One of the most common questions we writers get is "where do you get your ideas from?" I know some writers roll their eyes at this question, but I find it very flattering! It reminds me that while having my brain teeming with fictional people, places and conflicts seems extraordinarily normal and dullsville to me, it's not the typical experience of most people. In the same way that I am absolutely crap at numbers, some people couldn't come up with a sustained narrative to save their lives. And that is totally cool, because the world needs accountants AND writers, right? At least I hope they do!
I wanted to offer some insight into the inspiration behind my most recent Super Romance, The Other Side of Us. Which, incidentally, is FREE right now at Amazon, Apple i-store, and Barnes and Noble Nook, I believe. Get your free copy while you can, I say! And I hope you enjoy.
The narrative backbone for The Other Side of Us formed out of a couple of different inspirations. One was a conversation I had with my awesome writing buddy, Joan Kilby. She's a fellow Super Romance author (you should check her books out, she writes the most adorable, sexy, down to earth real men - men who make mistakes and have holes in their socks but who have huge, huge hearts) and I am lucky enough to live in the same part of Melbourne as her. We catch up for walks and talks and lunches, and one day when we were having lunch she told me how her dog, Toby, used to be an escape artist at their former property, always weaseling his way through the fence so he could go next door and play with the dog there. Immediately I thought "wow, what a cute meet. Imagine two people who are forced to interact because their dogs have the hots for each other." I went home, stewed on it a little, than rang Joan and asked if she would mind me using her anecdote as a story starter. She very generously gifted it to me, and I had the first part of my story.
I then started to think about why two people would need to be forced together by their dogs. Obviously, they would have to be neighbors, and they would have to be new neighbors, because otherwise there was no reason for the story to start NOW. I wondered if maybe one of them was a bit of a recluse, a younger version of a curmudgeon. At that point, I was thinking of the hero. And I wondered if the woman who moved in next door might have been burned, badly, by her marriage. I'm not sure why, but I couldn't stop thinking about Charles and Diana and Camilla. I don't know the real details about what went on between them, but one of the popular versions is that Charles never really got over the relationship he had with Camilla prior to marrying Diana, and that he never really gave it up once he was married, either. The idea of a long-standing affair that almost pre-dates the marriage took a hold in my mind. It's such a betrayal, one of those revelations that would really shake the world for a person. The trick, of course, was to make my heroine not look like an idiot for not realising what was going on.
So, I was all ready to go with this scenario, my outline was approved by my editor, all lights were green. Then I finished Suddenly You, the Super Romance I wrote prior to The Other Side of Us, and as I wrote the final chapters it occurred to me that I'd created two commitment-shy, once-burned heroines in a row. I did not want to get to the end of The Other Side of Us and find myself flailing around looking for ways to make Mackenzie's inner conflict different from Pippa's. And then it occurred to me that that would not be a problem at all if I made Mackenzie the curmudgeonly loner, and Oliver the once-burned-twice-shy betrayed person. Instantly my brain lit up like Guy Fawkes night and I knew I was on to something.
Then the rain came. Bucket loads of it, along with dire warnings from the weather bureau to clear out our gutters and drains because even more rain was on the way. They called it a catastrophic weather event, actually, and it was enough to get me up on the ladder cleaning the gunk out of our gutters. A pleasant task, not! That night, the catastrophe darkened our skies, but my husband and I were smugly confident that our drains and gutters were clear and clean. My brother called just before dusk, as the first flood of water streaked down from the sky. "Good luck," he said cheerfully."I'm looking at the weather radar at work and it's showing black above your place. Nice knowing you." I was talking on the cordless handset, and I walked to the front window as I assured my brother that we were fine, thank you very much, and the weather bureau had got us all panicking for nothing. Then I opened the blind and glanced out at the front driveway and realised that there was a RIVER of water pouring down it toward our house. "%&*$#!!! I gotta go!" I said to him. My husband was in his boxers and a tank top. I was in knickers and a tank top. We were both barefoot. I pulled on some pajama pants, shoved my feet into gumboots and went out to see if we could save our house from being flooded. We worked out quickly that the gravel from our slightly-sloping driveway had been washed down by the enormous flow of water and was blocking the grates on the drain across the foot of the driveway. Because the grate was blocked, water was simply flowing over it and pooling around our house. Creeping higher every second. We both tried to scoop gravel away from the grate but it was impossible to keep up with the amount being washed down by the river in our driveway. We settled for grabbing brooms and trying to channel the water either side of our house so it wouldn't creep any higher.
