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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Crime and Punishment for Beginners - D.B. TAIT

This time last weekend I was enjoying the company of 400 of my closest friends (and I do mean that literally) at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference. Among them was today's guest D.B. Tait. 

In another life Tait is probably better known as erotic romance writer, Keziah HIll, but, like me, she is turning to a life of crime or at least, romantic suspense! Born and bred in Sydney Australia, DB Tait is a life long lover of books in all forms but crime fiction in particular. She worked for many years in the criminal justice system before deciding a tree change was need, so decamped to the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. Now she writes and works part time in the community sector. Her first full length novel, Cold Deception, was published by Momentum, the digital first line of Pan Macmillan in March 2015. Her next novel Desperate Deception will be published in October 2015. 

With her background in the criminal justice system, she is ideally placed to write crime fiction. Can't wait to read this one!

Crime and Punishment for Beginners

When writing a contemporary romantic suspense novel, world building is as important as it is for historical novels or science fiction. My second full length novel to be released in October 2015, Desperate Deception, is set in the Blue Mountains where I live and deals with themes relating to imprisonment and crime.

I worked for quite a number of years in the New South Wales prison system so I thought in writing this book, and the previous book in the series, Cold Deception, that I had already in my mind what I needed to bring the stories to life. I would just need to ransack my memories.

But memory is faulty. Parole details, sentencing details, what someone who has been arrested and denied bail might experience in the van on the way to jail, were all aspects of my story I had to re-remember and fact check. I’m lucky that I have contacts in the prison system still (no, not that kind of contact!) so some things were easier than others to get right.

I also have a couple of handy criminal lawyer friends who can ensure the legal details are correct.

But I needed to get the feel of a criminal court trial. I’m not sure if this falls into the category of a Fun Friday Fact, (since it’s a bit depressing) but an online resource that is useful for getting the flavour of a criminal court in NSW and how a Judge summarises a whole criminal case at the point of sentencing, is the Case Law site (previously Lawlink) Here you can find Judges’ sentencing comments on a range of legal matters. These sentencing comments are often bleak and terrifying in their ordinariness - dry accounts of often awful and pathetic crimes.

They are a gold mine for a crime writer, fascinating in their detail of both the law and the circumstances of the crime. But has I read them, I feel like a voyeur into the lives, not only of the perpetrators, but of the destroyed victims, both living and dead. Some Judges, amid the dry discourse of case law, express poignant sympathy and regret for those left living, providing a glimpse of humanity in what is frequently a monolithic and cruel legal system.

These small shards of light in sentencing comments are the moments when my crime writer mind expands with possibilities for stories. I wonder about the victims, the perpetrators and what happened that brought them so disastrously together. What was going on in their minds and in the minds of those tasked with bringing the perpetrators to justice? Showing that, bring it to life, is the essence of a good crime story.

Secrets, lies, deception. That’s what it takes to stay alive.

At 20, Julia Taylor went to prison for murdering a man who deserved it. Ten years later, she’s ready to put the past behind her and get on with her life. But someone won’t let her. Someone will do anything to drive Julia away, including murder.

As the body count rises, Julia is forced to accept the help of Dylan Andrews, a cop with dark secrets of his own. Unfortunately help has a cost. Dylan is digging into Julia’s past, uncovering secrets she is desperate to keep.

Julia must keep Dylan at a distance, or else risk her own safety, and the safety of everyone she loves …

