Today we welcome Darry Fraser to the chair.
Her debut print novel is released today!
Annie, thank you so much for having me in the chair.
What inspired me to write Daughter of the Murray?
To be honest – I can’t remember! It was so long ago, back in 1983. I’d just moved to Alice Springs and I’d spent some time on the Murray at Swan Hill. Those days were pretty happy days for me. I don’t think I ever forgot it.
So, when in Alice with a bit of time on my hands I thought I’d write a novel. I’d always written stories, but at the ripe old age of 23 or so, I thought it was about time to get serious. I put pencil to Collins Notebook and inside the year I had a novel finished. It was a masterpiece; it was going to rule the world!
Until I saw All The Rivers Run on the tele, then my masterpiece was swiftly, sadly relegated to the bottom drawer. I would go to writer’s purgatory if I published my story (believing, of course, it was worthy of publication)… It was all about a young woman who finds herself taking an adventure on the mighty Murray in the majestic and the not-so-majestic paddle steamers of the day.
All The Rivers Run had a very similar premise.
My story had lots of adventure and bad men in it. At that time, it didn’t have any behind-the-bedroom-door stuff.
Over the years, with the advent of word processors and computers, my story was transcribed. It kept changing shape, growing, and growing up and finally I felt game enough to give it to someone to read, to see if it would be worthy enough to put in front of a publisher. That was in 2015 – thirty-two years later. And from that point, and with that reader’s advice, the story blossomed, and was accepted for publication in November of that year.
In the last couple of years, the inspiration to mature the story has been the emergence of women as equals in society, and how they fitted into the world that was shaped for them, a world owned by the men in their lives.
My heroine has to choose between survival and independence, and learns the hard way that, in her day, they are very different things. The women’s suffragist movement was well underway, gaining momentum, but as we know with a long road to travel.
One thing I did not want to do, was make her – Georgina – a modern 21st century woman in 19th century costume. She might be her own person, but she was still constrained by the laws of her time, not to mention society’s expectations of her.
Domestic violence was rife, and women who were very much at the brunt of it at the time, and for a very long time since, had literally nowhere to go to seek refuge. I touched on this in Daughter of the Murray, especially within married relationships, and DV at the time is explored further in another story yet to see daylight.
If a woman wanted independence then, she had to be careful. And smart. I hope in Daughter of the Murray Georgina proves she as been both.
Of course, the River Murray is once again a hot topic of debate, and needs to remain in our focus.
Thanks again, Annie. You’re an inspiration yourself, and a wonderful mentor.
A well written story set in an interesting period of Australian history on the mighty Murray RIver.
Georgie is a strong feisty woman, making her way alone after suffering setbacks in life.
The description of setting evokes the Australian landscape beautifully, and the historical period is realistically portrayed. The depiction of the characters is realistic, and the sexual tension in Georgie’s first relationship lets us see the confusion of an inexperienced young woman who has the courage to go for what she thinks she desires
Darry Fraser’s debut novel is stunning with the promise of things to come.
1890s, River Murray, Northern Victoria
Georgina Calthorpe is unhappy living with her indifferent foster family the MacHenry’s in their crumbling house on the banks of the River Murray.
Unlike the rest of the family, she isn’t looking forward to the return of prodigal son Dane. With good reason. Dane MacHenry is furious when on his return he finds his homestead in grave decline. Unaware that his father has been drinking his way through his inheritance, he blames Georgina and Georgina decides she has no option but to leave. Unfortunately she chooses Dane’s horse to flee on, and when Dane learns she has stolen his prized stallion, he gives chase.
From this point their fates become intertwined with that of a businessman with a dark secret, Conor Foley, who offers Georgina apparent security: a marriage with status in the emerging nouveau-riche echelons of Melbourne. But none of them could imagine the toll the changing political and social landscape would have on homes, hearts and families.
Will Georgina’s path lead her into grave danger and unhappiness, or will she survive and fulfil her destiny?
A huge welcome today to the very talented, Elizabeth Ellen Carter.
Thief of Hearts Blog Tour Kit
Some seriously clever sleight of hand is needed if aspiring lawyer Caro Addison is ever going to enjoy this Christmas.
To avoid an unwanted marriage proposal, she needs a distraction as neat as the tricks used by The Phantom, the audacious diamond thief who has left Scotland Yard clueless.
While her detective inspector uncle methodically hunts the villain, Caro decides to investigate a suspect of her own – the handsome Tobias Black, a magician extraordinaire, known as The Dark Duke.
He's the only one with the means, motive and opportunity but the art of illusion means not everything is as it seems, in both crime and affairs of the heart.
As Christmas Day draws near, Caro must decide whether it is worth risking reputations and friendships in order to follow her desires.
Elizabeth Ellen Carter is an award-winning historical romance writer who pens richly detailed historical romantic adventures. A former newspaper journalist, Carter ran an award-winning PR agency for 12 years. The author lives in Australia with her husband and two cats.
Amazon.com - https://www.amazon.com/Thief-Hearts-Elizabeth-Ellen-Carter-ebook/dp/B01MAWBWI5
Amazon.com.au - https://www.amazon.com.au/Thief-Hearts-Elizabeth-Ellen-Carter-ebook/dp/B01MAWBWI5
Amazon.co.uk - https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01MAWBWI
Social Media Links
The Thief of Hearts Excerpts
He turned the card over and with a thumbnail flicked a tab made of the same backing as the playing card. Even up close the addition was difficult to see. Tobias placed the card on his lap and pulled out a deck of cards. He flicked the edge of the deck of cards towards them. Each time the Queen of Hearts stood out.