We worked like wet dogs for half an hour before lightning forced us to take shelter. It was scary and cold, but somehow my husband and I wound up laughing each time we looked at each other, soaked in our underwear and gumboots. I think we must have known at that point that we were going to be okay. Just. And sure enough, we were. The rain subsided, the flow from the street lessened. I walked up through the river-that-had-become-a-creek and saw that the road was completely flooded, the gutters in the street completely blocked or simply overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of the water.
The picture above is the aftermath of our exciting night - all the gravel in the middle ground used to be on our driveway. It doesn't look like much spread out like that, but it took me a whole day of shoveling and moving stuff in the wheelbarrow to clean it up. Fun and games.
It was a scary, crazy night, but the craziest thing of all is that as I was pushing water down the side of my house with a broom, I was thinking "Hey, this would be a great way for Mackenzie and Oliver to get past their initial bad impressions of each other and start to become friends. If her place was flooding and Oliver came over in the middle of the night to help and they were both wet and it was dark... Yeah. That could definitely work."
I'm not sure what it says about me that one of the first things I think about when something happens in my life is "how can I turn this into story?" Probably not something healthy, anyway! But this real-life event became a fictionalised flood in The Other Side of Us, just as Joan's dog story did. Next time someone asks me where I get my ideas from, I'm going to direct them to this blog post. Or maybe I won't, because the other place I get stories from is from listening to the people around me.... and I wouldn't want them to bite their tongues on my account!
PS. I have upgraded the security on my blog and comments are once again enabled. I would LOVE to hear from you, so don't hold back. Unless, of course, you're a spam bot, selling something horrible.
Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!And if you celebrate your festive occasions in another way at another time of the year, happy holiday season!
It was a big day down here in Australia - there was much cooking and baking in the lead up since the pudding had to be boiled (6 hours!) in advance and I needed a dessert to take to my sister's in the evening. Plus I helped my MIL out by roasting the veggies etc and taking them to her place for the midday meal. As usual, by the time the evening wore around Iwas looking less than pristine, with various food stains from helping out in the kitchen, no shoes, smeary make-up and a too-full stomach. Ah, Christmas, you've done it again! But it was a lovely day, and especially fun was watching our dog play with my husband's brother's dog, who was visiting from Sydney. They are both poodle crosses, and they seemed to "get" each other every nicely, indeed.
Today I am resisting the primal urge to visit the local shopping centre to see what the post-Christmas sales have to offer. I have more than enough of everything, lucky girl that I am. But I do love a bargain, too! I'm not sure how long I can hold out....
I hope that you and yours are happy and healthy, and that you have exciting plans for the new year ahead.
Suddenly You is officially out there, steaming up the streets. So far, readers seem to be enjoying Pippa and Harry's journey together, which is more than wonderful. It's always a huge relief when readers respond to a book.
There have been a few reader/reviewer comments about names in this book, so I feel as though I should maybe offer an explanation regarding them. Firstly, when I wrote All They Need, I had no idea I was going to fall in love with Mel's brother as I was writing him. Otherwise I would have thought a little more carefully about the fact that her name is Mel Porter, which makes him Harry Porter...which is just too damn close to a certain wizard we all know so well. Once I realised what I'd done - which, believe it or not, didn't happen until I was writing the first chapter - I couldn't think of a realistic way of undoing it. I mean, Harry and Mel's parents are happily married, so there was no reason for Harry to have a different last name from the rest of his siblings. And I couldn't change his first name, because that was well established. I decided I was simply going to have to draw attention to the elephant in the room as quickly as possible, which is why I had Pippa make a Harry Potter reference early on in the book. I hoped that by owning it, we could all move on. I hope it worked!
