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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Writing Craft - Scrivener Love

I am in heart beats a little faster, my breath stops in my throat as I reach out my hand and switch on the computer and there it is waiting for Work in Progress in glorious technicolour. Every nuance, every trashed word, every unused word or scene...all carefully filed away in the writing program that changed my life...Scrivener.

It is only three weeks until the Romance Writers of Australia conference where my partner-in-crime and critiquing, Sasha Cottman and I are presenting a beginners workshop on Scrivener. I do not hold myself out as any sort of great expert on Scrivener- just a simple user - but  I have written my last few books using this amazing product and like all converts I have become a prosletyser. I will preach Scrivener's virtues from the mountain tops...or at least to a room full of writers and computers.

If you want "the expert" then go to the wonderful Gwen Hernandez (who has generously donated a couple of door prizes for our Workshop). Not only has she written the bible ("Scrivener for Dummies") but she runs regular courses. 

This brings me to Scrivener's one big failing... You look at the interface screen and, if you are not technically minded or have a shortage of time, it will send you screaming back to Word. You will see words such as "Inspector", "Binder" and the dreaded (and still to be fully understood by me) "metadata". I think a lot of writers, like me, went to the hands on interactive tutorial given by one of the creators, who knows and loves his product so well. Unfortunately he knows and loves it too well and after the first 5 minutes (and the first mention of the words "meta data" and "scrivening") I had given up on him. So what I know is what I have taught myself (with a little help from Gwen's book) and I thought I would give you the 5 things I love most about using Scrivener.

1. (and this one took me ages to work out) There is no one right way to use Scrivener. It is completely flexible and adapts to your own writing methods. So if you put two Scrivener users  side by side their interfaces may look completely different. It is totally customisable and (almost?) impossible to break.

2.  Project targets. If you are starting a new project you can set the goal number of words and the date on which you would like to complete the draft eg. 80,000 words by 30 September. Scrivener will then give you your daily target and in the Mac version you can watch the little line turn from red to green as you approach your daily target. The daily target then readjusts according to how many words you write (ie a few great days writing and it will come down, a few missed days and it goes up).  It will even send you a message when you have reached target. This was brilliant when I was doing Nanowrimo (50,000 words by 30 November...too easy!)

3. Label Colours. I write my stories in two points of view, hero and heroine. In the helicopter view (called the Binder) where all my scenes are listed, I can label each scene according to the POV (I use red for hero and green for heroine - Sasha uses pink and blue...). In one glance I can instantly see where one POV is predominating.

4.  Research:  With Scrivener you can store all your research (including importing photographs, videos and web pages) directly in the Binder with your story.

5.  Templates.  I am writing what I  hope will be a series. Because I can store all my character and research in the same file, I can create a template for use with the next books in the series to incorporate the research done on the first book - a sort of portable bible.

That's just 5 of my favourite things I love about Scriv (we are on abbreviated name terms now). If you are a Scrivener user, what are a few of your favourite things and if you are not a Scriv user and want to ask a question, try me...

In the meantime if you are coming to the Romance Writers of Australia conference, Sasha and I are running a hands on workshop...bring your own computer. Sadly we only have an hour and it will be a very basic introduction to Scrivener but if it overcomes your fear of the dreaded interface then our work will be done... (and rumours of us getting Scrivener tattoos are quite unfounded!)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Taking Tea with...Imogene Nix

My tea guest this week is the prolific author, Ms. IMOGENE NIX.  I have had to lace my stays a little tighter because Ms. Nix is a writer who strays to the hot ... erotic ...sensual side of writing, coupled with fangs and claws, with a few spaceships and pirates thrown in.  I have invited her to join me because I am, although a lady, intrigued about this rapidly rising side of the publishing industry and I wish to ask her some probing interesting questions...So welcome, Ms. Nix...Tea?

Thank you, but I'm not really a tea drinker.  In fact it's rare to see me with one, usually when I'm feeling sick. Then I'll stick to a fruity tea - blackcurrant or blackberry and even the occasional strawberry. 