“I want you to think I can read your mind, but in reality...”
Tobias split the deck and showed them the Queen of Hearts and then the other half of the deck. The card that had been just before the Queen of Hearts was fully a third shorter than the rest of the cards. He put the pack together and flicked through the deck once more.
“I make you see what you want to see. I suspect The Phantom does the same.”
“You mean his crime scenes are illusions?” Margaret asked. Tobias gave her a smile and Caro wished oddly that its brightness shone on her too.
“I think so. From what I read in the newspapers... no sign of entry or departure?” he asked. Caro confirmed it with a nod. “That tells me he’s creating an illusion of invulnerability. But it is an illusion. A trick. He wants to force the attention of the police away from something else – in the same way a magician will use a gesture or an action to distract you.
“Find out what that is then you will find his sleight of hand and that will be his vulnerability.”
“Now, if I’ve sated your curiosity, I’ll take my leave of you. My crew and I have our last show this evening.”
Caro rose and Margaret did also. Tobias took Margaret’s hand and bowed over it then released it. Then he took Caro’s and held it. Then his eyes held hers for a moment and he dropped a kiss on the back of her hand.
“I’m so glad it was you who paid me a visit... instead of a representative of Scotland Yard.”
“Not at all, Mr Black,” she replied, her voice a little huskier than usual, “you have been more than gracious with your time.
“Call me Tobias.”
He was flirting with her! Caro kept the smile to herself as he escorted them both to the entrance of the theatre.
“Just one more question, Mr Black,” Caro asked. “You wouldn’t happen to know how someone might dispose of a suite of diamonds would you?”
Loud thumps and the sound of glass breaking attested to the struggle going on inside. Caro hesitated at the door, unsure whether to follow into the melee. It was all but over when she entered the room. Bertie and Edward held one man by the arms, the fight apparently gone out of him. Tobias and Walter had cornered the other, but it seemed he was not going to make it an easy arrest.
The big window in the room was wide open behind him, letting out the heat from the fire which burned brightly in the hearth.
“Give it up, Pavel. It’s too late for you and Nemec,” Tobias panted heavily. “You can’t escape now.”
Walter stepped forward. “Hand it over, Pavel.”
As Caro would later recall it, everything seemed to happen in slow motion.
The man named Pavel glanced at his friend and then back to Walter. He pulled out the blue diamond from his pocket and held it up to the light where it scintillated. Then he lobbed it into the air.
Tobias and Walter tackled Pavel to the ground. Nemec struggled free of Bertie and Edward and surged forward, reaching out for the stone with both arms. Edward grabbed Nemec again by one and Bertie, flailing, struck the other. Nemec’s fingertips gave the stone a glancing tap, making it leap and pirouette into the air once more.
Caro, and indeed everyone, saw the Star of December flash like lightning as it tumbled over and over in mid-air until it fell onto the grate.
And shatter into a thousand little pieces.
“But now I’m home again, at my father’s behest, and he’s telling me once again I need to settle down, join my brother in business. So I shall. This will be the last season for The Dark Duke.”
“Doesn’t that make you sad?”
“Not really. In fact, I’m rather looking forward to it. I learned a lot as an engineer in the Army, so much that can be applied here at home – especially mechanical engineering. I think there’s a time when one must ‘put away childish things’, don’t you agree?”
She smiled at him but said nothing and turned to look out of the window. She thought of her law studies and her mother’s opposing desire to see her daughter wed and with a family of her own. Perhaps it was time she grew up also, and take up her responsibilities. Perhaps it was selfish to hold onto her dream of becoming a lawyer.
She sighed inwardly.
Perhaps, despite her misgivings, she should accept Bertie’s offer of marriage. After all, who knew her better than he did? At least he would let her finish her studies and not demand she break them off immediately.
She was unaware she was lost in her own thoughts until she sensed Tobias watching her closely. She turned to face him and felt a heated blush burn her cheeks. There was something in his expression which fascinated her and, for a moment, she felt a deep longing. What would it be like to kiss him?
“Now there’s a trick – disappearing so far into your own thoughts you were no longer here,” he said, his voice barely audible over the steady clip-clop of the horse and the sound of the traffic around them. “A penny for them?”
Long Interview Questions
About The Thief of Hearts
Australians suffer a little bit of cognitive dissonance when it comes to celebrating Christmas. First of all, being in the southern hemisphere, we celebrating in the middle of our summer but happily sing about ‘dashing through the snow’, Frosty the Snowman and that the ‘snow lay all about, deep and crisp and even’.
Another thing we missed in our local customs was being outside of the TV ratings periods. Conventional wisdom had it that in the depths of bitter winters, people would gather around the electronic hearth and watch television. And since Christmas fell right in the middle of the northern hemisphere’s TV ratings period, all the best TV shows had a Christmas episode.
They were fun and whimsical, often suspending current storylines for something a little bit light-hearted and fun.
So, in that Christmas spirit, I wrote The Thief of Hearts, a veritable Christmas punch of few Hercule Poirots, Girl’s Own Adventures stories, a dash of While You Were Sleeping and other Christmas-themed rom-coms.
Why Did You Set It in Victorian England?