Read an Excerpt from Cold Deception
Dylan Andrews led the struggling woman away from the Council building, across the square and to the wisteria covered picnic area. Grey and bare, the twisting vine hung down in a dense veil, providing minimal cover from prying eyes. Luckily few people were around on this freezing morning.
“What’re you doing? Let me go!”
Through her struggles Dylan could see she was still gasping for breath and shaking. The dark circles under her eyes stood out in stark relief against the complete whiteness of her skin.
“Sit down,” he ordered. “You’re having a panic attack. Just sit there and breathe.”
She collapsed on a bench and leaned against the stone picnic table.
“I’ll be alright in a minute,” she said in a small voice.
He stared down at her, irritated with himself and his reaction to her. Everything he knew about Julia Taylor indicated she wasn’t the run of the mill ex-crim, yet his hackles rose when he was around her. He knew he wouldn’t have to keep an eye on her like most crims first out of jail. She wasn’t a user and murderers had a low recidivism rate. Many people thought her crime was justified and there was certainly no doubt the pedophile priest was no loss to the world.
That was the problem. She didn’t have the right to make that decision. No one did except a court of law. Sure, she’d been young and foolish, but he’d seen first hand what out of control vigilantism did. Some nights the vision of Dale Rowe’s dismembered limbs still visited him ….
Her breathing returned to normal and some colour appeared in her face. No doubt about it, the Taylor women were stunners. Blossom was a carbon copy of her mother, but the woman in front of him was equally compelling. Instead of dark and petite like the other women in her family, Julia was taller with round curves, pale skin and chocolate-honeycomb hair. She pulled off her woollen beanie and strands of gold flashed in the filtered winter sun. Looking into her eyes he could get lost in all that riot of colour. What were they? Green, hazel, brown? Large eyes filled with pain and something else. Something he didn’t want to think too much about.
Yearning. That’s what it was.
Not surprising, he supposed. You don’t spend ten years in jail without yearning for freedom. But wanting was a double edged sword, as he knew only too well. What you wanted wasn’t always good for you.
He sat in on the bench opposite her, aware his size intimidated her. That was okay in some situations but not in the midst of a panic attack. He watched her scrub her hands over her face and push back her mane of hair. Pulling her scarf free from around her neck she took in a deep breath and let it out.
The skin of her neck was creamy and pale. He couldn’t help following that track of smoothness down toward her buttoned shirt. It was a little too tight and the first button pulled, stretching to open.
He gave himself a good mental slap. Of all the women in the world to lust after, this was not the one. Apart from the fact she was just out of jail; was suffering from a bad transition to the real world and he might have to arrest her sister at some stage, there was something about her he knew was dangerous. Not dangerous for others, just for him. Under that tough persona he could see she was too vulnerable, too lost.
“Do you want me to get you some water?” he said.
She shook her head.
“How often does it happen?”
She finally met his eyes and he saw wariness had replaced yearning. Good. She needed to be on guard.
“Just when I come across a crowd of people in an enclosed space. I thought I was over it. I guess I’m not.”
“You had one yesterday when I bought Blossom home. There wasn’t a crowd there.”
Hard bitterness leached into her eyes.
“I wasn’t expecting to see a cop on my doorstep so soon after getting out. You reminded me of someone.” She wounded the scarf back around her neck and stood up. “Thanks for saving me,” she said with a wry smile. “It’s a first for me.”
“Being saved?”
“Being saved by a cop.” She crammed her beanie back on her head as the wind pricked up. “I’m okay now. Time for another go. This time I’m prepared.” She turned toward the Council Chambers.
When she was half way across the square he called after her.
“Who do I remind you of?”
She stopped and turned back toward him.
“The cop who punched me in the gut then pushed me into a filthy police cell the night I was arrested. He didn’t rape me. He’d done that already to the woman in the cell next to me. I was lucky, wasn’t I?” She shrugged. “He went on to big and better things, though. Quite a business man in more ways than one.”
She lifted her hand and saluted him then went on her way. A chill, colder than the icy wind, settled into his bones as he watched her go.

Links to your favourite digital bookshop where you can buy Cold Deception are here
You can also pre order Desperate Deception here

Find her on  her website

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Down among the dead... Guest post E.E. Carter

I have been greatly looking forward to having Australian author Elizabeth Ellen Carter as my guest because I know her latest book, MOONSTONE CONSPIRACY, involves a scene in the Paris Catacombs... or at least the part of the catacombs that has served as an ossuary for over 200 years. I visited the catacombs on our recent trip to Paris... and it is a case of one visited - never forgotten.


Paris has few skyscrapers unlike many modern metropolitian cities and the reason lies beneath the city streets.

For under the City of Light, is a City of Death.

They are the catacombs – miles of upon miles (some say as much as 400 miles) of tunnels that criss-cross the city.

Strictly speaking, only a little more than a mile of the underground network is an underground ossuary (correctly called a catacomb), the rest are disused mining tunnels that supplied limestone and gypsum for the people above ground.

I have to confess, that before researching Moonstone Conspiracy I hadn’t given much thought to the origin of ‘Plaster of Paris’!