My parents are veteran tea drinkers... used to be 10 cups a day... but after making pots of the stuff, I just can't drink it. Besides which, I like my taste full-bodied... and tea just is thinner than coffee for me.

So when all is said and done, I'll have a nice espresso or even a mild roast coffee thanks. :)

Of course...a mild roast it is...shall we start?

Imogene, your books cover a spectrum of genres from paranormal, sci fi, contemporary, suspense and a little bit (or is that a lot?) naughty? You write short and you write long… why the variety?

Yes my books are quite naughty... but always lots and lots of fun. <g>

I like variety.  The old “spice of life” thing kicks in and I give in to any whim that passes my way... Then again, that could be because I’m a Gemini too!

I really like being able to delve into a range of genres because they each offer their own challenges.  Science Fiction has to have more than just a passing knowledge of various aspects of travel (and it just happens to be something I feel deeply invested in.)
With paranormals, unless you completely change the rules, have a strong mythological background.  It’s fun to find ways to mix it up while sticking to the known rules... and romantic suspense stories feed my blood thirsty tendencies... (Should I have admitted to that? Lol!)

The variety in lengths is probably more a result of knowing that some stories are complete at say 20 000 words while others need 80 000 to tell the whole story.  I firmly believe that the advent of ebooks has allowed us to tell shorter stories, without the need to pad them out, or push them to one side. 

Previously, so few anthologies were released even though this was the only way a novella or short story would be published.  Publishers decided that they weren’t a viable length of story... Unless you were an NYT Best Seller, then you had a better than even chance that something might happen with your tale.

I let each one take their distance...whatever length that might be.

Speaking as someone who seems to spend an inordinate amount of time on quill sharpening, I am intrigued…How do you manage your time to write so prolifically, do you have a regular daily routine?

I think sometimes I’m a little odd when it comes to my writing. I’ve come to the conclusion that an authors mind works quite differently (or again, maybe that’s just me...) in that you can’t force a story to appear. 

You have to let it settle and boil before serving.  So I have a range of typical days.  If the story is coming at me, then I write.  On those days, it’s not abnormal for me to start at 7.30 am and go as hard as I can until 3pm (only stopping for school run and lunch/bathroom breaks.) Then I will resume after whatever needs to be done in the afternoon, throw something on the table and keep going...

If I’m in a quiet period, I might be writing challenges, critiquing others work or completing edits that are due.

 I've found that this way, it’s not uncommon for me to pump out five thousand words.  In fact, that’s my average word count per day but a rocking day has been known to hit as high as thirteen thousand.

On the days my brain is saying ‘Don’t write’ I might be doing blogging stuff or sitting back with a book (letting the creative tank refill).

It’s a fairly laid back attitude but it works for me.

As a lady, I am intrigued, but haven’t dared ask anyone else…Firstly, how would you define erotic romance? Secondly, can you explain to me the run away success of erotic romance?

Ah...  Erotic Romance is one where we don’t close the bedroom door, yet use those situations to enhance the character development of the stories. 

Yes, you do get everything.  Every touch and sigh. Every utterance.  But what you also get to see is how the deep emotional connection the two characters are formed.  A good erotic romance must use those intimate scenes to show the growth of the relationship without being gratuitous.  It’s not sex for sex’s sake. (And that is why it’s not porn, as our work is regularly mislabeled.)

To my mind, what has happened in the last few years, is that people have started to come to terms with their sexuality.  They are starting to realize that this is a part of life. There have been some high profile releases that have “mainstreamed”  eroticism but it’s a double edged sword... and I think most readers are now aware of the love/hate relationship some authors have with those well known big sellers.

I believe that as humans evolve, so does our need to explore our sexuality through creative avenues, and I’d like to point out that in many countries, this has been considered a fairly mainstream theme for years. We have been seeing erotic content on the screen for over 40 years already.  Remember Last Tango In Paris (1972) and Less Than Zero (1987) – they featured mainstream big names yet pushed the boundaries of what was considered either tasteful or appropriate, so there has been a need for it to be examined. Yet we have quibbled over what can be found in literature.