Many of our Christmas customs started with the Victorians, including our beloved Christmas tree and the fun Christmas crackers.
Victorian England was a fascinating era.
They were very mindful of their past and had built up quite a romantic imagery of its chivalry – just look at the pre-Raphaelite works as examples of high Victorian romanticism and yet they were very technologically advanced and sophisticated.
Many of the things we take for granted today, inexpensive mass-produced consumer goods, electricity, telephony, stored music, motorised transport, photography and film, even the concept of television had their origins in the 19th century – no wonder Steampunk has become such a popular sub-genre of sci-fi!
There were high hopes for the upcoming 20th century as being the most accomplished century yet. The groundswell for true equality for men and women was beginning and within a relatively short space of time, women were fully enfranchised and were open to the same job opportunities.
Late Victorian England was time of man-made wonders and magic falls into that neatly.
Why write a mystery?
One of my favourite authors is Agatha Christie. I love the way she blended mystery and romance in many of her stories. If you look at Poirot and Miss Marple, there are often secondary characters who begin or advance a romance through the story and, with the solving of the mystery have their happily ever after.
I thought it would be fun to do something like that for The Thief of Hearts, so the mystery is very much front-and-centre but there is a definite romance between Caro Addison, an aspiring lawyer and Tobias Black, a magician and former solider whose paths are destined to cross.
There is more than one mystery in The Thief of Hearts. There is the obvious one in the mysterious diamond heists where the thief as apparently left no clue, but there is also one a little closer to home and that is what are Bertie’s real intentions towards Caro?
She is positive that he is planning to propose. While her mother would be delighted by the news, Caro herself is having second thoughts. She loves Bertie, but she’s not ‘in love’ with him – so to avoid an unpleasant scene with someone she likes, Caro invents reasons not to be alone with him.
The Thief of Hearts is full of misdirection.
What did you enjoy researching?
I had a lot of fun with the research for The Thief of Hearts.
Victorian England was full of innovation and invention – so discovering the polyphon which was a precursor to the record player, simply had to be included. So too the passenger lift, the glorious elevators found in the most luxurious hotels and as a necessity in the growing high rise buildings that is emblematic of New York.
The rise of literacy in the Victorian England which came as a result of pressure from the church welfare reformers, gave birth to a large number of newspapers to cater for interests and tastes of a wider group of readers. In fact it could be argued that modern journalism as we know it today, started in the Victorian era.
The Victorian period also gave rise to the mystery and detective story. The origin of this was also interesting. The 19th century saw the rise of the middle class who were at removed a lot of direct contact with crime – particularly street crime. In addition, criminal executions which were once public affairs, were now performed behind prison gates.
What didn’t change was the public’s appetite for the gruesome details and, indeed some broadsheets specialised in it thus beginning the still popular genre of True Crime and the origins of the crime and detective novel where real crime wasn’t enough.
What are you working on at the moment?
There’s so much! I’m working hard on another 19th century title called Captive of the Corsairs. Although it is set in the Regency era, it is not a typical Regency at all. It’s set in Sicily and Turkey and centres on the pirates of the Barbary Coast – north Africa who conducting slaving raids into Europe.
It’s intended to be a stand alone, but some of the characters are calling for their own stories, so I think this may turn into a three book series.
I’m also keen to set started on another mystery romance series! This will be a six book series set in Medieval England. The hero and heroine are more mature, they will be in their mid-to-late 30s and there are some younger characters too who are terrific.
Hopefully my Roman era historical romantic suspense will have found a publisher.
Today I welcome Deborah O'Brien to my chair. It is only a week until The Rarest Thing is released and I had the privilege or reading and reviewing an advance copy. (See my review at the end of the blog)
Deborah, welcome...what inspired ‘The Rarest Thing’?
Any writer of fiction will tell you that there are always ideas popping into her head which could be turned into a novel – far too many, in fact, to be used in any one lifetime! So it becomes a necessity to sort the really great ideas from the others. A few years ago I came across an article about mountain pygmy possums. What intrigued me was that, up until fifty years ago, scientists assumed they were extinct.
Then, one winter’s day in 1966, a living specimen was found running around the kitchen of a ski lodge at Mount Hotham. As luck would have it, one of the skiers happened to be a scientist and he realised the cute little creature wasn’t just a mouse or a rat. So he took it back to Melbourne where it was identified as a Burramys parvus, a unique species known only from tiny fossilised jawbones with distinctive snaggleteeth. And it wasn’t long before scientists began searching for a mate for the tiny marsupial which they had named ‘George’. Although they scoured locations across the High Country, not a single Burramys was captured. Eventually people began to wonder whether George was the only Burramys left in the world, the pygmy possum equivalent of ‘Benjamin’, the last known Tasmanian tiger held in captivity at Hobart Zoo in the 1930s.
As I pondered this series of real events, my novelist’s mind was racing. How could I use the discovery of the possum to create a work of fiction? Then it came to me. What if I sent two mismatched people on an expedition to search for the elusive possum in its habitat? A kind of African Queen meets the Victorian High Country! Or a reworking of the classic quest for the elusive Holy Grail.
From the outset I knew the male protagonist would be a photographer. I could even picture him as a tall, blond-haired Adonis, charming and self-confident – a combination of Chris Hemsworth and Dr Chris Brown. Someone so glamorous he would need a movie-star name – Scott King. I bet you’re thinking that Scott sounds too good to be true. Well, perhaps he is. And maybe a few demons could be lurking below that perfect exterior.