The other name issue is the fact that I've written a romance about a man called Harry and a woman called Pippa. With the royal wedding still pretty fresh in everyone's minds, I know there are probably quite a few readers wondering if this was wish fulfillment on my behalf. The answer is no, not at all. At least, not consciously! My editor was the one who picked up on the names and suggested I should maybe change them. But by that time I was so wedded (excuse the pun!) to Pippa being Pippa that I couldn't imagine her any other way. I tried a bunch of other names, even considered writing the book with her as Pippa to keep my writer self happy, then doing a "replace all" at the end... But then I couldn't even make myself do that.
Ask any writer - character names are IMPORTANT! It takes me quite a while to decide on mine, and I have a running list of names I collect from all over that inspire me and get my imagination rolling. The hero and heroine's names have to sound good together (to my ear, anyway) and they have to not be someone I know in real life - very hard to write hawt scenes when you have an image of a real person butting in on the movie playing in your mind! One of the many reasons I have still not used the name Tom as a hero's name. I love it in theory, but in practice I keep seeing a man jumping up and down on Oprah's couch. Enough said, I'm sure.
Anyway. That's probably more than enough on names! For those of you hungry for more from me, I have The Other Side of Us out in January, which really isn't that far away according to the Christmas decorations that have popped up in my local stores. If you review on your own blog, I believe you can even get an advance copy from Net Galley at present, so you can get a sneak preview if you're keen.
I'm also working on the first book in a self-published series I plan to write based around a family-run winery on the Mornington Peninsula, which isn't a thousand miles from where I live. The series will be called Fitzgerald's Run, after the vineyard, and so far I have plans for 6 books, which is pretty damn exciting. I just have to find time to write them now! Stay tuned!
Happy reading until next time!
PS. I am having a ton of trouble with spam comments at the moment. As in, 50+ a day. Until I work out a way to stop it, I am disabling comments. It's taking up precious time to screen all the spam, and I really don't want to miss a genuine comment from readers. If you'd like to chat, please drop me an email via the link on my site. My humble apologies for the inconvenience - I aim to have this sorted ASAP.
Okay, so after years of planning and plotting and dreaming, we have finally launched into home renovations. Two bathrooms and a kitchen, in case you were wondering, all of which has required that we move out for the duration. So, me, The Man and Max the Cavoodle have packed up our bags and shoe-horned ourselves into my mother's spare room.
As you can imagine, it's cosy. But we all get along very nicely, indeed, and Max has charmed my mother within an inch of her life. That's what he does. We have yet to introduce him to anyone who didn't want to smuggle him out of the house in their luggage and make him their own.
Back at the house, walls have been smashed, ugly 70s tile uprooted, floors pulled up. It's carnage, but it's also incredibly exciting. Tomorrow, I will be picking up the sample doors for the kitchen. I hope we still like the charcoal color we chose for the base units. We're going for a classic look - white cabinets on the wall, charcoal cabinets on the floor, white marble bench tops. Hopefully - fingers crossed - it's going to look lovely. I'm not even going to consider the alternative, and given the low benchmark set by our previous kitchen, it can't fail to please, really.
So, life has been a bit confused and distracting, but I am getting stuck into my next book, the release date of which is still a mystery to me. Sometime in 2013, I'm imagining. I've also been working on the outline for an anthology that I will be doing with Emilie Richards and Janice Kay Johnson. It's a lovely, exciting concept, and I can't wait to write my part of the story.
If you're wondering what's next, release wise, from me there's Suddenly You out in November (available in ePub format and paperback at Harlequin a whole month earlier - ie October - for those of you who can't wait!), then January sees the release of The Other Side of Us.
I'll detail Suddenly You more in my next post, but for now it's probably enough to let you know that this is Harry's story - in case you have forgotten, he's the brother of Mel, the heroine in All They Need. Harry's a bit of a party boy, staunchly refusing to grow up and give up his care-free bachelor existence. Until he meets Pippa, of course...