The thing that does continue to amaze me is that for many years, we’ve had a very strong underground movement of erotic writings... it is only now though, because of a couple of titles, that they are getting the ability to be publicly displayed. And that has to be a good thing.

We do share one thing in common…I LOVED “Firefly” (be still my fluttering heart - that nice Mr. Quillian...) -- as a writer in that genre, why do you think a second series was never commissioned? (It has been suggested it was because the character arcs weren’t strong enough?)

Oh the character arcs most certainly were.  I could say it’s because the stations played it so late that it never got a foothold when first released.  That such fol-de-rol  was treated with a fair degree of contempt hence the timeslot.

But to be honest, I just want to see it come back.  Though, I’m not sure what they could do with it now.  I mean no Wash? No Preacher?  And Kadie and Dr Tam a couple.  It would require a significant amount of reworking.... but if anyone can, then the great master, Joss Whedon could manage it. 

Browncoats Unite! Hoozah...

Thank you,'ve been a wonderful guest and I wish you every success with your latest book HESPARIA'S TEARS:

What will happen when the past catches up?
Galan is from Hesparia, where the females are dying out on his pacific agrarian planet.
Jessa has a past, one she hasn’t earned but cannot escape from.
What will happen when opportunity knocks?
Galan travels to earth, hoping to plead the case for Hesparia. He doesn’t expect Jessa or The Quickening.

Can he make the case for women to migrate to Hesparia and arrange a Diplomatic Alliance? Can they trust one another with their hearts. And can Jessa really escape her past?

And finally a little bit about my delightful guest, IMOGENE NIX

A mother of two, compulsive reader and bookstore owner I live in regional Queensland, Australia with my husband, 2 daughters, dog, cats and prize winning chooks. I have a particular fondness for Vampires, Star Ship Captains and things that go bump in the night.

I'm a lover, not a fighter so you'll find me in the chocolate aisle or making wine downstairs or maybe even in the kitchen making scones or other yummy treats. Apart from that I'm made keen on tech geekery or snuggling up to my super pup, Teddy, with a good book!

NEXT WEEK ELIZABETH ROSE will be taking tea with Ms. Stuart.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Writer's Life: Finding the fun again...

Firstly, thank you to everyone who responded (on and offline) to last week's post on my tortured decision to stop writing a story. 

It got me thinking about that vexed questions of goal setting. If you have ever attended any workshops by Bob Mayer, you will know that this question is the cut and thrust of his presentation. Writing is a business like any other and you should have a business plan with clear and achievable goals.

So let me share my goal with you... I want to see my book on the bookshelf of an airport bookshop. There I've said it (a lifesize cardboard cutout of moi would be the cherry on the cake). Realistically this isn't going to happen while I write historical romance, unless it is that elusive animal "The Breakout Novel" (of Don Maas fame). How much genre romance do you see on the shelves of airport bookshops? Virtually none. Apparently international air travellers don't want to read light, happy novels...

As I discussed last week, my foray into writing a book "for the market" has ended in pain for me and forced me to evaluate why I write. Oh yes, I do want to earn a living from writing (there - call that Goal #2) . If I am ever going to achieve Goal #1 (airport bookshop) then I know that elusive breakout novel is there somewhere in my future, but I am not going to find it by forcing myself to write something that is not singing to me.

I often compare writing to painting and in this case, writers to painters. Have you ever been to a country art show? There, proudly displayed on the walls of the local shire hall are the creative works of a range of artists from the truly execrable to the genuinely talented. My darling grandmother, an artist in her own right, used to judge art shows and when faced with the daubings of the dubiously talented would say: "You must have had a lot of fun painting that." And the artist would smile and nod because, yes they had had a lot of fun painting it.

Not every artist is going to be Leonardo Da Vinci or Rembrandt. Sometimes their art may go no further than their own walls, let alone the Shire art contest but fundamental is the love of what they are doing and I think writing is a little like that. We are not all going to have our books in the bookshops of international airports (or even in our own local bookshop). There are, of course, a myriad ways now to get your writing "out there" but in some ways it is really no different to hanging your work on the wall of the Shire Hall. Some people will see it, some people will like it...but it may get you no closer to that international airport and maybe, just maybe, we have to be satisfied with that.