Meanwhile I pondered a name and occupation for my female protagonist. The name came easily enough – Katharine, as in Hepburn, an allusion to The African Queen. But what kind of job would enable her to accompany Scott on the High Country trek? A photographer’s assistant? A journalist? Just when I was about to decide on the latter (even though I knew it was a cliché), my lovely niece, who’s a zoologist, came to Sydney to measure ancient koala skulls at the museum as part of her research into koalas and climate change. I was so intrigued by her work that I decided Katharine would have to be a scientist. But what kind? A zoologist was the obvious choice, but in my imagination I was already forming a picture of Katharine as someone more comfortable with ancient bones than living things. That’s why I made her a palaeontologist.
I was so excited about the idea of a palaeontologist and a photographer setting off on a journey into the wild that I started writing the manuscript as if there was no tomorrow. I’m ashamed to confess I didn’t have a plan, apart from the basic premise and those sketchy portraits of the main characters. What helped me immensely was a quote from Oscar Wilde:
‘To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.’
Whenever I felt I was losing my way. I went back to that quote and it kept me on track. And it also gave me the perfect title for my book.
Every so often you stumble upon a book that is quite different to what you expect. The title of Deborah O’Brien’s latest book caught my attention, and I picked it up, eager to read, after having enjoyed The Trivia Man so much.
The Rarest Thing rates up there with one of my favourite reads for the year. It is delightfully different and refreshing in many ways. The settings of the rugged Australian Alps and the campus of Sydney University when women were still perhaps regarded as inferior to their male counterparts were depicted so well, I felt as though I was there with the characters. The depiction of the time period—the sixties—resonated with me as the songs and the news headlines, and the magazine articles of the day were seamlessly woven into the story.
The development of Dr Katharine Wynter from a timid young girl into a confident woman is sensitively handled in the context of a ‘difficult’ circumstance with her university professor. The story touches on taboo issues, with both Katharine and Scott, and whilst their relationship is a gentle romance, the darker issues explored within the quest for the miniature marsupial reveal the true source of Katharine’s strength.
An uplifting story summed up beautifully by the Oscar Wilde quote in the book: ‘To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.
An outstanding book. This one goes on my ‘to keep’ shelf.
‘The Rarest Thing’ (signed gift edition paperback or ebook) is available from 1 November direct from Lomandra Press: www.lomandrapress.com.au
Would you tell us about your latest release?
Love to, Annie! My current release, The Go-Between, is Book Two in the Modern Day Fairy Tale Series. Here’s the blurb:
Amalie Duckworth has been harangued by her perfect boss, Natasha, for years. While she dreams of running her own business and wearing a fishtail wedding dress, the pictures symbolising her goals seem destined to grace her ‘Wall of Destiny’ indefinitely.
When Amalie loses her job in a departmental restructure, she’s determined to get her revenge on Natasha by making her dreams come true. Inspired by her own bad break-up experience, she starts a business: The Go-Between Break-Up Facilitator Service.
One dream down, one to go.
Carpenter Dean Lawler is taken for granted by his troubled childhood sweetheart, Zara. He’s in love limbo, caught between his desire to make Zara feel cherished and his own need for emotional fulfilment. But when he catches Zara cheating, it’s the break he needs. He calls Amalie to help send Zara packing, only to find himself entranced by Amalie’s inner and outer beauty.
When Zara returns, Dean is forced to choose. Will he fall for Zara’s damsel in distress routine? Or will he choose true love with Amalie, and make both their dreams of a happily ever after come true?
The story is a sweet romance loosely based on The Ugly Duckling.
What inspired you to write The Go-Between?
My last Modern Day Fairy Tale novella involved a strong, confident character, so in this story I wanted to explore a character on the opposite end of the spectrum—someone shy who was not living up to their full potential!
I also wanted address two more serious issues. Firstly, bullying, harassment and victimisation is an unfortunate reality for many in their working life. I wanted to bring attention to the issue, and hopefully, inspire anyone going through or having experienced such situations themselves.
Second, I wanted to explore the theme of toxic relationships. The hero, Dean, is in a toxic relationship with Zara, a woman whose behaviour is formed by a troubled past. He wants to help her overcome her past by providing her all the love and attention she missed out on as a child, and giving her financial and emotional security. But it is never enough, and he realises he has sacrificed his own needs for a woman who will never reciprocate and meet his needs. When he meets Amalie, he sees how unacceptable his situation was, and is delighted to find someone who is as generous and kind as he is.
What do you like about these characters?
I like the way Amalie turns her bad experience into a positive—she recognises that there is an opportunity for her in the midst of it.
Dean is every woman’s dream, really: handsome, hard working, considerate. And he can make things. He’s the boy-next-door we all hope to have as a neighbour!:)
Where can we visit you online?
You can connect with me on Facebook (facebook.com/darcydelanyauthor), Pinterest (Darcydelanyauth) and Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15304692.Darcy_Delany).
Where can we buy The Go-Between?
The Go-Between is available on Amazon and Kindle.
Aislinn is an Australian Expat living in Qatar. She completed a Bachelor of Arts in English and History, which she loved, and then went on to do a Masters in an unrelated field. She now largely pretends that last degree never happened.
She is the author of the ‘Soldiering On’ books, a Romantic Suspense series. She enjoys reading, writing, travelling, and fantasising about her future cottage in a forest. Now that she’s published, her next life dream is to own a dog.
