Romancing the Sydney Writers Festival

Last Saturday, I set off with a jaunty step and a light heart for the Sydney Writers Festival. It’s one of my favourite events of the year because I love the vibe of being surrounded by thousands of fellow bookworms. There was chatter and the aroma of good coffee in the air. The sun was shining. The sky was blue. The harbour sparkled. And this year and this particular day were extra special. When I arrived forty minutes early at Sydney Dance 1 to line up for the Beyond Dukes and  Damsels romance panel, there was already a queue a mile long! My heart swelled with pride and happiness.  Here we all were. The closet and the not-so-closet romance fans ready to engage in robust conversation with the I-am-so-out! fans.

Avril Tremayne,  author of Escaping Mr  Right and other sexy modern romances with a twist, was one of the speakers, and she had a similar reaction.

Avril said, ‘I was at first shocked, and then just plain thrilled, at how popular the session was – basically a full and very interested house. In fact, the feedback was so good, I’m sure we’ve made a few reading converts.

Joining Avril on the panel were fellow writer Victoria Purman (Someone Like You), managing editor of Escape Publishing Kate Cuthbert and literary historian Jodi McAlister.

Romance discussion at Sydney Writers Festival 2015‘I felt like I was part of something very special, talking romance alongside some of the best in the business at one of the most prestigious writers’ events in the country. What I hoped to do more than anything was articulate the excitement and diversity to be found in the world of romance fiction today,’ continued Avril.

It was a lively and entertaining panel covering everthing from how attitudes to (and expectations) of heroines have changed, proper use of the ‘c’ word and why you will never find a MPDG (manic pixie dream girl) in a romance.

The SWF is going to podcast the discussion, and we’ll post the link here so everyone not lucky enough to attend in person, can listen in, learn and enjoy. To quote Avril again, ‘It was romance’s first outing at the Sydney Writers’ Festival but I’m confident we’ll see some of our wonderful writers flying the romance flag there again next year.’


James Patterson, best-selling thriller writer extraordinaire, on keeping fans engaged: keep the plot rolling  with lots of twists and turns and surprises.

Husband and wife writing team Graeme  Simsion and Annie Buist  on collaboration:  it’s the norm in many forms of writing. You definitely need  a trusted critique partner if not a collaborator.

And on professionalism: treat your writing like a job. Put in your 10,000 hours of training (based on the theory that you need 10,000 hours of practice before you become  really good at something).

Steve Carroll on history: don’t patronise the past. It’s a form of contempt.

Amy Bloom on research: immerse yourself in your time period so that  you don’t have to think about it when you write.



Author Spotlight: Romantic Comedy novelist, Sarah Belle…

Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Sarah, and congratulations on the recent release of ‘Miss Spelled ’! Can you give us the blurb, please?

Lou’s life is perfect. She loves her job, her renovated house, and most of all, her gorgeous fiancé, Aidan. But when her old flame and Aidan’s school yard nemesis turn out to be the same person, Hunter Wincott, Lou’s life is blown apart. She must divulge her secret past, or have Hunter give it away. Either way, she runs the real risk of losing Aidan.

In desperation, she turns to Google. A quick search turns up Majique, the Internet Witch, and a spell that will delete herself from Hunter’s memory. But something goes wrong in the casting process, and Lou deletes much more than just a memory. She deletes herself from her life completely.

Luckily, there’s a one-week window for Lou to get back to the life she loved. One week to win back Aidan, before he walks down the aisle with the wrong woman and ruins their shared dream of happiness. It would be easy, if only Aidan had any idea who Lou actually is.

Miss Spelled

 What is ‘magical realism romance’?

I like the name Romagic Comedy. Not quite paranormal, not quite fantasy, this genre believes that magic is a part of the every day, and that there’s more to our lives than can be explained. It may involve time travel, casting a spell, imaginary friends, making a wish- it’s when extraordinary things happen to ordinary people in the world as we know it.

What is it about that particular genre attracts you as a writer?

The first book I read in the Romantic Comedy genre was Jenny Colgan’s ‘Do You Remember the First Time?’ It was about a woman who was dissatisfied with her perfectly organised life and woke to find herself a teenager again. Except she didn’t get to travel back to her own time as a teen (the 80’s) she had to survive being a teen in modern day. It was a great read and had me laughing out loud, while relating to many the issues she faced. I decided then that if I ever wrote a book (because everyone is going to write a book!), it was going to be in that genre.

How do you go about researching magical elements for your novels?

Google! So far I’ve researched time travel, imaginary friends and magic spells and it’s been great fun. I’ve learnt all kinds of stuff about moon phases, when to cast spells, when not to cast spells, theories of time travel, and the psychological / supernatural explanation for imaginary friends. It’s good to have an open mind. I am a believer in all sorts of things we can’t see or explain, so I find it quite fascinating and can bury myself in research for far too long.

What does your writing space look like?

I don’t have one at the moment. I use either the dining table, the outdoor dinner table, or my eldest son’s homework desk – depending on where I feel like sitting at the time. But no matter where I sit, my trusty Golden Retriever, Arrow is always sitting next to me. He’s my four legged muse.



What would we find on your bookshelf or e-reader?

An eclectic mix of authors – Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series is a favourite, as is the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson. I also love Shari Low, Georgina Penney, Lily Malone, Jenny Colgan, Maeve Binchy, and loads of craft books.