So as well as having a new book out - Within Reach - I’m involved with a fabulous e-reader and e-book giveaway this week, along with three talented, lovely writers who also write contemporary romance - Ruthie Knox, Molly O’Keefe and Shannon Stacey.
Basically, we are giving away four e-readers ( a Kobo, a Nook, and two x Kindles) via four of the big romance blogs (Dear Author, Smart Bitches, Smexy Books and The Season). All you have to do to be in the running is to comment at one of the blogs. Each blog is offering a different e-reader - for example, I’m offering a Kindle Touch at Smexybooks - and you can enter at all four blogs if you so choose. We’re aiming to convert people who are on the fence about e-books or to give converts the chance to gift an e-reader to a loved one. The comp runs from July 16 - 22 on all four blogs, so do a bit of blog hopping and give yourself four shots at winning. I dare ya!
A word about my fellow authors before I leave you to get on with your lives. I heart these three ladies and their books so much, I’m going to sing their praises a little, just in case you haven’t had a chance to pick up one of their books yet.
Molly O’Keefe is a fellow Super Romance writer, and Can’t Buy Me Love is her first foray into single title. This book is smart, challenging, funny and sexy. It’ s got a pro hockey player hero, a white-trash heroine who’s determined to look out for herself this time around, and a great conflict. Molly is a gorgeous writer and I have been reading her books since my editor put me onto her years ago. If you like sexy stories with great characters and smart writing, this book is a must.
Ruthie Knox’s debut book, Ride With Me, landed in my in-box earlier in the year when her editor asked me to read it and provide a cover quote. This always makes me a little nervous - what if I say yes but hate it? Well, there was absolutely no chance of that happening with Ruthie’s book. By the time I’d read the first page I was hooked, and I gobbled up the rest of the book in short order. Ruthie’s characters are real, funny, smart and human, and she’s writes the sexy, oh yes she does! Her latest release, About Last Night, is earning rave reviews all over and features a straight-laced Englishman and a reformed bad-girl. It’s emotional, steamy and funny - Ruthie’s hallmarks, I am coming to learn.
Shannon Stacey hit it out of the park with her series of books about the Kowalski family and she continues to do so with each subsequent release. She writes great family, great emotio
n and great sexy. Fabulous banter and strong conflicts are a given in every Stacey book. She’s funny, she’s human and she writes lovely, warm-hearted, hilarious romances.
You can see why I as so chuffed to be rubbing elbows with these ladies. I hope you put your hand up for an e-reader (and wouldn’t it be great if you won?!) and I hope you get a chance to read these talented writers if you haven’t already.
Harlequin have let me in on a secret and I'm allowed to tell you. It's pretty cool - they've made a video promoting my August Super Romance, Within Reach. It's going to premiere soon on Harlequin's Facebook page (toward the end of June, apparently). I haven't seen it myself yet, so I'm excited to see what they've done. I'll Tweet and blog and FB the link when it goes live.
Within Reach was one of those books that pretty much wrote itself. I'm not saying there weren't difficult patches - there were, and there always are, with every book - but I had a very strong grasp on the story arc for Michael and Angie so I just kept moving forward and eventually everything fell into place. I'm really looking forward to hearing what readers think of this one. I've had a little early feedback (apparently a box of Kleenex might come in handy....) but we're still a few weeks away from it being available for early release at Harlequin.
Stay tune for the link when the video goes live!
In the meantime, Her Best Worst Mistake has become my most reviewed book ever over at Good Reads. It's also got the highest rating out of all my books, with the majority of readers giving Martin and Violet's story four or five stars. Over at Kindle, it's holding steady in the rankings, too - not quite as high as the heady days when the book first came out, but it's averaging a very respectable spot most days. I am, of course, thrilled to bits that people are enjoying this story. The whole process of self publishing has been incredibly rewarding and my head is full of ideas for more books. When time allows, I will start in on my next self-project.
