Mrs. Scott O’Hearn. She stood silently holding the bridal bouquet. Calla lilies. She would have been carrying calla lilies two weeks from today. They were her favorite, and Brad always got some for her on her birthday.

Her thoughts moved to the unworn wedding dress hanging in the back of her mother’s closet. Cream colored with Spanish lace. A sweetheart neckline and long flowing sleeves. She never wanted to see the dress again, but her mother refused to part with it. A quick glance at Scott made her gasp. The look of adoration he was giving Margaret nearly broke her heart all over again. 

Brad used to look at her like that.  

Margaret had begged her to stand as the maid of honor. And, Sarah wanted to be here for her friend’s wedding. She really did. But her heart wasn’t here. Neither Margaret nor Sam knew she’d been engaged to Brad. None of them knew she and Brad had picked out a wedding date. Or that it was two weeks from today. September twenty-second. They hadn’t had the time to tell anyone…

She shook her head and sniffed quietly, clearing the image from her mind.

Now he was dead. That future they’d been so excited to share with their friends –stolen.
Nearly six months had passed since she’d gotten that life-altering knock on the door from two Houston police detectives. Sorry to inform you, but life as you know it has just ended. That’s not what they’d said, but it might as well have been. 

She’d dropped out of college and come home to Vegas to find Sam already married and Margaret in a rapidly-becoming-serious relationship and now married as of today. Margaret had told her earlier that day she’d wanted to get married in May, but somehow her big bear of a fiancé convinced her September would be better. 

She’d listened to Margaret ramble on, but most of it had fallen on deaf ears.

The happiness in the room was suffocating. She should be happy for her friends, but she wasn’t. Then she felt guilty. Their lives weren’t perfect. Both Sam and Margaret had both recently lost their fathers. She couldn’t imagine losing her dad, but right now, her mind kept circling back to only one thing: they both had their soul mates. 

Hers was gone.

The forests outside the inn called to her soul. Dark thoughts of disappearing into the forest crossed through her mind. It was a big mountain. Her dreams over the last few days here had tortured her sleep, and she’d doubled up on her prescription just to make it through the night. The pills helped silence the voice, but no treatment or therapy had ever successfully gotten rid of it.

She was so tired of the pain.

Krystal has a gift of an autographed bookmark for the first 20 readers to leave a comment and tell us:  If you had to be a paranormal or mythological creature, what would you choose and why? 

AS:  Personally I would like to be a cat...I like their devil may care attitude and the ability to scale tall fences in a single bound. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

When the wrong book finds the right publisher...

Many years ago in my early days of writing, I submitted a "historical romance" to Harlequin Mills and Boon London, (attention:  historical editor). I got a very polite rejection that includes my favourite rejection line "...too many people have to die before the end of this story...". I knew then I was never destined to write for HMB.

Not so very long ago (The Black Moment of the Writer's Soul), I wrote in this column about the agony of  wrestling with a requested rewrite of one of my stories, a regency romance with a mystery story woven through it. After months of struggling to turn it into something that an American publisher may have deemed publishable, I encountered one of those existential crises to which writers are prone and began to seriously question what I was doing with my entire writing career.  

Instead of throwing my hands in the air and swearing off writing for ever, I tossed (in a digital sense) the poor, unloved, ugly duckling of a book (which I had cruelly nicknamed "the Frankenbook") into a dark corner of the cyber sock drawer, pulled up my chair and started working on something new. 

Mt. Doom seemed seemed no nearer... 

Immersing myself in new characters and a new place in time restored the joy and pleasure of writing I concluded that the "Frankenbook" was simply  the wrong book at the wrong time, for the wrong publisher.  So after the RWAus Conference in Perth, more out of curiosity then anything else I pulled the original story out of the even further recesses of the cyber sock drawer and sat down to read it with cold eyes,  and taking my courage in both hands, I submitted it to a new publisher. A provisional 'Yes' with a request for some rewrites came back. At that point I resurrected the "Frankenbook" and realised, with something of a shock, that not everything I had written was total rubbish. 

From the ashes of the "Frankenbook", a new book emerged. While I would like to think it is a beautiful swan, that is probably for the readers to decide. Still fluffing its new feathers, it went back to the publisher and has been accepted and I am ecstatic. Ecstatic because the "wrong story" has found the "right publisher" and LORD SOMERTON'S HEIR (reborn - a Regency historical, romantic suspense) will be published in May 2014  by ESCAPE PUBLISHING, the e-imprint of Harlequin Australia. 