How do you manage your time between work, family and writing?

I am a great time manager. I divide things into what I can do with kids around, and what I can’t do with kids around. For instance, most of my writing time is sans kids. All housework is done when the kids are home. I work for my hubby one day a week and spend the rest of the time chasing after our four sons, cooking, cleaning, baking, etc – they do loads of sports so I am really more of a taxi driver nowadays!

Can you tell us about your current works in progress?

My current WIP, which is still nameless, is a contemporary story with romantic elements. It did start off as a story about an imaginary friend, however I decided to remove him and focus on a non-magical book for a change. I intend it to be the first one in a series of three or four books centred around the members of one family. The imaginary friend will appear in my next romagic comedy book instead.

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What does the future hold for Sarah Belle?

The immediate future holds nearly two months of school holidays – so not much writing will get done there! My goal is to extend into the women’s fiction with romantic elements market, while still writing romagic comedy. Next year my youngest will start school, so I am returning to University to study English and Creative Writing, and am very excited about that new chapter in my life.

Could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts of ‘Miss Spelled’, please?

Absolutely! In this scene Lou has stalked her ex boyfriend, Hunter Wincott to his hotel in the hope of him agreeing not to divulge their romantic past to her fiancé, Aiden. Hunter and Aiden are enemies from boarding school and so have a long history together. Lou is convinced that if Aiden is made aware of her past, he will cancel their engagement.

My nerves get the better of me and I turn to walk away. This was a stupid idea. Aiden needs to know the truth, no matter the cost. Honesty has to be the best way to go.

My mobile launches out of my sweaty hand and drops to the floor. None of my fingers seem to be working, my nerves are shot and eyes blurry with tears as I bend down to pick it up.


The voice is unmistakeable, although the north London accent has thickened since our last conversation eleven years ago.

“Lou, is that you?” he asks again.

I look at the expensive men’s shoes in front of me, all the way up the exquisite woollen suit, to the incredibly handsome face at the top. Those sapphire eyes, thick black glossy lashes and slightly olive complexion. He’s still a sexpot.

Oh shit!

He crouches down on his haunches and places one strong, warm hand on my elbow. A shiver flashes through my body as though he is a live charge plugged into me. With the other hand he picks up the phone.

“Is this yours?” He smiles the same smile that seduced me all those years ago. The same smile that probably seduces countless other women as well. When you’re onto a good thing…

“Ah, um…yes. Thank you, Hunter,” I stammer. “What a coincidence!” My smile feels lopsided and a manufactured giggle catches in my throat.

  He helps me back up to a standing position and leaves his hand on my elbow, his current  still passing through my body.  A huge void has developed between my brain and mouth. All I can do is stare and feel myself overheat, almost forgetting the reason for my journey here.

 His eyes run all over my body as he puts the other hand on my arm and looks at me as though my body is a fine piece of artwork he is thinking of acquiring, just trying to figure out which room it would look best in.

“Lou,” he says in the deep voice that is an aphrodisiac in itself. “You look good enough to eat…slowly.”

Yep, he still has the touch. All the moisture in my mouth evaporates and reappears under my armpits.

Hunter takes a step closer and I feel my body being enveloped in his strong, thick arms, the kind of arms that appear on the cover of romance novels. As tall as Aiden, but broader and stronger in frame, like a rugby player. I can feel every contour of his athletic body beneath his shirt. Momentarily, it’s not possible to remember my own name. It’s as though it was yesterday we were together.

He takes a small step backwards, enough so that we are no longer embracing but still in each other’s personal space.

“I can’t tell you how often I’ve thought of you over the years. How are you?” he says.

I clear my throat and tell my heart to slow down, and my loins to stop quivering.

“I’m good, great in fact. Thanks. And you?”

“Life has treated me very well. What a coincidence to meet you here. Do you have time for a drink, dinner perhaps?”

I check my watch to make it look as though I have something planned. It’s past nine o’clock.

“A very late dinner?” Hunter asks and then gives me the smile that no sane woman can resist.


“Just you and me. I’ll organise it.” He waves over the concierge, who scurries towards us. “A table set up in my suite, fresh seafood for two. Make sure there’s an icy bottle of Krug Vintage waiting. An eighty-eight if you have it.”

“Yes sir, very good.”

Hunter turns back to me and smiles. Should I run out the foyer and flee for my life, or stay and run the risk of being charmed to death, especially in his room of all places. He was like a magician when it came to bedrooms. One wave of his warm hand and my panties used to disappear.

“What about the restaurant?” I say. “Can’t we eat there?”

“Are you afraid you won’t be able to resist me, Lou?” he smiles.

Author Bio

Sarah Belle started her professional life in the hospitality industry, working in some of the roughest hotels in Melbourne in the late Eighties, surrounded by drug dealers, prostitutes, pimps, and undercover police. Tiring of the inherent dangers of her working environment, Sarah completed a business degree and went on to work in the recruitment industry where she met and married the man of her dreams. They have four young sons and live on the beautiful Queensland coast, where Sarah’s days are spent being a frazzled mum, writer, Bikram Yoga devotee, a Naughty Ninja and the only woman in a house of five males.