The first rule of writing then is to write what you love, write what you know, write what makes you happy. If you don't, then you will do as I did - find yourself chained to a desk with all the enjoyment of pulling out your nails one by one. If you are fortuitous enough to hit the happy combination of writing what you love AND selling a gazillion books, then I raise a glass to you (and I really do know and celebrate many successful writers who do just that).

My breakout novel is there...I know it is. I even know what it looks like but I'm not ready for it. Right now I have set aside what has been a year's work and I am writing something that is making me extraordinarily happy, something that is worth sacrificing my days, nights and weekends for the sheer joy of spending time with my imaginary friends. Does it have a market? Will it find readers? You know something, I'm not sure I really care. Right now I am writing because it is fun.


PS And as for my "Regency"? Well I don't believe ANY writing is actually wasted. If nothing else,  I learned and honed my craft in writing it and I am fairly confident the characters and plot will make an appearance sometime in the future in a different incarnation. At the moment, they have booked a cruise to Fiji and are lying, exhausted on sun loungers drinking copious amounts of alcohol.

PPS: For those who have asked, alas GATHER THE BONES was once again the bridesmaid in both the Award of Excellence and Bookseller's Best Awards ... but oh my - what a thrill to be nominated!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Taking Tea with...SASHA COTTMAN

It is my great pleasure to have as my tea guest this week, "new to you" author, SASHA COTTMAN. Sasha is not "new to me" because we have been members of the same writing group for a couple of years now and like my fellow group members, we have journeyed with Sasha and her wonderful characters Millie and Alex ("the Great") from their first conception through to publication.

One of the aspects of her lovely Regency Romance, LETTER FROM A RAKE, that really struck me was Millie's love of tea, particularly a good chai. Now I have to confess I am not a fan of chai (although I do drink it black)...spicy tea with milk seems somehow wrong to me, so I have asked Sasha to explain to me what the lure of a good chai tea is all about!
Sasha Cottman

Thanks for having me over for tea this afternoon Alison. Unfortunately I forgot the champagne and my family decided they liked the look of the cake I had baked, but at least I remembered the chai. 

A "good" chai
I must say the milk and spices in the chai are a change from my usual Earl Grey. (Alison:  Errk...Early Grey again?)

It’s funny because when I say I am having a cup of chai; my Indian friends often shake their heads. Many people in the west are under the misconception that chai is a type of tea brewed with spices such as cardamom and ginger, when in fact chai is simply the Hindi word for tea.
(Alison - it is also the swahili word for "tea" - deriving as it does from the Indian workers brought to Kenya to build the railway)

Masala chai is the true term for the beverage made with spices. Depending on where the chai is sourced, it may come with the spices already mixed in with the leaf, or added later. Milk or sweeteners may be included as parts of the preparation, but my Indian friends assure me that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to chai.

I understand tea was not the drink of choice for everyone in Regency England.

We all have the image of people in England sitting around a dining table taking tea, but only the wealthy could afford good tea. During the Regency period, tea still came predominantly from China, and it was not until the Victorian era that the Indian tea crops took over as the major source of tea in England and the continent. Since tea had to travel a long way from China and was heavily taxed, it was very expensive. The ordinary citizen of London drank a horrible concoction of used, redried tea leaves, often mixed with all manner of foul additives.

How does chai feature in LETTER FROM A RAKE?

When Millie’s family in Letter from a Rake arrive in London, they are dismayed to discover they cannot source good Indian chai leaf. Alex Radley, Marquess of Brooke has a trick or two up his sleeve and manages to lure Millie Ashton into accepting a late night rendezvous on the promise of real tea from her homeland.

Alex turned back to the stove and after locating the tea canister; he took it down from the shelf and brought it over to her. He lifted the lid and waved the tin under Millie’s nose. ‘Marsala chai, Miss Ashton,’ he announced with a certain degree of smugness.

Her eyes lit up with delight and she eagerly took hold of the canister. She held one finger up to signal that she had yet to judge his offering. Then she put her face over the opening of the tin and took a deep breath. She sat back in the chair, still clutching the tea canister and closed her eyes. 

