Today I would like to welcome Isabella Hargreaves to my chair.
Congratulations on being an ARRA nominee with your debut novel!
I’m an Australian author of historical romances, mainly set during the Regency period. I’ve read historical fact and fiction since I was a child growing up in Brisbane. That wasn’t enough, so I became a historian and now spend every work day researching and writing about people, places and events from the past. It seemed the perfect idea to combine my love of history and romance by writing historical romances. I write about strong, determined heroines and heroes that aren’t afraid to match them.
How I came to writing
Like many authors, I have a track record of writing stores as a child. Mine were inspired by Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby series and never saw light of day, which is perhaps as well. I did eventually achieve a writing career of a different sort.
I’m a historian by profession, so I write every day for my living. However, I still yearn to write fiction. I’ve read historical novels since I was a child and romance for many years, thanks to my mum’s influence.
I made a start with romance writing about twenty years ago but didn’t pursue it because I was too busy fulfilling other dreams – becoming a historian and raising two children. In the last few years, since my children turned into teenagers and the ties of motherhood loosened, I decided to try again to fulfil my old ambition of writing historical romance.
So, I re-joined the Romance Writers of Australia after a 10-15 year break and started attending conferences, writing and entering competitions. I’ve been really fortunate in that my first novel, The Persuasion of Miss Jane Brody, has received a great response. It was a prize-winner in the Steam eReads ‘Some Like it Hot’ Romantic Fiction Competition in 2013 and was published by Steam eReads in November. Since then, it has been short-listed in the ‘Favourite Historical Romance’ category of the Australian Romance Readers Awards. J
The Persuasion of Miss Jane Brody was inspired by reading a biography of Mary Wollstonecraft (1757-1797) who wrote what is now regarded as the earliest feminist treatise, The Vindication of the Rights of Woman. The story came from asking “how would a supporter of Wollstonecraft’s ideas cope with falling in love?” I hope you enjoy it as much as I loved writing it.
Grosvenor Square, London, August 1817
The door to his library opened abruptly and swung back on its hinges crashing into the bookshelves behind. An erect, grey haired lady dressed in the latest Parisian fashion marched into the room and stood before him as he sat behind his oak desk, bathed in early afternoon sunshine. Jonathan Everslie, Marquis of Dalton, gave her his full attention as she wanted and smiled in amused anticipation.
Without hesitation she launched the frontal attack he knew was coming.
“You must marry, Dalton, you must!” Lady Lucinda Mulgrave was emphatic. “You have a large family of dependent aunts and cousins and there is no heir to follow you. Do you want them thrown out on the streets when you die?”
“I must have an heir somewhere Aunt Lucinda. It only stands to reason. If I were to expire, I’m sure he would be found.” The new Marquis of Dalton attempted to calm her with logic. “And would look after his dependents,” he added as an afterthought.
The elderly lady raised her chin and stared down her aquiline nose at her nephew, her mouth set in a disapproving line. “There may be a cousin in New South Wales from my youngest brother who was sent there in exile - but his mother could be a convict for all we know. It is your duty to marry and beget an heir, and soon.”
“Let me be clear. I know it is my duty to marry, and soon, Aunt Lucinda, but I won’t marry anyone I consider unsuitable.”
Doggedly, Lady Mulgrave ploughed on with her lecture. “This is not the time to be fastidious. There are myriad young ladies every Season, more than suitable for the task – with impeccable backgrounds and some with money to match.”
The Marquis was placating. “And I will consider them. However, the Season doesn’t begin for another seven months, so this conversation is premature.”
“Nonsense, there are many families with eligible daughters whom you could visit, or invite to stay at Everslie in the meantime.”
“And how do you suggest I do that?”
“You have your secretary write invitations and send them, Jonathan.” She glared at him.
“How do I know who these candidates are?”
“I have a list already written.” She produced it with a flourish and laid it in front of him on his desk. “I expect to be presiding over a house party for these ladies and their families at Everslie by Christmas.”
Having delivered her message and assuming agreement, Lady Mulgrave nodded to her nephew in conclusion and sailed from his presence.
In frustration, the Marquis ran his long fingers through his hair, pushing the short brown curls from his forehead. He picked up the list and cast a knowing eye down its length. He had met them all and been bored to the point of irritation by their simpering ways. He groaned then crumpled the paper into a ball and threw it into the empty fire grate.