I have two – yes, two! – debut new releases out on August 5th. The prequel novella, and the first book, of my Soldiering On series.
The Soldiering On series features a group of men and women injured while serving their country. Under the leadership of former Sergeant Major Duncan Pierce, they form a security company – Soldiering On – to prove to the world they still have what it takes.
Soldiering On features diverse characters saving lives and falling in love along the way.
Duncan Pierce returns from war, broken and disheartened.
He and his friends – all former military, all injured in the line of duty – are finding it tough to demonstrate that they are still just as capable. All they need is a chance. So Duncan comes up with a strategy – start his own Security Company, and show the world they’ve all still got what it takes. But he needs someone with a little business know-how and the capital to put his plan into action…
Mandy Lennox is looking for a new opportunity to prove herself – and Duncan’s idea of starting a Security Company with other Vets that were injured in the line of duty is just the thing. Unfortunately, Duncan is reluctant to let an ambitious socialite anywhere near his business plan. But Mandy doesn’t plan on letting that stop her.
They clash – each having a very different idea of what the company should be, and both too stubborn to agree on anything.
But you know what they say: opposites attract…
Pre-Order Soldiering On at Amazon (US)
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Station Alpha (Soldiering On #1)
A single phone call shatters her life…
Christine Ramirez’s phone rings in the dead of night. A man’s voice – unfamiliar and urgent – tells her to run.
She flees, but deadly, unknown assailants pursue her through the night. Her only saviour is the gruff stranger on the other end of the line.
Paul has a secret. He’s been watching her – maybe a little more than the assignment strictly requires. He shouldn’t reveal himself, but he can’t let anything happen to Christine. Even if it costs him the job that means the world to him.
With the mysterious villains still pursuing Christine, Paul whisks her away to a Soldiering On safe house. There, passion flares between them, hot and undeniable. And they are powerless to resist its lure, even as the villains get ever closer to finding them…
Pre-Order Station Alpha on Amazon (US)
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****This is available at a special price just for pre-orders, so get it quick!****
About the Author
Where to find her:
Please welcome wonderful author, Sandy Curtis to my chair today...
Thanks, Annie, for having me as a guest on your blog. I love the cover of your latest novel, Kakadu Sunset. It reminds me of our trip there a few years ago, and can’t wait to read the story.
Like you, I love all the wonderful aspects of Australia and Australian life, and all my novels are set here. My latest story, Murder, Mayhem & Men On Pause, is set in Brisbane, and although I grew up in Sherwood, I focus a lot on New Farm with its fascinating mix of old houses and modern unit blocks. In this excerpt Ellie Cummins arrives at the old building she’s been hired to re-design:
‘Thank God the sun’s shining. Still cold though.’ Ellie parked outside a three-storey red-brick building in New Farm. A huge Poinciana tree bowed leafless but graceful limbs over the road and footpath. The rain of the day before had refreshed everything. Even the adjoining houses, wide-verandahed timber Queenslanders, remnants of a more genteel era, appeared to sparkle in the sun. Paintwork looked bright, roofs clean. Even the gardens, some lovingly tended, others left to run a little wild, seemed almost Spring-like with their glossy leaves and winter blooms.
This building actually existed when I was a teenager, but I don’t know if it still does. I visited there quite a few times because the only writer I had met lived in the top unit, or ‘flat’ as it was called in those days. The tiled foyer, wide, sweeping staircase with timber bannister worn by years of hands gripping its smoothness, the views across Brisbane and down to the river - some memories stay in the mind forever, and it’s not surprising the place should come so vividly to mind when I needed it.
Setting is such an important element in stories. Not only does it create the scene in the reader’s mind, but when viewed through the eyes of the characters it gives an insight into their emotions, and sometimes their backgrounds. In this scene, Ellie and her friend Cass are secretly following Ellie’s daughter Miranda as she tries to find a street kid who might have information they need.
They’d worn sneakers, but their footsteps sounded loud in the still, crisp night air. The pavement was bitumen, broken and uneven in places, and they stumbled in their haste, grabbing each other for support. At an old brick building that formed one corner of the entrance to the alleyway, they stopped. Ellie looked around the corner. Dark though the street had been, the alleyway was darker. She took two paces forward, closed her eyes for a moment to let them adjust to the greater darkness, then opened them. Rubbish bins, industrial size. Boxes - some cardboard, some timber. Garbage lay in windswept piles against doorways and obstacles. The smell of rot hung in the air – timber rot, food rot, and, Ellie was sure, body rot. And the acridity of stale urine.
Cass stayed behind her, closer than a shadow. Ellie was tempted to switch on her torch, but didn’t want to betray their presence.
They moved cautiously, slowly, trying to see where Miranda had gone. Cockroaches scurried in the garbage, making it seem alive. Ellie hoped it was cockroaches. Better them than rats. She remembered rats from her childhood – the derelict house across the road that swarmed with them, the way they boldly ran across in the night and invaded her home in their search for food. The council rat-catchers with their fox terriers that ferreted out the rats and bit their necks and killed them. Blood dripping. Limp furry bodies. Nightmares. She shuddered.
Halfway down the alleyway her trepidation turned to gut-shrivelling fear. Miranda had disappeared.
‘Are you scared?’ Cass whispered, so close the back of Ellie’s neck prickled.