‘Oh Alex, you have no idea what that aroma does to me and how much it reminds me of home,’ she murmured. ‘I had forgotten how wonderful it feels when the sharp edge of the tea finds its way to the back of your throat. I have missed it so much.’

Born in England, but raised in Australia, Sasha has a love for both countries. Having her heart in two places has created a love for travel, which at last count was to over 55 countries. A travel guide is always on her pile of new books to read. 
Five years ago, Sasha accidently enrolled in a romance writing course. Other than Pride and Prejudice she had never read a romance book before. She soon discovered that the world of historical romance allowed her to combine her love of history with the passion of romance writing. 
Sasha has an MBA as well as post graduate qualifications in electronic media. Having worked as an accountant in a media group for many years, she now finds herself in the unique position of having seen both the business and creative sides of publishing.
Sasha lives in Melbourne with her husband, teenage daughter and a cat who thinks sitting on the keyboard is being helpful. Her family have managed to find all but one of her secret chocolate hiding places.
When not writing, she is busy working full time as a Chartered Accountant. On the weekends Sasha loves walking on the beach while devising new ways to torture her characters.
Letter to a Rake is Sasha’s debut novel.

Also available at Google Play, Readcloud, Angus & Robertson and

In the excerpt Sasha gave us, the smell of chai reminds Millie of "home". Smell is a powerful sense: the smell of cinnamon buns reminds me of a cold winter's morning in Harper's Ferry, the smell of Frangipani immediately brings back memories of my childhood home in Kenya......are there any smells in your life that bring back strong memories...?  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Writing Life: The Black Moment of a Writer's Soul

In all my books, the hero will at some point experience the "black moment", when all hope is lost and he/she is faced with  hopeless odds and there is no turning back.

I had never really thought it applied to the writing process until I hit a BLACK MOMENT last Friday with the sudden realisation that I was writing the WRONG BOOK. I am not talking about "writer's block", although that is a related symptom of the disease. (When you are writing the WRONG BOOK, every word is extracted from your subconscious like fingernails being pulled from the roots)

It began with a bad decision... I decided to write a Regency Romance. I won't say it was a cynical decision but I was looking at "the market" and trying to be sensible and business like. I did a business case evaluation and decided on a balance that Regency sells- English Civil War doesn't. Don't get me wrong, I like Regency romances - Anne Gracie and Jo Beverley are 2 of my favourite authors. I read and enjoyed Jane Austen but Georgette Heyer bored the socks off me as a teenager (although I have recently come to enjoy her work). As a period of history "Regency" is not seated in my soul - I can do Georgian and Victorian but I don't live and breathe Regency in the way my Regency writing friends do. So yes, it probably was a cynical decision but once I started writing it, I came to like my characters and I enjoyed playing with the social mores of the time.

Now if you have ever read my books you will know I like a gnarly plot and I simply couldn't write a "straight" regency. Oh no...a little bit of a murder mystery crept in, just to amuse the characters and give them some external conflict to play with. I finished did nicely in a contest for unpublished a full request...and a rejection. Several more full requests and more rejections until the last rejection. It was one of those lovely rejections that makes you think the editor actually really liked the book but it didn't quite fit the fact she said "too much mystery". Oh... back to the submission roundabout until an email appeared out of nowhere from the same publishing house, requesting a submission to another line.  With a few tweaks it may be suitable for the "crimrance" line  ie...all I needed to do was convert it from a romance with a mystery to a mystery with a romance. Easy, peasy! 

Welcome to Mt. Doom and the vaults of Mordor...

So that is what I have been doing...all year. Yes, all my writing energy has gone into "tweaking" this book. The problem is a proper mystery or crime story is structured differently to a romance and this book was written as a romance. To do it justice, required a major rewrite and on Friday as the characters gathered in the stable for the climax, involving shoot outs and carriage chases, I stared at the computer screen and realised it was all wrong and wrong on so many levels but I couldn't put my finger on the cause of the trouble. I had reached Mount Doom. I emailed my wonderful critique group in utter despair and one of my group emailed me back:  Are you sure it's rubbish or are you mourning the story that was? Is it because it's not singing in your heart like your stories normally do?