“Stevens!” His man of business arrived quickly. “Send to the stables for Nate to saddle my horse. I’m going out for a ride. I believe we have concluded today’s business.”
“Yes, we have my lord, but have you forgotten that you promised to take your sister to a lecture this afternoon, as Lady Mulgrave is unavailable?”
Vexed at the impediment to his escape, he sank back into his chair behind the desk. “Ah, yes, I do remember. We shall be gone for the afternoon. Thank you Stevens, continue with your work.” He changed his mind. “No – send word to my solicitor that I shall see him tomorrow morning.”
“May I tell him what it concerns, my lord?”
“Yes, I wish to trace the whereabouts of my uncle in Australia, or his family, should he have met his maker.”
Stevens nodded compliance and left to follow the Marquis’ orders.
Alone again, Dalton sank into a reverie about the onerous obligations that befall those who inherit titles – that of producing heirs for the benefit of their families. Of course, he mused, it shouldn’t be an onerous task to find a wife and create a family - it should be a pleasurable duty. Why wasn’t it turning out that way?
Tima Maria Lacoba
Welcome Tima and tell us a little about yourself...
If someone had told me several years ago that one day I would be a writer, publish a novel which would be the beginning of a Gothic, paranormal series, I would have said they were nuts!
I've always loved telling stories, but my goal in life was never to pursue a writing career. After all I’m a trained archaeologist and Roman historian.
But, life has a way of surprising us.
I began to write Bloodgifted as a way to pass the time while I watched the Australian Open Tennis on TV that summer.
Ten months later I’d written a 115,000 word novel. But it needed editing. I sent it to a professional editor, and her comments were encouraging enough for me to hazard entering a writing contest.
So, with trembling hands, I sent my “baby” to complete with a couple of hundred others in a competition held in Queensland. For me, it was a test to gauge how well my debut literary skills stood when thrown into the fire of a national contest.
I got the shock of my life when I was, not only, shortlisted, but eventually came fourth.
After a bit more polishing, I entered Bloodgifted in an international writing competition – Search For An Aussie Star – held by Choclit, a British publishing company. The prize was a publishing contract. My manuscript was now competing with some well-known, international stars of the romance genre.
I didn't stand a chance!
But I thought the experience would be good, and if I got some feedback in the process, then even better.
I came seventh!
As for the feedback? I got that from another British publisher. With their suggestions, I rewrote sections of the book and finally had it published at the end of August 2013.
Tima Maria Lacoba writes vampire books, but not just any vamp books – hers are Roman soldiers cursed by a Pictish witch in the 3rd century.
So, how did she start this series? In a previous life (before writing) Tima was a practicing archaeologist and historian, specializing in Roman Britain. Later, she took up high school teaching, as it gave her the opportunity to take her students on overseas excursions to visit the amazing archaeological sites they’d only seen in books.
Then one day, she surrendered to the itch of writing. After many years reading and correcting her students’ creative writing tasks and essays, she decided it was time to write her own.
Bloodgifted is the result.
In 2011, it was shortlisted in the Atlas Award – sponsored by a boutique Brisbane publisher – and eventually came fourth.
In 2012, it was listed among the top seven in the Choclit, Search for an Aussie Star Competition.
In 2013, she was offered a publishing contract, but declined in favour of going indie. The idea of being in charge of her creation was more appealing.
Bloodgifted is just the start of a three part series entitled, The Dantonville Legacy. Later, Tima Maria intends writing individual books on the other characters in the series, for they all have their own story.
Book 2 in the series, Bloodpledge will be released mid 2014.
Currently, Tima lives on the Central Coast, an hour’s drive north of Sydney, surrounded by wooded hills, possums and seed-dropping rosellas. Between bouts of writing, she teaches English and History, enjoying long walks while dodging the nesting magpies and plotting the next series of books she’d like to write.
You can find her on:
Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/timamarialacoba
Facebook – http://www.facebook/TimaMariaLacoba
Goodreads – http://www.goodreads/TimaMariaLacoba
Website – http://timamarialacoba.blogspot.com
How does a young woman live a normal life when she carries a rare genetic mutation?