Sarah Belle



Web links



Escape Publishing




Naughty Ninjas 

On a separate note, this will be my last post as the Author Spotlighter. After nearly two years of writing the spotlight the time has come for me to focus on my University studies, family and writing. Many thanks to all the wonderful authors who have appeared on the Spotlight during my time here. I have made so many new friends within this community thanks to the volunteering opportunity the RWA provided. Wishing you all a peace filled Christmas and a New Year full of love, laughter and light. xxx

Author Spotlight: Sexy Contemporary Romance novelist, V. K. Black…

Welcome to the Author Spotlight, V.K and congratulations on the release of ‘Unexpected Places’. Can you give us the blurb, please?

One treasure map; a pair of priceless emeralds; two very keen hunters — only one can win, but who says that competition can’t be a little fun?

When sweet, pretty Ariana Noonan knocks out treasure hunter Luke Donahue with a champagne bottle and steals his treasure map, he vows to get his map back, find the missing priceless emeralds…and exact a fitting revenge.

When Luke finally discovers Ariana in a dingy hotel on a remote tropical island, she’s in desperate straits and he finally gains the upper hand. Of course he will rescue her. His price? They act on the attraction that’s been simmering between them from the very beginning.

But all is not as it seems, and Luke’s sexy bargain turns up not only an unbelievable secret, but Ariana’s reasons for wanting the emerald. Suddenly, nothing is clear-cut anymore, and map or no map, Luke and Ariana are sailing into uncharted territory.

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You write what you like to read, which is sexy romances with open bedroom doors. How have sexy romances changed in recent times to become more mainstream?

I really don’t know the answer to this one. The romance world, of course, has been enjoying sexy romances for ages. But the mainstream world? My bridge club is a good example of mainstream society. We have a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey in the bridge library. Lots of Nora Roberts. Danielle Steele. No HM&B though. In the members’ attitudes to me, I haven’t experienced contempt or rude questions about when I’m going to write a “real” book. There seems to be a genuine admiration of and interest in the fact that I write and am published. There’s amusement about the sexy bit. Quite a few members have bought my books.

Who are your favourite sexy romance authors and what impact have they had on your writing.

There are a few authors who are automatic buys for me. Maybe my favourite is Kelly Hunter, closely followed by Heidi Rice. I really enjoy the tone of their books, their voices. There’s a light-hearted readability about their books I admire, and which I think has influenced my writing. There’s lots of other authors too. Melanie Milburne, Abby Green, Lynne Graham, Kristan Higgins, Julie James. And at the hot end of town, Cherise Sinclair and Lexi Blake. 

You write in a number of genres, do you have a favourite?

Contemporary is my favourite genre, although I love World War Two historicals too.

Do you think that writing in different genres has improved your writing skills? Are there any other genres you are going to work in?

I guess by simply writing, your writing tends to improve. And by reading craft books. And by reading other authors’ books with an eye to their craft. When I re-read my first book, Lies and Seduction, a World War Two historical, I scrunch up my nose in a couple of places, as I’ve written things I wouldn’t now – although I still think the book is fun and a good read. I’m not sure if writing across the genres has improved my writing, except by keeping myself fresh, perhaps. There’s a World War Two/Time Travel in the wings.

When you’re not writing, what do you do to relax?

Read, play bridge (though more for the chatty fun – goodness, some of those bridge players get serious!), go to exercise classes, which means chat with friends at coffee afterwards, cook (eat) spicy food. Love curries. A nice glass of chardonnay of course helps with that relaxing.

Can you tell us about your current work in progress?

It’s another sexy contemporary, set on an island in the Great Barrier Reef. Originally, I wrote it as a short story told entirely from the man’s point of view. But the two publishers I submitted to both wanted to hear about the heroine’s story as well. So that’s what I’m doing now. I’ve had to change the heroine’s character, because as a damsel in distress she wasn’t terribly interesting. Although I rather enjoy reading about distressed damsels being rescued by big strong bad boys. Okay, it’s the big, strong, bad boys I’m interested in…

What does the future hold for Victoria Black?

It’s actually V.K. Black these days. I used to be the one and only Victoria Black, Author, out there, but there are heaps of us now, one of whom writes Wow, O.M.G., taken-by-the-team-you-get-my-drift erotica. I mean, what would the bridge club say? Hence the name change.

What I enjoy writing most, and what I’d like to investigate with a view to publishing, is short stories. I know everyone is self-publishing these days, but I’m so bad with technology, I’m really nervous about dipping my toe into that pond. Travelling is also on my agenda. Two months eating and drinking my way around the U.K. has but whetted my appetite.

Could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts of ‘Unexpected Places’, please?

This excerpt is from early in the first chapter, where Luke is about to meet Ariana.

Luke watched with interest as she approached him. He’d noticed her earlier, when he’d been chatting with his dad’s old secretary. A tiny, pretty little thing—the approaching blonde, not Mrs Abercrombie. She’d been standing all alone, gulping her wine. Then her attention had suddenly fixed on him. She’d started on the long approach, unaware, he was sure, that he knew she was coming.

There’d been the noise at Bob’s door last week. Someone had been listening, he was sure of it, and that person knew all about the missing emeralds and the map. He’d been expecting a stranger to approach him at some point, all week. And well, well, here she was. Another girl. Another one of Changpu’s little off-siders.