YES! She had hit the proverbial nail on the head. It was both of those things but primarily the second. This story had never sung in my heart. I had begun writing it for the WRONG reasons. It had always been the WRONG STORY. What if it was accepted even as romance? Did I want to go on writing Regency romance?, because it is not my period of history. I'm not comfortable in that period and I really feel one of the reasons for its rejection was because my voice lacked authenticity.  The conventions of regency romance are not my sort of stories and when that was combined with trying to make it fit into a mystery template, I was, in point of fact, trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole. Even if I managed to make it vaguely circular and force it into some sort of compliance, it would never sit properly. I was cheating myself and more importantly I was cheating the reader.

So I have just spent over half a year on a story that I now know is going nowhere. It is the WRONG STORY. What to do?

Should I...?

  • Battle on and finish it, submit it to the editor who requested it? Odds on it will be rejected but what if it's not? Is it a one off or do I want to write regency "crimrances" or will she get a terrible shock when my next book is an English Civil War "crimrance" (you know...that period that nobody wants to read about!)? Or
  • Do I accept that career wise I made a wrong decision, take the learnings from the experience and write something I want to write...the story that is singing in my heart?
There is a third alternative that I am considering... To do a total rewrite, set in a period I feel comfortable in eg Victorian or Edwardian...but right now I couldn't bring myself to do that. My characters are exhausted - I am exhausted. I think we all need a cup of tea and a good lie down.

So, I am setting it aside  and picking up the story I have been wanting to write all year - the one I want to pitch at the conference in August, the one that makes my heart sing and my eyes light up when I talk about it. 

Sometimes the lure of publication may not be all that it promises to be...not if you find yourself writing the WRONG BOOK.

Back to a happy place...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Taking Tea with...HELENE YOUNG (and a giveaway)

This week I have Australian romantic suspense author, Helene Young, to join me for tea. 

My dear Helene, do come in...

Hi Alison, thanks for having me around for a chat! Congratulations on the multiple award nominations for GATHER THE BONES. You must be delighted.

Thank you. I know how much an award nomination means to me but you must be thrilled that your last book, BURNING LIES, has been nominated for a RUBY Award (and your other books have also  garnered enormous kudos)? What does nomination (and winning!) awards mean to you?

I am thrilled and a little overwhelmed to have the final book in my Border Watch trilogy join the first two on the RUBY shortlist. Winning the award in 2011 and 2012 made a great deal of difference to my confidence level. When Wings of Fear won in 2011 I was struggling to find a home for BURNING LIES and the RUBY helped secure me a place with Penguin Australia. Knowing that readers had connected with my stories continues to be a humbling, but uplifting feeling. BURNING LIES is also on the short list for the Daphne du Maurier awards in America so it’s wonderful validation for my almost ‘orphaned’ story!

(Helene has a copy of Burning Lies to give away to a lucky commenter...see below)

Helene, I know you have recently made a lifestyle change and I will come back to that shortly, but first I have always wanted to know more about your former career. You are/were a commercial airline pilot. I remember the horror when the first woman in Australia flew a commercial plane. You would think it was going to drop out of the sky! When did you become a pilot and what was your experience of being a woman in what was (and still is?), a man's world?

I remember very clearly the battle Deborah Lawrie (Wardley) fought against Ansett and the establishment to earn the right to pilot a commercial jet aircraft in Australian. At the time I was in high school and couldn’t believe that women were still being shut out of the airlines. Her very public court case also may have been the reason my Career Guidance Officer suggested I might like nursing instead of flying…

Having left school in 1980 I didn’t start flying until 1989 (I had a lot of fun in the intervening years!). Those with long memories will remember 1989 as the year of the pilots' strike. It wasn’t the most auspicious start to a career, but being a woman worked in my favour. I did my training at Archerfield Aerodrome in Brisbane where there were about 120 working pilots of which one was a woman. The owner of the flying school had a teenage daughter who was an aspiring pilot and he was keen to have a female mentor for her. Once I finished my Instructor training he employed me and I’ve been flying ever since. Industry wide about 5% of working pilots are women. In the Qantaslink base in Cairns 20% of our pilots are women. The odds of going to work with a crew of four women are pretty darned good and I love it!