‘No,’ Ellie hissed. ‘I’m pissing my pants because I like the warmth.’
The words were barely said when she felt sorry for their harshness. She turned to apologise, and found her mouth wouldn’t work.
Nothing would work - her mouth, her legs, her arm that should have been lifting up to point out to Cass the dark shape coming down the alleyway after them.
I like to use real places whenever I can in my stories, and have been delighted when readers contact me to tell me that was their beachside village, or they’d been to that art gallery, or they’d never look at that particular building in the same way again because of what I’d written about it.
Murder, Mayhem & Men On Pause
A bankrupt husband.
A marriage on the rocks.
A cop more sexy than the legal limit.
Just when Ellie Cummins is free to shed her corporate wife image, she finds the body of a young woman in an apartment she’s been hired to re-design. Her fledging business depends on this contract, so she tries to ignore the long-buried grief the trauma exposes.
When Ellie learns that her daughter has a personal connection to the victim, and the police have no leads, she and friends Cass and Kandy decide to investigate the murder. But Brisbane’s alleyways are dark and their detective skills dubious, so how far will they go for justice?
Kandy once lived a hard life on the streets, but will uncovering her husband's secret life destroy all she’s achieved since then? And solid, dependable Cass isn’t as content with her life as she seems.
And is the cop who responded to their call more interested in Ellie than the investigation?
For the three friends, it's a time of change and self-discovery. And the realisation that life, like love, doesn’t play fair.
Sandy is offering a free e-book of Murder, Mayhem & Men On Pause. To be in the draw, just comment on this post with the name of one of her three contemporary romances.
Please welcome the lovely Darcy Delany to my chair...
Would you tell us about your latest release?
Love to, Annie! My current release, I Don’t Date in December, is Book One in the Modern Day Fairy Tale Series. It’s a story about a strong woman who meets her match, but they both have to learn to trust what they have with each other to make it work.
Here’s the blurb:
Successful Sydney-based consultant Blaise Lee is on the cusp of securing a partnership and a coveted office with harbour views. But it comes at a price.
It means she can’t date in December. Any time she tries, work interferes and men drift away like the memory of a bad Christmas present.
When Blaise is sent on a last minute business trip to Cairns in December, she meets Jonty Lucca. Tall, dark hair, rippling muscles and a smattering of stubble, Jonty is the sort of man she’d date in a heartbeat—if it wasn’t December.
Army Captain Jonty Lucca has just secured a dream job with the Australian SAS. His itinerant army lifestyle has played havoc with his relationships before, so he’s not looking for a girlfriend before he posts out to Perth.
But when he meets Blaise he falls under the spell of L'incantesimo. The enchantment. And he’s not about to let Blaise walk out of his life, regardless of her rule about not dating in December.
What inspired you to write I Don’t Date in December?
For the last few years I’ve had a crazy December work schedule, which is completely antithetical to the Christmas spirit! I found myself feeling more frazzled than festive, which made me wonder, how successful would dating be in that context? And lo and behold, a story was born!
What is your favourite part about the writing process?
The planning. I love researching pictures to model my characters on, exploring where they will live and their occupations. It gets me excited about putting fingers to keyboard!
What sorts of heroes do you enjoy writing?
I like strong alpha heroes with a softer side—men who are successful but not aggressive about it.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Everywhere! I might hear a line in a song, or overhear a remark, and ‘bang!’ a book is born—that is how The Go-Between, the second book in the Modern Day Fairy Tale series came to life. Quite often I see a picture in a magazine and know ‘that’s my hero/heroine!’ Pinterest is another source of inspiration-I like saving writing prompts for future use.
Where can we find you online?
You can connect with me on Facebook (facebook.com/darcydelanyauthor), Pinterest (Darcydelanyauth) and Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15304692.Darcy_Delany).
Where can we buy I Don’t Date in December?
You can buy I Don’t Date in December on Amazon and Kindle. Happy reading!
Darcy Delany writes contemporary romance, chick lit, science fiction and historical fiction featuring strong, sassy and quirky heroines.
Darcy loves history, fabulous food and old movies. A fan of British home shows, Darcy dreams of one day restoring a Georgian mansion, if she can pay contractors to do all the hard work for her.
Love is a Journey
A warm welcome to Susanne who is going to tell us all about Book 3 of the fabulous and popular Hearts of the Outback series...
Romance in any form is a journey undertaken together. In the course of travels, the protagonists learn more about themselves as well as the person they connect with.
Blurb – Long Way Home:
The first time they met Detective Caleb Richards snapped handcuffs on Sarah Tait and she vowed never to forgive him. But when he seeks her help to find a kidnapped thoroughbred stallion she becomes his unwilling assistant.
Sarah sets out on a marathon endurance ride. As Caleb tags along, he realises that the horse whisperer has deeper secrets than he’d ever suspected.
Can he uncover Sarah’s secrets and win her trust?
Long Way Home (Hearts of the Outback bk 3) is both a physical and a metaphorical journey through challenging landscape and past hurts. Sarah Tait’s life is overshadowed by a childhood trauma, which she’s never fully dealt with. When Detective Caleb Richards pushes his way into her endurance ride, she finds the need and the desire to deal with her past and find a way forward.
Third in the series, Hearts of the Outback, Sarah and Caleb’s story features several beautiful horses, especially Sarah’s intelligent bay mare, Tabitha, and a feisty stolen thoroughbred named Sir Alain. Sarah uses her formidable talent as a horse whisperer to rescue the stallion as she completes the physically gruelling endurance ride to raise funds for a riding school for disabled children and clear her family name.