Of course, he could be misjudging her. Maybe she was a pretty girl who wanted sex badly, and had lousy timing. But he didn’t think so. There was a steely purpose behind the way she was currently stalking him.

Again, an unfamiliar fury rose within him. For Changpu to follow him into his own company was the final straw. He’d played nice up until now. He’d been a perfect gentleman to Mai Ling. But no more. Neither the old man nor this little employee of his could expect any mercy. Luke traced the still-painful line of his scar beneath his shirt.

His eyes roved leisurely over her sweet curves, enjoying the enticing bounce of her white breasts revealed by her sexy black dress. It hugged her trim little body and came to rest at her knees. Her femininely curved hips swayed with the help of heels that must be adding inches to her height. Pretty green eyes fixed on his face. Her cute half-smile, half pout drew her lovely full lips up at their corners.

Clenching his teeth, Luke felt the muscle tick at his jaw. His stomach tightened for battle. But, to his surprise, his cock rose in enthusiastic greeting. Luke smiled, enjoying the widening wariness of her eyes, enjoying how his fury and desire for revenge had mixed into a heady, potent cocktail of lust. Grabbing a glass of the cheap champagne they were serving tonight, he stepped toward her, crowding her.

He smiled again. Or at least did his best, forcing his lips to curl up into something approximating genuine warmth. “Hi. I’m Luke. Would you care for a glass of champagne?”



Author Bio: V.K. Black is from Queensland, Australia. She loves tropical islands, snorkelling on the Barrier Reef, good wine and hot spicy food. Amazingly, all of these appear in Unexpected Places (published by Escape Publishing). Sadly, treasure maps and priceless emeralds have been in short supply in her real life, so she has written a story about them.

As well as her action/adventure contemporary, Unexpected Places, V.K. Black has written an erotic fantasy/sci fi called Heavenly Revenge (published by Secret Cravings) and a World War Two historical called Lies and Seduction (published by Cobblestone Press.) There is a unifying theme. They are all fun sexy romances, with a handsome hero and a lovely heroine.

V.K. Black has been a member of RWA for many years now, and enjoys the company of her fellow RWA members at her monthly Sultry Scribes writers’ meeting.

Web links

Website: victoriablacksexystories

Blog: victoriablacksexystories

Facebook: V.K. Black

Twitter: @VKBlackAuthor

Goodreads: Unexpected Places

Buy link: Escape Publishing

Author Spotlight and Giveaway: Erotic / Fantasy novelist, Rhyll Biest…

Editor’s note: This post contains content unsuitable for people under the age of 18 due to sexual content.


Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Rhyll and congratulations on the release of ‘Unrestrained ’. Can you give us the blurb, please?

When the reclusive Holly Unthanks finds some very naughty photos, both the star—a muscular Teutonic god with some serious ink and a knack for knots—and the way he’s tied his lady friend to his four-poster bed, make her more than a little curious. But to get to know the big, built stonemason better, she’ll have to overcome his vengeful ex and her own inhibitions—and pray that the walls she’s built around her guarded heart and dark secret remain safe from a man who has a way with stone.

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Can you tell us the differences between erotic romance, erotica, and sexy romance, please?

Different authors might disagree with my definition of the differences, but to me a ‘happy ever after’ or ‘happy for now’ are optional in erotica whereas they’re not in romance. And in erotic romance sex is an essential plot element (e.g. trigger for character development and conflict) whereas this isn’t the case in sexy romance (no matter how much heartfelt boffing goes on). For example, because Unrestrained is an erotic romance, whether Holly can move past her inhibitions is an important plot element (and a happy ending depends on it).

Erotic romance has certainly taken off as a genre in recent years, why do you think that it has taken so long to become mainstream?

My theory is that once e-books and e-book readers such as Kindle became ubiquitous, this allowed women to consume/purchase what they wanted without being slut-shamed at the library or bookstore.

Some readers hold the perception that erotic romance is just about sex, but it’s more than that. What else will a first time reader find in an erotic romance?

Because sex is an important plot element (i.e. either a trigger for character development, relationship change, conflict, or a crucible – something that prevents the couple from leaving one another) I often find the sex scenes in erotic romance a lot more meaningful (story-wise and for characters) than those in stories where they’re inserted to spice things up or for pacing reasons. In other words, because sex is an important plot element, the sex in erotic romance is emotionally charged rather than mindless bonking.

Also, human sexuality is such a highly emotive and fascinating subject, with a million different facets and variations with every individual—the character and dynamics possibilities are endless. Good erotic romance explores that variety, and the highs and lows of sexuality, and—most importantly—the vulnerability people experience when it comes to sex. Sexuality issues also seem a very realistic and natural romance plot conflict to me, and less artificial than say, for example, a secret baby or mistaken identity. I think erotic romance also offers writers a lot of freedom in terms of genre boundaries, which means there are some really unique characters and stories out there.


You write about heroes and heroines with unusual occupations. Which has been the most interesting and why?

I do love unusual occupations, it’s true. I think stonemason is the most interesting one I’ve written about so far, and I really enjoyed researching the different types of stone, tools and techniques involved. To me it’s a type of craftsmanship close to art (sculpture) and because I’m a hobby artist learning about materials and methods appealed.

You’ve lived in many different countries, do you have a favourite? What was it about that place that made it endearing to you?