Ultimately expediency helped the people of Paris solve a distasteful and potentially deadly problem – where to store the remains of the dead.

By the 17th century Paris was a major European centre home to half a million people – a population equal  to that of London. And people have a rather inconvenient habit of dying.

Rather than establishing new cemeteries outside the city (and one very good  reasons against doing so is cemeteries ‘sterilise’ arable land otherwise use for feeding the living), Parisians keep piling more and more bodies into existing cemeteries.

Church of Les Innocentes
Sadly, not a sustainable practice, especially when the inmates decide they want to escape – literally. Following heavy rains in the spring of 1780, a wall of Paris’s largest cemetery, Les Innocents , collapsed, spilling rotten corpses onto neighbouring properties.

From 1786 and for the next 12 years, between six and seven million new ‘residents’ found their eternal resting place underground. The earliest bones moved to the catacombs are estimated to be more than 1200 years old.

The catacombs today are a major Parisian tourist attraction – officially and unofficially. Organised tours are available to savour this history of this most remarkable  place.

Supporting pillars of bones and skulls
For others, known as cataphiles, the appeal is the forbidden. Groups of modern day cavers  explore the rest of the tunnel network, dodging officials sent to ferret them out and not always successfully. One underground amphitheatre had been turned into a cinema, complete with chairs, projector and screen, a neighbouring cavern was home to a restaurant and bar!

So it’s not very surprising to learn that during World War II, both the Germans and the French Resistance used the catacombs as secret bunkers.

While I didn’t find any research to suggest that Parisians looking to escape persecution and certain death during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror used the tunnels, I think they would have done so on that basis, the Paris Catacombs and the people who inhabited them play a major role in Moonstone Conspiracy.

During the French Revolution, churches were nationalised and deconsecrated, even the magnificent 1200 year old Notre Dame Cathedral was vandalised and turned into a temple for the culte de la raison (that incident featured in Moonstone Obsession). Not only were aristocrats guillotined, but also priests and nuns – including those who were cloistered with no interest in temporal politics – others were dragged out onto the street and hung or raped, then beaten to death.

Catacombs often brings to mind the ones in Rome where, back in ancient Rome, Christians escaped persecution. So I extrapolated some historical fact to create eglise sous terre – the church underground – in Moonstone Conspiracy to draw attention to not only real historic events in Paris, but also the restive outer regions including the Vendee.


A single candle lay inside a small adit, just wide enough for them to walk two abreast. Daniel picked it up and handed it to Abigail. His meaning was clear—if he had to defend them, he would need both hands.
The white chalky walls reflected the light down a tunnel which turned black as it pushed further into the hill.
“Do not fear, you are among friends,” whispered a voice that echoed eerily down the passage ways.
“Who do we have the honor of calling friend?” asked Daniel.
“Come further inside to safety. The soldiers are superstitious; they won’t come any further than this entrance.”
Daniel placed his left hand on the small of Abigail’s back to gently urge her forward. She glanced up at him and he gave a nod of confirmation making sure in the candlelight that she caught of glimpse of the knife he carried.
They rounded the corner and the passage continued for about fifteen yards to where a small lamp stood, indicating another corner. They rounded it and then another. Dotted at intervals of about ten yards small lamps lit their way until they entered another passage. Abigail suppressed a scream. A skull in the wall eyed her sightlessly. She raised her candle higher and could see skulls, hundreds of them, twenty feet along and lining six feet up the walls.
Bones of other sorts too were neatly stacked in rows.
“There’s no need to fear. Our sentries will keep a look out,” the voice laughed, amused by his own jest.


For her unwitting participation in a plot to embezzle the Exchequer, Lady Abigail Houghallhas spent the last two years exiled to the city of Bath. A card sharp, sometime mistress, and target of scandalous gossip by the London Beau Monde, Lady Abigail plots to escape her gilded cage as well as the prudish society that condemns her. But the times are not easy. France is in chaos. The king has been executed, and whispers of a similar revolution are stirring in England. And because of her participation in the robbery plot, the Spymaster of England is blackmailing her into passing him information about the members of London’s upper crust. 