I had some truly lovely news this month - The Best Laid Plans(or the red umbrella book, as I call it, thanks to an awesome cover) is a finalist in the Romantic Book of the Year Awards down here in Australia. This award (known as the RuBY for short) is judged by readers, which makes it especially meaningful for me.
I am so thrilled that this book has found a home in readers' hearts. It was a bit of an unusual story - not that much sex, and the romance was very subtle, two people circling each other with a larger agenda allowing them to ignore their own feelings. To know that it's struck a chord with readers is a wonderful, wonderful thing. I will be going to the Gold Coast in sunny Queensland to attend the conference and the award ceremony, and I will be walking on air because of this nomination. I will also be amongst excellent company - the peerless and hugely popular Anna Campbell, Fiona Lowe, who has been nominated for just about everything with Boomerang Bride. There's also a moving love story set during World War II by Mardi McConnochie. As I have said to many of my friends, just being nominated is an honor.
I'm able to share the cover of my August release, Within Reach, now. Isn't it pretty? The art department have out done themselves. This is Angie and Michael's book, and I loved writing it. I can't wait to hear what readers think of it.
Here's the blurb:
Something more than friendship
Being a single dad was never on Michael Young's agenda. Yet with the sudden loss of his wife, that's exactly the role he has. On his best days, he thinks he can handle it. On his worst... Luckily, family friend Angie Bartlett has his back, easily stepping in to help out.
Lately, though. something has changed.
Michael is noticing exactly how gorgeous Angie is, and how single she is. She's constantly in his thoughts and he feels an attraction he never expected. Does he dare disrupt the very good thing they have going? If they have a fling that goes nowhere, he stands to lose everything - including her. But if they make it work, he stands to gain everything!
It will probably not surprise you to learn that I sooked a little while writing this book. Thinking about Billie, Michael's dead wife, and all that she's left behind, and the sadness that we all have to deal with when we lose someone we love... Well, it was pretty emotional. But I had a lot of fun with Michael and Angie's chemistry, and once they got past their guilt they definitely steamed up the sheets. The two children in this book are based on my neighbor's children. Lisa and Shane are kind enough to share Beth and Charlie with us on occasion, and they are charming, funny and lovely kids. It was a pleasure to "borrow" them for this book.
If you're visiting because you've heard about my self-published book, Her Best Worst Mistake, here's a link to the book page where you can find links to all the various places selling it on-line, as well as some quotes from readers and background information about the book. I've been fortunate enough to enjoy some wonderful reviews of this book, and I'm working on more books to self publish later in the year. Exciting times!
Her Best Worst Mistake has been out for nearly 10 days now, and people have been saying nice things. Phew. Always a relief to know that a book is connecting with readers, but even more so in this case because Her Best Worst Mistake is far more my book than any of my others, due to the fact that I've published it myself.
The self-publishing process has been a real eye-opener, both easier and harder than I thought. The actual mechanics of getting the work out there and loaded to the various retail sites is pretty user-friendly and fast. Amazingly so, actually. But the writing part was just as hard, if not harder than usual because I didn't have my trusty, adored editor by my side. Usually, she's the one who decides if a book is ready to go or not, but this time I was the one who decided it was time to stop tinkering (or rearranging deck chairs on the Titantic!) and get the book out there. A heady but also scary moment, trust me.
But as I said, so far people are liking my book, and that's a wonderful feeling. In case you missed it, there were some lovely reviews around and about. Dear Author's Dabney did this review and gave the book a much-coveted A, The Season Blog gave Her Best Worst Mistake an ego-boosting five stars and Top Pick, as did Harlequin Junkies. More recently, Sarah Wendell at Smart Bitches Trashy Books gave the book an A-.
I've also had an avalanche of emails from readers telling me how much they loved Martin and Violet's story. Apparently we all have a bit of a thing for uptight Englishmen who are secretly sex gods under their pin-stripe suits. Who knew? As well as lusting after Martin, people are also connecting with Violet. I'm thrilled that people understand her - she's one of those heroines I was very keen to find a happy ever after for. She's so earned it.