Prague was my favourite city to live in because it’s so very beautiful, cultured and historic. I don’t know that ‘endearing’ is the right way to describe the Czech Republic but I certainly enjoyed my time there.

I love that you write about things that don’t always happen in real life, but should, such as the plain looking girl getting the hot guy. How have your readers responded to this change of character stereotype?

I think readers have always loved that sort of thing, think of Mr Rochester and ‘plain’ Jane Eyre. It’s pretty common in popular culture, too, and I’ll confess that I’m totes waiting for Oliver to fall for ‘plain’ Felicity in the TV series Arrow. I don’t see anything wrong with authors or scriptwriters offering their audience a bit of wish fulfillment. After all, who else is going to offer it?


You are the co-founder of the Naughty Ninjas. Can you tell us a bit about being part of a ninja group?

Being a ninja is awesome as I can always count on my fellow ninjas for tips, ideas, shameless pimping, merkin discussions, encouragement and support. Being a writer/author can be tough at times, so it really helps me to know that a half dozen ninjas have got my back. Plus they’re all funny, creative and filthy—my favourite kind of friends.

What is your current WIP about and what does the future hold for Rhyll Biest?

I’m currently writing book two in a saucy fantasy series about demons. My spiritual guide assures me that writing about sex and demons will keep me young forever, so I feel that’s the way to go.

Could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts of ‘Unrestrained’, please?

Carving headstones for a living didn’t make him the Grim Reaper. He was just a man, a man being blackmailed.

To call or not to call? She hated that the very idea of doing it immediately made her skin prickle with discomfort, and that it wasn’t just the thought of the man himself that made her uncomfortable, but the physical act of calling him. It was hard to pass for normal, to be normal, with her almost pungent aversion to phones. Landlines, cell phones, business and personal calls, she hated them all and it wasn’t unusual to catch herself pretending she couldn’t get to the phone in time to answer it, or deliberately letting her cell phone batteries go flat, sometimes for weeks at a time. It had lost her many editing clients and yet still she did it. Because she remembered the shrill sound of her cell phone ringing and ringing while she was busy dying.

Don’t be a pussy, Holly. Man up.

She had to force herself to do it, to take out her phone, which actually had some charge left. Poor planning on her part. Her fingers misdialed twice on the suddenly too-small keys before she nailed the third attempt. Three rings, four rings, five. No answer. Maybe he’d changed his number to dodge the stalky, threatening Luisa. Maybe his hands were full of tombstone. Maybe he was busy tying someone up. Or perhaps he was ignoring the phone like normal people did now and then. Except there was nothing ‘normal’ or ‘like most’ about Herr Stein, the butcher of stone, and now there was no hiding the truth from herself, that his looks, his very being, intimidated her. Thoroughly. As well as everything else about him. His job. His name. That stare.



She hung up, the rich baritone reverberating in her ears. She focused on her hot chocolate as she replayed the sound. His voice was subterranean deep, wrapped in a harsh German brute of an accent. He’d uttered a single word, yet it had transformed him instantly from a picture to a flesh-and-blood man, a man she didn’t know, a man who didn’t look at all friendly, and who more than likely had an attitude to match his insanely powerful body.

Sweet splicing semicolons, Holly, you would have to be out of your gourd, bat-shit, flesh-eating crazy to get mixed up in this.


Author Bio: I’m an Australian writer of erotic romance published with Escape, Ellora’s Cave, Momentum and Mischief. Living in Prague, Shanghai and Germany as well as studying Russian and German have given me a taste for the exotic, and I populate my writing with sexy Soviet men, Teutonic hotties and alluring Aussie vixens. Yes, I’m host to the United Nations of Hotness (in my writer’s imagination, at least).

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Web links






Buy link

Rhyll is kindly gifting one Ecopy of ‘Unrestrained’ to one lucky reader. To be in the running, all you need to do is leave a comment below.


This competition is open world wide and will be drawn one week after posting.

Author Spotlight and Giveaway: Erotic Romance Author, Cate Ellink…

*Ed’s Note: This post contains adult content and is only suitable for readers over the age of 18.

Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Cate, and congratulations on the release of ‘Deep Diving’! Can you give us the blurb, please?

Thanks heaps, Sarah. This is my blurb, the official one may be different.

Two competitive athletes and a sex-filled holiday fling. No strings, right?

Samantha Caine, newly-retired Olympic triathlete, meets Cooper Sterling, high-profile rugby league player, on tropical paradise, Lord Howe Island when they’re paired as dive buddies.

Soon they become more than undersea partners and things get seriously sexy, but Sam’s disinclined to be another football groupie, and for Cooper it’s about more than good looks.

Is a holiday fling the finish line or can Sam and Cooper turn friendly competition into more than sizzling sex?

Deep Diving


What was the inspiration behind ‘Deep Diving’?

I was at the NRL Grand Final in 2012. I’m a footy fan, so this was no hardship. One of the players caught my attention – no idea why in this game, when I’d seen him play before – and I began to wonder how you’d ever meet someone like him, and if you did, what would it be like?

I figured you’d meet him on holidays. I’ve been to Lord Howe Island a few times and it’s one of my favourite places. So, my imagination went crazy. I’d meet him scuba diving at Lord Howe. I’d have to be really sporty to attract him, but I wouldn’t want to make myself too easy, so our holiday would have to be full-on and competitive.