When the dashing English spy Daniel Ridgeway takes a seat at her card table and threatens to expose her for cheating, she has no choice but to do as he demands: seduce the leader of the revolutionaries and learn what she can about their plot. As she’s drawn deeper into Daniel’s dangerous world, from the seedy backstreets of London to the claustrophobic catacombs of a war-torn Paris, she realizes an even more dangerous fact. She’s falling in love with her seductive partner. And the stakes of this game might just be too high, even for her. 


Elizabeth Ellen Carter’s lives in Australia with her husband and two cats. A former newspaper journalist, she ran an award-winning PR agency for 12 years.

Her debut novel, Moonstone Obsession set in England and France during the French Revolution,was published in 2013. Her second novel, Warrior’s Surrender, was published  the following year. Set in Northumbria in 1077, it sets the relationship between a displaced Saxon noblewoman and a Norman baron against the turbulent backdrop of England in the years following the Norman invasion of 1066. 

Warrior’s Surrender (now in print as well as eBook) was named Favourite Historical Fiction at the 2015 Readers & Writers Down Under Readers Choice Awards in March this year.

A Moonstone Obsession character, the sinful Lady Abigail Houghall, features in the full length novel Moonstone Conspiracy, released in July 2015.

Carter is currently working on her fourth novel, set in ancient Rome and tentatively titled Dark Heart, which will bring together the elements for which she has become known in just a few years – in-depth historical detail woven through gripping adventure and captivating romance.

Find E.E. Carter 

Saturday, August 8, 2015


Book 2 in the Guardians of the Crown series'

To be released on September 8 - The King's Man (Guardians of the Crown Book 2)

You met him in BY THE SWORD... you saw him fall at the Battle of Worcester. What has happened to Kit Lovell in the intervening three years... and can he ever forgive himself?

London 1654: Kit Lovell is one of the King’s men, a disillusioned Royalist who passes his time cheating at cards, living off his wealthy and attractive mistress, and plotting the death of Oliver Cromwell.

Penniless and friendless, Thamsine Granville has lost everything.  Terrified, in pain, and alone, she hurls a piece of brick at the coach of Oliver Cromwell, and earns herself an immediate death sentence. Only the quick thinking of a stranger saves her.

Far from the bored, benevolent rescuer that he seems, Kit plunges Thamsine into his world of espionage and betrayal – a world that has no room for falling in love.

Torn between Thamsine and loyalty to his master and King, Kit’s carefully constructed web of lies begins to unravel. He must make one last desperate gamble – the cost of which might be his life. 


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THE GUARDIANS OF THE CROWN... a series set in the English Civil War about love, honour, betrayal and loyalty... view the trailer...

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Wilful Colt - Guest post with Ann B. Harrison

My Friday guest this week is Australian author, Ann B. Harrison, with a horsey tale. I was one of those desperate horsey little girls who would have given my right arm to have my own horse... as it was I had to be content with an imaginary horse I kept stabled in the back yard by the incinerator. Just as well I had a vivid imagination! Consequently I love horsey tales...

Ann hails from a particularly lovely part of the country - the Hunter Valley  and her country background and environment makes her perfectly placed to write western/rural romances and romantic suspense. She tells me she is nurturing a desire to write about a man in a kilt... hmm, not a big call for kilts in rural romance! 
To find out more about Ann, visit her WEBSITE

Ann's latest book CHANCE FOR LOVE, is set a long way from the Hunter Valley - in the beautiful idyll of Colorado. Mountains and horses... and horses is what Ann will talk to us about today.


Growing up as a country girl, I had come into contact with a wide variety of animals and had more than my share of orphans to look after but my world changed when our first foal was born.

He was a stunning chestnut Arab with a crooked white blaze on his nose and we called him Shilo. Our daughter lay claim to him from the beginning and she adored him.

Our old neighbour whom we’d dubbed, Uncle Tom gave us all the advice we could wish for. I mean to say, we were used to sheep and cattle, not long legged graceful if not wilful colts.

Shilo soon got too big for his boots and when I walked into the paddock he would charge me, kicking up his feet and quite rightly putting the wind up me and his young owner.

Back then, almost twenty years ago, we weren’t so lucky as to have the internet so back to Uncle Tom we went. 
It was time to break in Shilo. We herded him into a yard with his dam and called in the local farrier who as the local horse breaker, educated us too.