Helene at the controls of a Dash 8
Like most industries there are glass ceilings, but I’ve had some wonderful men who’ve mentored me and I’m now a Check and Training Captain with the airline. Although of course I’d love to see the participation rate continue to grow.

Please have a cucumber sandwich and tell me about your recent "seachange"? How is your dog adapting to life as an "old sea dog"?

Zeus, the old sea dog, basking in the sun
Yum, I do love a cucumber sandwich! Our seachange was 12 years in the planning and execution and we’re now both enjoying our life afloat. Zeus has settled in well, but the obvious difficulty with no longer being able to pop out the dog flap to inspect the bushes in the back yard has made for some sleepless nights… However it’s a sunny winter in Cairns so he spends a large part of his day snoozing on the back deck in the sun. Marina life has a definite rhythm all of its own!
Your latest book, HALF MOON BAY, has been on a bit of a journey of its own since you first wrote it. What was the inspiration behind the story and how did it change from the original concept?

I finished the first version of HALF MOON BAY in 2005 and it was a finalist in the RWA Emerald Award in 2007. The current version looks very different with much more action and a more solid romance.

One of the main inspirations for HALF MOON BAY came from growing up at Currumbin Beach and seeing the way a community of retirees could find themselves facing huge changes as the tide of development swept their beach shacks aside. Council corruption was a given at the time and that sense of injustice stayed with me. The characters of Ellie and her sister, Nina, owe much to my sister and her friends who were all journalist with high ideals and incredible dedication to their jobs.

In the rewriting of the story before I submitted it to Penguin I also delved more into the trauma of war on both the armed forces personal and the war reporters so strengthening that part of the story was essential. But I think the thread that has always fascinated me is how people cope when someone they love or trust has crossed the invisible moral line in pursuit of justice or the truth. For Ellie finding the truth about her sister may mean she has to accept Nina is not the wise and ethical woman she looked up. I think we can all relate to that sense of betrayal and I hope Half Moon Bay resonates with readers.

Thanks for chatting!

And thanks for being such a wonderful guest, Helene. You must fly...!

More about

Ellie Wilding has been running from her past, but when the residents of Half Moon Bay call for help she knows it's finally time to return home.  As an international photojournalist, she's used to violence in war zones, but she's shocked when it erupts in the sleepy hamlet on the north coast of New South Wales, threatening all she holds dear.
Battle-weary Nicholas Lawson walked away from his military career leaving unfinished business. In a coastal backwater, that decision returns to haunt him. He remembers all too vividly his last lethal assignment in Afghanistan when Ellie's sister, Nina, was shot and killed. Ellie's been in his dreams ever since, even if she doesn't remember him…
As a storm rages and floodwaters rise, Ellie struggles to save her community. But who can she trust? Nick Lawson, the dangerously attractive stranger with secrets, or an old friend who's never let her down?
 Find Helene at

(Comments close 17 July - if you wish to be included in the draw please leave an email address where you can be contacted)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Winners of the Anna Campbell Giveaway (calling Felicia!)

Congratulations to FELICIA (of Pennsylvania) for winning the draw for the "international" prize of DAYS OF RAKES AND ROSES in the Anna Campbell giveaway.  Please email me on and your prize will be winging its way to you.  

(In fairness to all, if the prize is unclaimed within 7 days we will redraw it.)

And congratulations to JENNIFER ENSOR for winning the draw for THESE HAUNTED HEARTS. Your prize will coming to you directly!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Some Cover Love ...

A short post today to unveil the gorgeous new cover for the PRINT edition of GATHER THE BONES. This story has been nominated for four different awards this year so I owe a big thank you to my readers!

If you are looking a fabulous cover (and anything else) designer, I highly recommend COVERHAUS . Megan is a joy to work with and I am ecstatic about this cover. It really "gets" the story.

<DRUM ROLL>  Ta da...