So there are a number of lessons in this experience:

  • "To thy own self be true". If something does not feel right then it probably isn't right for you. I don't regret not pursuing the American publisher.  I felt I was forcing myself on to a path I didn't really want to be on and as I have written before, writing books, for me anyway, is not just about $, its also about doing something I love, with integrity.
  • "Trust your instinct." If a story isn't working for you, put it to one side and get on with something else...something that gives you pleasure and fills your heart with excitement but don't be afraid to revisit that story in a month, three months - a year even. You may find what you wrote is not nearly as bad as you thought it was and with a fresh approach could find a new direction.
  • Always keep an eye on the market. Trends change, publishers change. Two years ago Escape didn't exist and, in the ultimate irony of my writing life, I will be published by a Harlequin imprint. ESCAPE had found a niche in printing the "cross genre" stories that I write.
  • Keep your  eye on the goal...whatever it is. I still have my eye on the airport bookshops but in the modern publishing world I have to be realistic. It has probably never been easier to be published and never harder to sell a book. I am not giving up the day job just yet!

From the battlefield of Waterloo to the drawing rooms of Brantstone Hall, Sebastian Alder’s elevation from penniless army captain to Viscount Somerton is the stuff of dreams. But the cold reality of an inherited estate in wretched condition, and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his cousin’s death, provide Sebastian with no time for dreams, only a mystery to solve and a murderer to bring to justice.

Damaris, widow of the late Lord Somerton, is desperate to bury the memory of her unhappy marriage by founding the charity school she has always dreamed of. But her dreams are shattered, as she is taunted from the grave, discovering not only has she been left penniless, but she is once more bound to the whims of a Somerton.

But this Somerton is unlike any man she has met. Can the love of an honourable man heal her broken heart or will suspicion tear them apart?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Taking Tea with...Marianne Theresa

My Friday tea guest this week is world traveller, amazing artist, book cover designer and historical romance writer, Marianne Theresa.

Like me, Marianne is an inverate traveller and as an artist, her inspiration both in her paintings and her writing is visual so without further ado, sit back with your favourite cup of tea and enjoy Marianne's post on:

Favourite Places that Inspire me to Write.

Thank you Ms Stuart for having me here.

While I'm a Historical Romance Writer at heart, all my stories do tend to gravitate to the, shall we say, decadent side of sensuality.

 Now I know Ms Stuart gets a tiny wee bit flustered with topics on the erotic side (AS...just a tad...) , so today I chose to talk about what inspired me to write Historical in the first place and share 5 Places (out of a possible 1000) that instantly get me through a blocked moment in writing, or create a continuing or fabulous new direction for my stories.

My first introduction to romance novels were my mum's Mills & Boons I found around the house. But it wasn't until I was able to purchase my own books that I stumbled across my very first full length Historical novel. It was called A Rose in Winter by Kathleen E Woodiwiss. I simply devoured that book. And my preferred choice of reading material in my late teens was set.
When I EVER feel the need to connect with the past for writing, I will always pick up a Historical Reference book or one of Kathleen's Novels. (AS...How can you go past that cover?)

Which brings me to what I wanted to share here.
Unlike the newer generation, I'm of the fraternity that didn't have the opportunity to travel overseas until years later down the track (AS...indeed, in "our" day it was finish school/uni and straight off to work...). And when I finally did it was to Europe and UK that hit the top spots for me. Why ... because that was the historical landscape that captured my imagination, inspired my creative mind and spoke to my heart.

Amazing Place #1   The Netherlands

Holland was the first Overseas place I visited, other than Hamilton Island - off the coast of Queensland. :)

My DH has relatives who live in Den Haag, so it was a natural choice to begin there. As it is not a place of my heritage I did not have an extensive knowledge of the Netherlands. I did know of several of her cities, Amsterdam, Delft & Den Haag, were home to the world's most famous Old Masters - Artists, at one or other in their career. 
I also knew about Delft Pottery and Windmills. That was about it.

But it is much more than that. Holland is a treasure trove of the past. It's history is entwined with nearby countries of Europe as well as UK. And through the Dutch East India Company many countries throughout Asia. We were fortunate to be staying right in the middle of the city of Den Haag. So we walked right intpo history each day. The Royal Palace is there. The Mauritius Art Museum, where you can find many of Rembrandt & Vermeer's famous artworks. Museum De Gevengenpoort  (The Prison Gate) is a former prison. Inside this Medieval Building is a fascinating collection of Punishment and torture devices that will certainly awaken any visitor to the history of criminal Law. Naturally, as a historical writer, I was thoroughly enthralled. 