Long Way Home is available on Amazon amzn.to/28taN8Y
Just One Kiss (bk 1) – explores the world of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Pilot Amy Alistair has been dumped by one good looking man too many, but when the new Flying Doctor, heart throb, Dan Middleton, asks her to be his fake girlfriend, she agrees. Amy is certain she can resist the attraction of this man who holds a secret.
But is Amy as strong as she thinks she is? Will the truth of Dan’s past tear their love apart? bit.ly/1Oq3KAX
Heartbreak Homestead (bk 2) After her brother’s death, the last thing Lizzy Wilmot wants to do is to return to her family’s property but Alex Carter, his former business partner, needs her help to locate some missing files. Alex doesn't trust Lizzy and the feeling is mutual but when they find themselves back at the homestead in the midst of a bitter custody battle for Lizzy’s baby nephew, sparks begin to fly.
Who is trying to harm Lizzy?
Can they both learn that trust will overcome heartbreak? amzn.to/1nqc9hc
Excerpt: Long Way Home
Tabitha’s ears twitched and she whickered softly, drawing Sarah’s attention back to the present. Scanning the ground ahead, she drew the mare to a halt and unclipped her rifle. Dismounting, she eased the rifle from the holder. A willy willy spiralled in a dance of red dust off to her left, and the smell of baked dirt and eucalyptus filled the air.
Treading softly, she eased around an outcrop of red and grey rock. And stared at the man leaning nonchalantly against the trunk of a scrubby tree.
“You don’t need the gun, Sarah.” Caleb Richards stepped out of filtered shade.
“I thought Tabitha sensed a snake. She's never wrong.”
Damn the man. How had he known she would take this detour? Even she hadn’t thought of it until the turn off came into view.
Caleb chuckled but kept an eye on the gun she held across her body. “Your subtle aversion to my choice of meeting place made me reconsider. Well picked. This is much better, more private.”
“That's not a baobab tree by the way.”
“And this isn't your published route. Reckon we're even on that score.” He ambled towards her, thumbs hooked in the tabs of his low-slung jeans, and followed her around the outcrop until she stopped beside her mare.
She glanced at him before holstering the rifle. Temptation should never be too close at hand. “Go on then. Tell me why you’re plaguing me with your presence.”
Born and raised in Toowoomba, Susanne Bellamy is an Australian author of contemporary and suspense romances set in exciting and often exotic locations, and rural romance set in Australia. She adores travel with her husband, both at home and overseas, and weaves stories around the settings and people she encounters.
Her heroes have to be pretty special to live up to her real life hero. He saved her life then married her.
Susanne is a member of the RWA and was a finalist in their 2011 Emerald Award. She placed third in the 2015 Pan Macmillan short story competition with Chez Romeo. Mentoring aspiring writers, and working as a freelance editor keeps her off the street! She loves connecting with readers and fellow writers.
You can find her at the following:
I have a very special guest this week. Jenn J McLeod is one lovely lady, a fabulous author and Jenn and J are actually two of my longest and best author friends!
I read The Other Side of the Season last week and it had a deep emotional impact on me. Not only because it is set in my local area on banana plantains where I spent a lot of time in my late teens as my own romance blossomed in this beautiful Nambucca Valley, but because it is also a damn fine read!
Make sure you download the e-book or hurry to your nearest book store...this is a read not to be missed.
I love visiting your blog and I love visiting your beautiful hometown of Nambucca Heads, the inspiration for my latest release.
How many times have I walked that amazing V-Wall with its graffiti gallery of messages: funny, heartfelt . . . curious! Amid the memorials and marriage proposals I remember one rock in particular got my writer’s brain buzzing.
I’ve never met Dean or Brianna. I don’t know them and I don’t know if this message was intended as a proposal when Dean wrote it on an ocean breakwall rock, or if he was simply a man expressing his feelings for everyone to see. If it was a proposal, did Brianna say yes? Did she and Dean marry and live happily ever after, or did one of them meet with tragedy, or have an affair, or did they fall out of love with other?
A thousand words
how strong the
Love is that i have
for you. You are the
Love of my life the one
i want to be my wife.
Without you i dont know how i
would get through. You are my
soulmate my rock my everything.
(Transcribed from picture.)
I stood there, staring at the rock, not knowing anything—except the urge to correct his grammar!
I didn’t, of course, but I am a writer, so it was not long before I was answering all those questions in my head as I wandered along Nambucca’s famous V-Wall where there are hundreds of painted rocks, a graffiti gallery, an accidental art exhibition. Some rocks are painted over and over with new messages and many pieces show real talent. Some, like Dean’s, simply show their soul.
Anyway, the need to get home and start writing meant a speedy trip up the Pacific Highway and back to Coffs Harbour so I could get to work.
The end result is The Other Side of the Season—a story of first love, family love and forever love, and told over two time periods: 1979 and current day. And yes, readers, I am taking you on a sea change with a fictional town I’ve named Watercolour Cove—a place based very much on the Nambucca V-Wall area and the banana plantation hills of Coffs Harbour that I know so well.
Here is a little about the story . . .
The Other Side of the Season.
Everything has a reflection...
And there’s another side to every story.