And being a new erotic author, I wanted to see if I could write a lot of sex without getting bored (I know, please don’t think too deeply about my mind. It scares me too!). So Cooper and Sam have a competition to always use a different form of the sex act on their 11 day holiday. I hope you won’t get bored reading, because I certainly didn’t!

The world of erotic literature has certainly expanded in recent years. Was there a catalyst for this, do you think, or has society’s attitudes relaxed to the point that readers no longer need to hide their books in brown paper bags?

Sarah, you ask some great questions. I think e-publishing has been the major catalyst because no one sees what you’re reading, and e-publishing has allowed erotic literature to be readily available. When I first started reading erotic stories (in the 1990s), it was difficult to buy (or borrow) these books. They just weren’t easily available in Australia. Now it’s a click of a button and the book is yours!

I think there’s been some relaxation of society’s attitudes, brought about by the popularity of some erotic titles, but I think this has a long way to go. Most people I know (who aren’t writers) struggle to cope with the fact that I ‘write sex…for people to read’.

Do you see the popularity of erotic novels as sexually liberating for readers?

Hmmm…yes, I suppose so. I want to write it for that reason, so I hope people read for that reason. I don’t write for it to be titillating, I write because I think sex and intimacy is an integral part of a relationship and we (as a society) have hidden (or belittled) that part of ourselves for a long time. I want to open the doors to the bedroom, or wherever people have sex. I want sex (in whatever form) to be seen as a normal part of a healthy relationship.

You’ve written a number of stories for anthologies as well, the most recent being ‘Control’. How do you go about making the characters as deep in a short story as in a novel?

I started by writing short stories, and most of my short stories are ‘scenes’ rather than what you’d call stories (eg Control is <1200 words, so it’s really short). Mostly, my short stories are erotica, not erotic romance, so I don’t need too much character development because I’m not showing the emotion of people falling in love. Erotica is more about describing the sex act itself. Erotic romance is focussed on the romance, the emotions, including the sex act.

I write in first person (unless I have to change) and giving only one character’s thoughts and emotions makes it easier to write short. Sometimes I think maybe that’s cheating, but I really can’t handle two people!


What would we find on your bookshelf and e-reader? Which authors have influenced you the most?

I am a most eclectic reader, so you’d find all sorts on my bookshelves/e-reader. In the erotic line, I have most of the Marquis deSade’s books. I think of him as the forefather of erotica and his books were an eye-opener to me when I was first introduced to them. I have quite a few of the ‘older’ erotic books, like Fanny Hill and The Story of O. I went through a phase were I made quite a collection of ‘sex books’ (eg The Art of Sexual Ecstasy, Sex for One, Sex Q&A, Our Bodies, Ourselves) and I use these a lot for ‘research’.

In recent years I guess the Wonkomance ( girls are those who have influenced me the most. They’re smart women, who write clever stories of relationships that aren’t quite the norm (wonk). Charlotte Stein is my favourite and I try to channel her in my writing (I think her first person is so incredible, I’d like to be that good one day).

What do you do when not writing? How do you relax?

I live on the south coast of NSW only a short stroll to the river and the beach, so I’m often at one of those places if I’m relaxing. I love swimming so look for me in the water. We’re quite close to Jervis Bay for unbelievable snorkelling and diving. I’m a voracious reader. I love eating, and I’m pretty partial to a long lunch. I love sleeping in, and a long soak in the bath, reading, is pure joy.

How important is it for erotic novelists to research? How do they do this – reading, visiting BDSM venues?

I think it’s really important to research and to be clear in your stories the exact nature of people’s relationships (especially with BDSM stories). But I’m a scientist by training, so I’m a bit nerdy about things being right.

I know this is awful, but sometimes I can be pulled right out of a story when something happens that I know isn’t correct. And when this happens in a sex scene, it makes me wonder why on earth the author wrote a scene they know nothing about. I also find there’s a lot of clichés in erotic writing – like foil covered condoms. Maybe they’re foil in the USA, but here, the ones I’ve seen are in plastic. Do we just use the term ‘foil’ without thinking, or do people not go and check out what a condom is like?

I’m a big fan of reading text books for help. I have a few friends who I can ask lots of sex questions to and have discussions that are real and normal (not silly and embarrassing). Online is a great way to learn things too. There are a heap of online things now that weren’t available years ago (eg Q & A, forums, virtual tours of places).

You are known for being very sciencey. Do many creatures in the animal world have sex for fun, or just for procreation?

I have some awesome books about wildlife and sex. There seems to be a large part of the science world that believes animals have sex only for procreation, however there are some who have more liberal views about sex being also for fun. There’s also the huge homosexuality amongst animals debate. I guess no one knows for sure how animals are feeling during sex, but I hope they have sex for fun and not just for routine/procreation.

Do I sound terrible if I say, when I watch animals having sex, I always think there’s some degree of enjoyment had by both parties…but maybe I’m anthropomorphising!


Could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts of ‘Deep Diving’, please?

This is one of my favourite scenes, although I did have a tough time deciding!