Descended from a cursed Roman soldier, Laura Dantonville has stopped ageing in her mid twenties and much of her past has been hidden from her. That includes knowledge of her true parentage and that her unique blood is coveted by The Brethren, the secret society of vampires who reside in the affluent suburbs of Sydney.
She later learns it’s her blood alone that provides these creatures with the ability to tolerate daylight. As such, she is the epicentre of a power struggle between two rival vampire groups who want to claim her.
The oldest and most powerful of these factions is led by Alec Munro, whose position as leader, or Princeps, gives him sole claim to Laura.
Has she any other choice but to accept her destiny?
I pushed open the heavy glass doors and stepped into the cool, dark recess. The scent of old polished wood rose from the rows of pews stretching the length of the nave. To my left, a well-worn stone-paved path led past them and through the length of the interior, while a shallow ramp on my right disappeared into a semi-concealed alcove ringed with high-backed wooden chairs.
Which way? If in doubt, follow the yellow-brick road, I thought. Turning left I followed the stone-path down the aisle. What on earth am I doing here? I asked myself. Meeting a vampire, came the daft answer.
‘He will find you,’ my aunt had said. Right now, I didn't know if I wanted to be found! The truth is, I was nervous and even a little afraid searching for an unnatural creature in a Gothic building.
How appropriate. All I need is for the cathedral organ to start playing creepy music!
At least I wasn't totally alone. Here and there a few people milled around, even though most were outside grabbing that last minute Christmas bargain as shopping hours had been extended. It was only about nine p.m. In the balcony at the end of the nave a choir was rehearsing The Messiah. I’m sure they’d hear me scream if this Alec Munro proved less benign than the impression my aunt gave. Why didn't I bring Matt? I should have simply ignored her warning and dragged him along anyway.
I followed the stone-path to the back entrance, around the massive sandstone baptismal font and up the other side. Every now and then the Choir
Master stopped the singers mid-note for a correction before continuing their rehearsal. Three Christmas trees, bedecked with massive gold bows, had been positioned on either side of the communion table, while an impressive green wreath hung from the edge of the elevated pulpit.
I realized that the stone path I’d followed led to the small chair-lined alcove I’d originally noticed on entering. It was separated from the aisle by an ornately carved wooden partition, and there, leaning nonchalantly against the narrow opening, arms crossed over his chest stood a tall, broad-shouldered, impossibly good-looking man with hair the colour of a raven’s wing.
My feet stopped mid-stride as my eyes drank in this strikingly imposing figure who so dominated the space around him, that I wondered how I could not have seen him earlier? Nor the way his piercing lavender eyes gazed back at me, demanding my attention.
I sucked in a breath, not just for the affect he had on me, but that he was the visual confirmation of my aunt’s words even if he didn't fit my image of a vampire. But then I really didn't know what to expect – black cape, nasty protruding fangs, glowing red eyes and as pale as death perhaps? The man before me belied those preconceptions, and no vampire I saw in the movies ever looked that good in cream silk business shirt and slate grey trousers which hung seductively low on his lean hips. His sleeves were rolled up at the elbows and the top button of his shirt left undone allowing his tie to hang loose.
I swallowed. Was this the blood-sucking creature whose bite left those marks on my aunt’s wrist? No wonder she’d said I wouldn't mind!
He smiled and softly called my name. ‘Laura.
Today...my special guest is Darry Fraser whose latest book...Berry Flavours has just been released. Welcome to my chair, Darry and tell us a bit about yourself and your new book! The tag line enticed me like a good bottle of wine...
Full bodied, rich and tempting on the palate, easy on the eye and ... is that the wine and the food at Berry Flavours Restaurant and Vineyard - or the boss?
I have been writing since a very young age. I was the one at school with the home-penned plays and stories, the entertaining ideas and the grand vision, believing I had great talent. Wrong.
I believed that because I could put words on a page in a grammatically acceptable way and tell a reasonable story that I was ‘an author’. Technically, I suppose I was, but the apprenticeship as a ‘writer' – to labour the difference - is a long and hard road.
One day, I had what I still call a little ‘thing’ – I saw my late grandfather in his World War One trench gear talking to ‘me’ at my desk and suddenly the words flowed and so did the short story which was published within two weeks in an Australian national women’s magazine.