When offering to drive her brother to Byron Bay to escape the bitter Blue Mountain’s winter, Sidney neglects to mention her planned detour to the small seaside town of Watercolour Cove.
Thirty-five years earlier, Watercolour Cove is a very different place. Two brothers are working the steep, snake-infested slopes of a Coffs Coast banana plantation. Seventeen-year-old David does his share, but the budding artist spends too much time daydreaming about becoming the next Pro Hart and skiving off with the teasing and tantalisingly pretty Tilly from the neighbouring property. His older brother, Matthew, has no time for such infatuations. His future is on the land and he plans to take over the Greenhill plantation from his father.
Life is simple on top of the mountain for David, Matthew and Tilly until the winter of 1979 when tragedy strikes, starting a chain reaction that will ruin lives for years to come. Those who can, escape the Greenhill plantation. One stays—trapped on the mountain and haunted by memories and lost dreams. That is until the arrival of a curious young woman, named Sidney, whose love of family shows everyone the truth can heal, what’s wrong can be righted, the lost can be found, and...
...there’s another side to every story.
My thanks to you, Dean and Brianna—whoever you are. The Other Side of the Season is not your story, but if you’re out there somewhere and reading this blog post I hope you got your happy ever after. And thank you Nambucca Heads and the V-Wall (both the wall and the tavern (a glass on wine on that deck was inspirational each time, too!)
The Other Side of the Season: Out now with Simon & Schuster Australia and available in all good bookstores and online — with BUY LINKS to all Jenn’s books on her website: www.jennjmcleod.com/book-room
Connect with Jenn on Facebook www.facebook.com/jennjmcleod.books and Twitter @jennjmcleod or join in the discussion at Readers of Jenn J McLeod Facebook group (no cat memes allowed!)
Amy Rose Bennett is one of my favourite authors... here is her latest!
A sweeping, sexy Highland romance about a wanted Jacobite with a wounded soul, and a spirited Scottish lass on the run.
Robert Grant has returned home to Lochrose Castle in the Highlands to reconcile with his long-estranged father, the Earl of Strathburn. But there is a price on Robert’s head, and his avaricious younger half-brother, Simon, doesn’t want him reclaiming his birthright. And it’s not only Simon and the redcoats that threaten to destroy Robert’s plans after a flame-haired complication of the feminine kind enters the scene...
Jessie Munroe is forced to flee Lochrose Castle after the dissolute Simon Grant tries to coerce her into becoming his mistress. After a fateful encounter with a mysterious and handsome hunter, Robert, in a remote Highland glen, she throws her lot in with the stranger—even though she suspects he is a fugitive. She soon realizes that this man is dangerous in an entirely different way to Simon...
Despite their searing attraction, Robert and Jessie struggle to trust each other as they both seek a place to call home. The stakes are high and only one thing is certain: Simon Grant is in pursuit of them both...
Barnes & Noble: http://ow.ly/102Xim
Google Play: http://ow.ly/102XJ1
April 16, 1746
Lochrose Castle, Strathspey, Scotland
‘You’ve got a bloody nerve, Robert.’
‘Aye, I do.’ Robert Grant—the soon-to-be disinherited Master of Strathburn and Viscount Lochrose—squinted through the dark spots clustering his field of vision, trying in vain to focus on his sneering half-brother Simon. The bayonet wound across his shoulder-blade throbbed with such thought-stealing intensity, it was all he could do to stay seated upon his trembling, sweating horse. There was no way he would be able to dismount unassisted. He’d end up with his face firmly planted in the gravel of the forecourt. ‘But for the love of God, Simon …’ he continued, his voice no more than a hoarse rasp. ‘Just help me down. I’m wounded for Christ’s sake …’
He barely recalled the moment the English soldier’s blade had sliced across his back. The horror of everything else that had taken place only hours before on Drumossie Moor flooded his mind. Made the nausea rise in his gullet anew.
Simon snorted. ‘You must’ve had a blow to the head then, or else you would’ve remembered that Father forbade you to come back.’ He glanced past Robert, down the gravel drive toward Lochrose’s gates. ‘You’ve killed them all, haven’t you? It was a rout, just like Father said it would be, wasn’t it?’ His grey gaze, flint-hard with accusation and long-held resentment, returned to Robert. ‘He will never forgive you for this.’
No doubt. Twenty-six Clan Grant men dead. And I was the arrogant young cock who led them all out like lambs to the slaughter.
Robert swallowed down both the bile and bitter self-acrimony burning his throat. ‘I know,’ he croaked. ‘But please … I just need to hide until I can move on … tomorrow.’
Even though he had flagrantly disobeyed their father and had led out the clan at Culloden, Robert prayed that he would be shown a modicum of compassion. That the earl would at least grant his eldest son sanctuary for a single night before he fled Scotland to spend a life in exile in some far-flung place. Robert didn’t want to put his family at risk for harbouring a fugitive, but he just couldn’t go on any farther.
Simon smiled, the sentiment not quite reaching his eyes. ‘Of course, dear brother. I shall have a room prepared for you.’ He gripped Robert’s forearm with one hand at the same time he slapped the blood-soaked plaid sticking to his shoulder.
Bastard. Agonising, white-hot pain instantly knifed through Robert. Even as black oblivion at last rose up to claim him, he didn’t fail to notice that Simon was still smiling.
Annie loves sharing her writing chair with special guests! If you'd like a turn...please email her! firstname.lastname@example.org