Mango is sweet and soft with a texture of debauchery. Eating it from Cooper makes it so much more sinful, so much more delicious and so incredibly decadent. My lips touch firm skin, taste Cooper, then close over soft squelching fruit. My tongue licks over warm, tightly packed muscle that’s sweet, salty and male. It confuses my head. Not just sensory overload but my senses are mixed. Soft and hard. Sweet and salty. Solid male and sexy squelch-like female. My head buzzes, my mouth zings.

I feed the last slices to Cooper. Easing the fruit between his lips and licking any escaping juice. When there are no mango pieces left, I lap each mound of abdominal muscle, each dip, until I can no longer taste the sweet dribbles of juice.

If you’d like to learn more about the wonderful Cate Ellink, here’s where you’ll find her:


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Cate is kindly gifting one ecopy of Deep Diving to one lucky reader. To be in the running to win, all you have to do is answer the following question in the comments section:

Question: Have your reading habits changed with the introduction of e-readers?

This competition is open worldwide and will be drawn on August 13th, 2014. The winner will be notified via email, so please ensure that your contact details are easily found!

Author Spotlight and Giveaway: Contemporary Romance Novelist, Sandra Antonelli…


Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Sandra Antonelli, and congratulations on the release of ‘Driving In Neutral ’!  Can you give us the blurb, please?

Level headed Olivia Regen walks away from her car-racing career and the wreckage of a bad marriage to take on new work that’s far removed from the twists of racetrack. Her new life is about control, calm and the good friends that she adores. But her first task on her very first day involves getting up close and too personal with her claustrophobic boss, alone in a broken elevator. Her unconventional solution for restoring his equilibrium shocks them both and leaves Olivia shaken. Determined to stick to her plan, Olivia drives headlong into work and planning her best friend’s wedding, leaving no room for kissing, elevators, or workplace relationships. But Emerson is not one to be out-manoeuvred. Can he convince Olivia that her fear of falling in love again is just another kind of claustrophobia – one that is destined to leave them both lonely?

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You write more mature protagonists than the average romance novel. What is it about older women that inspires you to write?

Inspired? I wouldn’t say I was inspired as much as I was irritated. Older women are fascinating and have amazing stories, but I noticed that there are so few lead female characters over 40 in fiction, and even fewer in romance. The mature woman shows up, but typically as a secondary character or—and here’s where I get a bee in my bonnet—as  a stereotype. There’s the pervasive idea that once a woman passes 40 she becomes one of several things, a mother, grandmother, comic relief, or invisible. Thanks, Hollywood and fashion magazines. This is, however, beginning to change. We’re beginning to see more mature women in a larger variety of roles, especially in television, which seems to be a little bit more open to experimentation with expectations than film. There have been a few movies that stretch the boundaries as well, most of them rom coms, most of them starring Meryl Streep or Diane Keaton, but it would be great if other actresses over 40 were given the chance to do the same. I’d love to see Holly Hunter and Helen Mirren as the leads in a Rom Com. Personally, I’ve always liked reading about people with more life experience, even when I was a kid. For me, older people had and have a more interesting history, more expansive baggage, and a longer ride on the emotional rollercoaster—and they’re still trying to get life and love right.

‘Driving In Neutral’ is set in Chicago. How important is setting in your stories?

Setting can be another character in a story. I wrote Driving in Neutral before I began my Los Alamos series (A Basic Renovation & For Your Eyes Only) and I chose Chicago because it’s one of my favourites cities (next to Melbourne and Los Alamos, New Mexico), but essentially the town serves more as a backdrop in Driving in Neutral, whereas in the Los Alamos books the town and its history, as the birthplace of the atom bomb, play a part in characters’ lives and in the storyline.

Your first two novels, ‘A Basic Renovation’ and ‘For Your Eyes Only’ are part of your Los Alamos series. What was the inspiration about that particular location?

I’ve been there a number of times. It’s startlingly beautiful and set on a series of mesas below the Jemez Mountains. It’s such a pretty little town with such a bizarre history. First it was the location of a Boys’ Ranch School, then it became the secret location for the development of the first atomic bombs. These days it’s the home of a nuclear research facility. I liked that the town a secret past and a present-day link to science. It fit well with the secrets kept by the characters in A Basic Renovation and For Your Eyes Only.


Plotter or Panster?

Plotter? What’s that? Oh that idea makes me cringe. I’m a puzzler. I have bits and pieces of stories, usually dialogue and simple scenes, that I have to find a way to fit together. I don’t plot and find trying to do so kills my mojo dead.

You recently attained your PhD, so congratulations Dr Antonelli! How on earth did you manage to complete your doctorate, work and write a novel at the same time? What are your tips for time management?

Aww, thank you! Part of the doctorate included writing a novel. So I had built-in time for writing the creative piece, which was For Your Eyes Only (my PhD is in Creative writing: romance fiction). As for time management… I’m ridiculously organised. I like neat and tidy and order. I had set working times, sometimes scheduled by my supervisors, but mostly everything was fixed around business hours. I seldom did work at home. My husband is a psychologist who does a lot of work-life-balance consultations. I’m not saying he’s rubbed off because, I am ridiculously organised, but I think I’d be a model to hold up for how to get the balance right. Or I’d be a great example of a compulsive control freak. So my tips for time management? Get 8 hours of sleep, always eat a good breakfast, spend a set number of hours writing (I write from 9am to 1pm), get some exercise, and spend the rest of the day and weekends doing other things. For good health and creativity, you have to have another part to your life beyond bottom in seat, fingers on keyboard.