“Never let him boss you around.” All well and good for a strapping 6’ man like him. I was 5’ nothing! “Show him who’s boss.”

We did. Solitary confinement seemed to work for him and we had no trouble breaking him in after that.

When I wrote the following scene in Chance for Love I remembered those words. “Never let him boss you around.” Callie, my Aussie heroine takes on a rodeo bull in order to save her husband from serious harm by herding said bull into a yard. I wish I’d had her nerves when we had our fiery colt to deal with.

Excerpt from CHANCE FOR LOVE

She looked on in horror as her husband threw himself on the ground only to be picked up and thrown through the air. He landed, hitting the ground hard. Callie waited for him to attempt to get up and escape the bull but he didn’t move. Terror pawed at the ground and ducked his head down, ready to attack again.

Callie turned the horse, rode to the gate, and slipped the latch, pushing her way through. She kicked Sultan’s ribs and headed straight for the bull, waving her hat and screaming at the top of her lungs. She rode between bull and man, pushing the bull further away from the prone body lying still in the grass.'

“Move you big bastard. Move I say.” 

She herded Terror away from Chance toward the holding yard, not stopping until he was forced inside and the gate was shut behind him. She hurried back to Chance and jumped from the horse before it stilled. Callie crouched beside him. “Chance, please, please be alright.”


Callie can't resist the advert for a ranch manager in Colorado. Only thing is, it also stipulates marriage. Down on her luck with more debt than she can manage after the death of her parents in a vehicle accident, she takes the plunge and commits.

Chance is sick of the high life he's led for years as a top rodeo rider. The glitz and glamour aren't what he wants. After an accident leaves him unable to return to the circuit, he decides now is the time to do what his heart has been yearning for - marry a down to earth country girl and raise bulls on his ranch, with the hope of bringing his brothers back together. Little did he know that an advert would bring him a sassy talking Australian bride to turn his world up side down.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

When the tribe roars...New releases from Downunder!

One wonderful aspect of being a writer (and maybe it is a romance writer thing!) is the generosity and the friendship of my fellow writers. Apart from my wonderful, amazing Critique Group (who are always ready with tea and sympathy over all aspects of life, not just writing), I am fortunate to belong to another group of published writers who meet every few months for lunch and laughs!

In an amazing coincidence, nearly everyone in the group has a book out or just coming out and I would like to introduce you to the varied talents of this incredible group - we are as different as the books we write!

First up is Nicki Edwards who writes medical romances set in remote parts of Australia.


Intensive care nurse Mackenzie Jones is no stranger to running. As a teenager she fled her family home with a tragedy in her wake. Now, after fifteen years alone in Sydney, with the strain of working in a city hospital wearing her thin, she's tempted to run again.

Mackenzie jumps at the chance to work in a mining town in the West Australian desert – anything to lift her spirits. Though she barely dares to hope, she wonders if she might find the kind of love that can ease her loneliness.

In the outback, Nathan Kennedy is at a loose end. He's been making money in the mines for years, and pressure from his family to return to the east coast, settle down and get married is reaching fever pitch. The problem is, he hasn't met the right woman.

When Mackenzie turns up in town, there's an instant attraction between her and Nathan, maybe even true love. But tragedy's not done with Mackenzie Jones – the past is about to catch up with her in more ways than one.
Can Nathan convince Mackenzie to stop running, or is this just another tragedy in the making?

Perfect for fans of Fiona McArthur and Melanie Milburne.

Recent releases from the tribe:

I have written before about Fiona Lowe's lovely Contemporary romances. Her latest series is set in Montana in the fictional town of Medicine River.  Her latest release is TRULY MADLY MONTANA

Romances set in the Australian bush are popular at the moment and Lisa Ireland has just released FEELS LIKE HOME (and I hum that song every time I step on a Qantas plane!). 

Coming soon...

And if you like your reading on the hotter side Delwyn Jenkins sexy, sensual paranormals are for you. Book 3 in the Watchtower series will be released on September 24. KISSED BY WATER

Sasha Cottman is a fellow historical romance writer and Book 3 in her Regency Romance Duke of STrathmore series, THE DUKE'S DAUGHTER will be released on 11 August. Sasha will be my guest later this month.

... and of course me... THE KING'S MAN will be released on September 8 but watch this space next week for news about that release!