So I revisited all my short stories and my novel-length stories and found success again with four short stories and then two short novels in 2001/2.
Alas, life got in the way once more. I kept writing, but in the dark so to speak. I used it as a means of escape, as a retreat and I was able to create my own HEA or HFN.
Then life took another turn and I figured that I had nothing to lose. I dusted off quite a number of manuscripts and began to whip them into shape. At a serendipitous meeting with my current publisher, Nicola at SteamEreads, she agreed to read my current work at the time. It was a 67,000 word unedited novel, which she accepted. It was published in June – Money For Blood.
Since then I have had two other novels and two novellas accepted, all HEA/HFN. The second published and the first novella, This Forever Game came out in September.
The next one out is the second novella, Berry Flavours which has just been published.
Good fences make good neighbours but it seems the Thomases have moved the boundaries and the fences so they and their neighbour, Berry Lockett are headed for the courts.
After a family breakdown and just a week before Christmas, Clancy was to start her dream job as chef at Mac Thomas’s restaurant on Australis Island. Unfortunately, she finds there is no restaurant - just a rundown, disused and dirty old shearing shed. When she meets Berry at the local hotel, the attraction is instant and he warns her to be careful on the Thomas estate.
So when things go badly wrong for Mac Thomas and his strange son, Greg, Clancy calls on Berry for assistance to leave the property and escape a progressively worrying situation, especially with Greg.
Things go smoothly for a little while until Greg decides to take matters into his own hands. Then it goes downhill from there with lies and accusations undermining Clancy’s new found confidence until unexpectedly, she is thrown in the deep end at Berry’s property.
“I’m guessing you’re the person Mac Thomas has employed.” He took a long drink then set his beer down and fished in his pocket for money which he placed on the bar.
Santa-dude swiped a tenner and returned with change.
“Good guess,” she said. “I’m Clancy Jones.”
“Berry Lockett.” He held out a hand.
“Berry?” She took the proffered hand, its roughness comforting and hospitable. It was a strong hand, a hand used to helping with heavy loads. Her heart beat thudded merrily.
“Beresford. Fancy name, I know. Great-grandma’s maiden name.” That low baritone rumbled through her again.
“Going to drink your drink?” he asked. “You look a bit gloomy just staring at it.” He slid a small wallet and a bunch of keys on to the bar alongside his change.
She pulled a face at her untouched glass. “I asked for a local sauv blanc. I hope it is.”
“It is. Taste it,” Berry said. “It’s good. Happen to know the vineyard pretty well. It’s just over the hill about four kilometres.”
She ventured a sip. “It is good.” She sipped again. Checked out the black chest hair above his tee shirt collar. “You drink wine sometimes?” She nodded at the beer.
“Sometimes. Probably too much. Beer’s a good change, but I can vouch for the local wines, really.” He grabbed his wallet and peered inside. “There are others but none better than this one.”
She looked around the bar. “I expected good food and wine here. The place looks a bit rough, though.”
“A bit rough. You’d expect some warmth in here for a country pub, too, wouldn’t you?” He waved his hand around.
They both looked across at the fireplace, empty of course at this time of year.
“The place lacks a certain je ne sais qois,” he said.
She ventured a glance at his face. “You know exactly what it lacks. How’d you fix it?”
His face lit up. “I’d put in some happy staff, for a start.” He inclined his head towards the dangly-Santa-dude. “Nice guy, but Alan over there doesn’t exactly warm the cockles of your heart.” Berry studied his hands. “Is this where Mac Thomas has you working?”
“I didn’t know he owned the pub, too. I’m supposed to be in the Vineyard Restaurant.”
“The Vineyard Restaurant.” Lockett frowned. “It’s not exactly up and ... ah, I wonder he didn’t say something about ...” His voice trailed off. Then, “Well, they need a bloody good cook in here, too.”
Clancy shrugged. “He said the Vineyard Restaurant. All I know.” She sipped her wine again, enjoying the conversation, hoping that he was as good as he looked and not some crazy noo-noo out here in the boondocks. That’d be her luck.
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Annie loves sharing her writing chair with special guests! If you'd like a turn...please email her! email@example.com