In case you missed the buying links on the book page and previous blogs, the book is available for $2.99US at Smashwords, Amazon Kindle, Kobo, NOOK, All Romance Ebooks and Diesel Ebooks. I'm hoping we'll have Barnes and Noble Nook and iBookstore availability soon. The book is available globally, is DRM free and should be the equivalent price in various major markets. One price for all, I say!
If you haven't read it yet, I hope you do so soon and that it gives you a few hours of fun and emotion and escapism. If you've already read it, thank you! And I hope you enjoyed.
My first self published novel, Her Best Worst Mistake, is now ready for download at both Smashwords and Kindle. Smashwords offers almost every format known to man, so if you need epub or pdf or plain text, that's the place to go. So far I've had some lovely feedback from readers. I'm so excited this story is finally out there. It's been sitting in the back of my brain and then (half-finished) in my computer for far, far too long. If you get a chance to read it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing.
And I really did have a hoot - Violet and Martin are so much fun. Watching them realise that all the animosity they have always felt toward each other was actually something else was about the most fun you can have while alone with your computer (well...almost!).
I'd love to hear back from readers once they've read this book - doing it all myself makes this one feel that little bit more personal than when I have my publisher and all their resources and support standing behind me. Any and all comments are very welcome!
The book is priced at $2.99 and you can buy it here at Amazon and here at Smashwords and here at Kobo and here at Diesel Ebooks. Happy reading.
Okay. A lot of you have asked for it, and (hopefully) in a couple of weeks you will be able to read it: Martin and Violet's story, now titledHer Best Worst Mistake.
When I was writing Hot Island Nights, I originally intended to tell Elizabeth and Nate and Violet and Martin's stories in parallel, cutting back and forth between the two. But I ran out of words. At a certain point in the book, I realized that I was going to be struggling to tell Elizabeth and Nate's story alone in the allocated word count, let alone squeeze in Martin and Violet's, too. So I made the decision to pull Violet and Martin out of the book. I left in the bit at the end, however, where they turn up in Australia, surprising Elizabeth and Nate. While I didn't intend for this to act as a teaser, I did get lots of letters from people asking when/if I was going to tell Violet and Martin's story. At the time I said "hopefully" and "maybe".
I should add, I was a little bitter and twisted about having to pull the story in the first place. I loved Martin and Violet's oil and water relationship, and having to abandon it was hard. So the notion of telling their story in a separate work was very appealing to me. I suspected, however, that it wouldn't be a full book, more a novella. And I wasn't sure how I would sell that to my publisher. Then I decided to just write the story and see what happened and decide at the end of the process how to get it to readers. The story comes first, right?
Well, I started writing, and I didn't stop until I had written almost a full book. In hindsight, perfectly predictable because I always write long and have to cut words out. And in the time since Hot Island Nights came out, the publishing world has been flipped on its head with the huge leaps in self-publishing and ebook only publishers etc, etc. I took a look around, and I decided that it would be fun and interesting to try to publish
Her Best Worst Mistake myself. If it floats, I will definitely consider doing some more stories to fill in the gaps between my Harlequin releases. If it sinks, then I will stick to my knitting!
I've had a lot of fun getting the cover designed and organising all the things that go on behind the scenes to make a book happen. I have been helped and advised by some lovely, lovely people. I hope that readers connect with Martin and Violet's story. I so enjoyed writing it - it was a romp, actually, really, really enjoyable - and I hope that conveys itself in the reading.
One of the things I have learned about self-pubbing is that it's hard to select a definite sell date because we are reliant on third parties to process files and put them up for sale, and they do this to their own timetable. So I while I am aiming to have this book available in the first week of May, please bear with me if it's not available in all formats immediately. While some platforms can publish within 12 hours, others are a little more time consuming, and I will keep updating the Her Best Worst Mistake book page with buy links as they become live.
In the meantime, if you haven't read Hot Island Nights, you can buy it here and here. I should note that it's not necessary to read either to understand the other, but I hope that together they form a neat little set.
As always, I would love to hear from readers, so any and all comments are very welcome.