(AS...I am writing a book at the moment that involves the VOC...the Dutch East India Company. Fascinating stuff! Did you know that they murdered the entire population of an island in Indonesia just to protect the precious nutmeg? They gave "ruthless" a whole new meaning!)

Amazing Place #2   Italy

Ahhh what can I say about Italy?

What can't I say about Italy ...  Rome, Venice, Florence, Pompeii, Assisi, Milan, Bologna and too many other exciting places to mention.

For me, walking the cobblestones of our forefathers is as inspiring for a historical writer as it gets. What's not hard to to stir the imagination or to reminisce about when you are sitting on a stone wall admiring the ruins of the Colosseum.
 Days spent wandering around the City of Rome, marvelling at the amazing monuments, thankfully still standing, is a moment forever implanted in my writers mind. In a world where wars have taken a toll on our most treasured icons, many now disappeared, this was one City that I truly hope endures for future generations.

When I think of the city of Rome, I think of Artwork and History on every corner.

 (AS:  The Via Appia stands out for me as the most interesting thing I did in Rome...but I need to spend so much more time in Rome!)

Amazing Place #3    England

What can I say about England, the place where my imagination bubbles with ideas & possibilities.

 Is it about London Town, Wales, Cornwall, Dover? Is it the castles, royalty, wars, power, the romantic age of the tall ships? I think it is all of the above and much more. Perhaps it's because as a Commonwealth nation learning about the motherland was mandatory in school.

As a Romance writer I am more interested in the nature of life lead by my characters in history. People say there is struggle in today's times, but it WAS a different struggle back then. To me I see it as a harder, more determined struggle to learn know and achieve more. Maybe that was because of the newness of humanity. Growing from not knowing or having much to learning, conquering new ways. Class distinctions interest me. Laws that determined how people, spouses neighbours were treated.  

Amazing Place #4    Scotland

Ahhhh, Bonny Scotland. 

There was nothing I did not or could not, love about this country. The rugged coastline, the beautiful Isles, the magnificent hillsides with their ancient stone walls that flowed across the hills and valleys, from one land-owners property to the next. We weren't lucky enough to see the heather out in bloom, but we did see the bare vine growing in the stark harsh environment, that would flourish and coat the hills in a gown of lavender. 

The city of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Castle is simply one place that need more time to soak up the long history. There is an ambience about the entire place that had my mind bubbling with story possibilities. I need to return there. And what Historical writer & reader would not be taken back to a time long forgotten when couples would defy father & King, race dangerously against family and time to cross the border into Scotland and marry at Gretna Green - all in the name of LOVE.... There are beautiful monuments in the car park now. 

Amazing Place #5    The Rocks in  Sydney-Australia

And last but not least, the beautiful Rocks area of Sydney. The first place where the Europeans of the First Fleet settled. Actually all of Sydney is a perfect place to reminisce about days of old. There are plenty of new - scattered among the old, you just have to spend the time searching and discovering.

I believe we have  the only, paying-passenger Tall Ship in the world, moored at Darling Harbour. The James Craig makes a day trip out through the heads, once or so a month. 

There are amazing Arts and Crafts on sale at The Rocks Markets. There's Museums and Walking Tours full of history, available to Aussies near & far, and tourists, throughout the year. There may not be as many old buildings as the European countries, but we have a unique country that has a tale of its own to tell  ...

You just have to go out there and  discover it. (AS...the Australian Tourism Bureau should employ you...)

Thanks so much for letting me share my inspirations with you and your guests Alison. Let's hope I might have inspired others to look around this glorious world for creative ideas - no matter what field they are in.  

Marianne's first book is a Contemporary 10k Erotic Romance set in Sydney - a stone's throw away from the Rocks.
Hidden Passions is published by Momentum Books 
You can contact Marianne here: Marianne Theresa & find me on Facebook 
Or visit the "Other me" @ maryde

Thanks so much for letting me share my inspirations with you and your guests Alison. Let's hope I might have inspired others to look around this glorious world for creative ideas - no matter what field they are in.  

AS:  It's been an absolute pleasure, Marianne and it has stirred my restless spirit.