Friday, July 5, 2013

Taking tea with...Anna Campbell (and a Giveaway!)

Welcome to this week's Taking Tea with Ms. Stuart.

I am delighted to welcome one of my most favourite writer pals with whom to share a good cup of tea and the odd cucumber sandwich -- the marvellous award winning, regency writer Anna Campbell.

It is my particular pleasure to set out my best china and silver tea pot for Ms. Campbell to talk about her new release, DAYS OF RAKES AND ROSES (love the title, Ms. C.!) but wait there's more...she's offering a GIVEAWAY of her new book so read on...

Hi Alison! Thank you so much for having me as your guest today.

I’ve got a new North American release this week (hoping to get it into Australia and New Zealand in the near future). My e-novella DAYS OF RAKES AND ROSES from Grand Central Forever Yours has been billed as “Sons of Sin” 1.5. I think this is so cute – like it’s trying to squeeze in on the sofa.

Hey, I’m a writer, I don’t get out much! And in a way this novella is trying to squeeze in – it’s the delicious little appetizer between two big feasts, the gothic drama of SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUES’ BED and the (hopefully) sexy games of A RAKE’S MIDNIGHT KISS which comes out at the end of August.

Here’s the Amazon link for DAYS OF RAKES AND ROSES.  It’s available at the bargain price of 99 cents!

And here’s the blurb:
Lady Lydia Rothermere has spent the past decade trying to make up for a single, youthful moment of passion. Now the image of propriety, Lydia knows her future rests on never straying outside society's rigid rules; but hiding away the desire that runs through her is harder than she could have ever dreamed. Now as Lydia prepares for a marriage that will suit her family, but not her heart, Lydia must decide what's more important: propriety or passion?

Simon Metcalf is a rake and adventurer. But for all his experience, nothing can compare to the kiss he stole from the captivating Lydia Rothermere ten years ago. Simon can scarcely believe he's about to lose the one woman he's never forgotten. The attraction between them is irresistible, yet Lydia refuses to forsake her engagement. With his heart on the line, will Simon prove that love is a risk worth taking?

You can read an excerpt on my website here:

This story is unashamedly romantic. It’s about the reunion of star-crossed childhood sweethearts, Lady Lydia Rothermere and Simon Metcalf, after ten years apart.

I think the title’s very romantic. Even more, that gorgeous pink cover really conveys the lush emotions of this book. Look at the scattered roses and the melting body language. If he doesn’t kiss her in the next five seconds, I think we’re ALL going to combust!

I’ve had some beautiful covers in my time, but I think this is one of the nicest. I love how the people at Grand Central Publishing really try to match the tone of the books – and the colouring of the characters too. Lydia is my first redhead and Simon is one of those golden blonds, a bit like Anthony Andrews in THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL movie.

In fact, Simon will make it two blond heroes in a row – up until now, my only blond hero was the Marquess of Ranelaw in MIDNIGHT’S WILD PASSION. Sir Richard Harmsworth, the very Scarlet Pimpernelish hero of A RAKE’S MIDNIGHT KISS, my next release, is another blond.

Clearly, I’m going to be working my pictures of Anthony Andrews hard for the next few months! And again, it’s a beautiful cover!

So do you like your heroes dark and dangerous or blond and shiny? Do you have a favorite blond hero from a romance? Who’s your favorite blond man? Robert Redford? Brad Pitt? Baryshnikov? Do blonds have more fun?

Anna has a download of DAYS OF RAKES AND ROSES for a commenter from North America today and as a consolation prize for our international visitors, a download of her ghostly romance THESE HAUNTED HEARTS for a commenter from outside America. Please let us know where you’re from when you comment and good luck! 


(Interesting topic, Anna...I am not immune to the charms of the blonde haired hero - Sean Bean as Richard Sharpe won me over completely as the tall, blonde and dangerous to know guy and let's not forget David Wenham in Sea Change or (be still my fluttering heart) Rupert Penrys-Jones in anything...but most particularly in Sense and Sensibility as Captain Wentworth. Tall, blonde AND wearing a stock and riding boots!)