You’ve recently completed a ‘75 Days of Phobia blog-athon’. What sort of phobias do you discuss? Are there certain phobias that seem to be common amongst writers?

The series ran the gamut from spiders and clowns (the 2 most commonly mentioned phobias) to Louise Forster’s egg phobia and a deeply rooted fear of antique jewellery. I now have a phobia of doing another 75 Days of Anything Blog series.

Which authors have inspired you and your writing the most? Why?

I really love Elmore Leonard, James Thurber, Daphne DuMauirer, as well as songwriters Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbook, and Jenny Crusie. Leonard’s work is sharp, witty, taut, and has killer dialogue. Thurber’s work wry, snarky, insightful and appreciates the need for daydreaming. DuMaurier is amazing at setting a mood though characterisation of protagonists and locations. Difford & Tilbrook (you’d know them as UK Squeeze, I know them as Squeeze) craft stories into little powerpop gems; everything, from character, setting, and plot, fits into a three and a half-minute song (go listen to Goodbye Girl for proof). Jenny Crusie’s influence was her advice to “write the story I wanted to read.”


Are there any other genres you would like to try?

Mystery. Maybe. Yeah. Mystery.

Could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts of ‘Driving In Neutral’, please?

“Does knowing those details make me a little more respectable now?”

“I didn’t think you were unrespectable.”

“Then what was with the surprised look on your face?”

“What surprised look?”

As she planted her hands on her hips she made a face, her mouth hanging open in a round O. “Your jaw made a pretty big clunk when it hit the pavement after I said I was married twice. In fact, it made more noise that time than when you found out I used to race.”

“You just don’t look the type,”

“For what, racing and test driving?”

“No, for being married twice.”

“There’s a type?”


“And that is…”

“Las Vegas strippers and gold-digging girls in their twenties.” His eyes wandered over her, dipping low to glance at her breasts before returning to her face. “You don’t look like a girl to me.”

“I don’t?”

“No. And I don’t like girls.”

“I guess I’m not your type then.”

“Why would you think that?”

“You don’t like girls.”

“I don’t like girls. I like women.”

“How old are you, Maxwell?”

“Almost forty-eight.”

“Then you’re old enough to know better than to play this kind of game.”

“I’m not into playing games.”

She moved to the car’s open door, leaving one hand on the frame and the other on the low roof before she swung inside. “You’re my boss, so how about we just keep this a strictly business, employer-employee relationship and handle it with good taste?”

“I know exactly how good you taste.”

Olivia maintained a blank façade. There was no way she’d let on she’d thought about how he tasted too…


Sandra is kindly gifting not one but two of her books! There will be one e-copy of For Your Eyes Only and one e-copy of Driving in Neutral up for grabs. All you have to do is leave a comment below. The lucky winners will be notified by email, so please ensure that we can contact you!

This prize is open world wide and will be drawn one week after posting date.


Sandra a

If you’d like to connect with Sandra, you can find her:

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Author Spotlight and Giveaway: Rural Romance novelist, Lisa Ireland…

Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Lisa and congratulations on the release of ‘Breaking the Drought ’!  Can you tell us a little about it, please?

The original idea for Breaking the Drought came about from a newspaper article I read about a tiny rural town. The town’s population was dwindling so a matchmaking ball was organised to attract people to the area. I started to wonder how all those city girls would fare if they actually fell in love with a farmer and decided to move to the town.

In Breaking The Drought my heroine, Jenna, is a reluctant guest at the Barlow Bush Blokes’ Ball. She’s well aware that rural life is not for her. However, when she unexpectedly ends up stuck in the town for longer than she’d planned she finds herself not only falling for hunky sheep grazier, Luke, but also beginning to love the town itself. Unfortunately for her, Luke isn’t interested in any sort of relationship. A tragedy from his past is overshadowing his life and there’s simply no room in his heart for love.

I really loved writing this book. Barlow feels very real to me and while I was writing the book the characters took on lives of their own – sometimes doing things that took me by surprise! The story includes a number of secondary characters and I particularly enjoyed writing Maggie, Luke’s sister-in-law, who’s a strong and resilient woman.

High Res Cover BTD

You were born and bred in Melbourne yet you write rural romance. Where does this inspiration come from?

I might have been born in the city but I’m a country girl at heart!

I was a horse-mad child. I got my first pony when I was about twelve years old, but because we lived in the suburbs I couldn’t keep her at home and had to rely on my parents to drive me out to the farm where she was agisted.  I grew up dreaming of owning a farm where I could keep as many horses as I liked!

As a graduate teacher I was posted to a small rural school and I got my first real taste of country living.  I was a total fish-out-of water for the first few months, but I grew to love the small community and was desperately sad when I was eventually redeployed to a Melbourne school.  When I’m writing a rural romance I often use my experience as a newcomer to the bush as my inspiration.

I currently live in a small town in regional Victoria so I also have my everyday experiences to draw on. (The girls who work in my local café are always telling me I can put them in one of my books. I keep telling them to be careful what they wish for!)

‘Breaking the Drought’ is your debut novel. Can you tell us about ‘The Call’? Has being published changed your life in any way?

‘The Call’ came in the form of an email from Kate Cuthbert. I was in London at the time, holidaying with my family for the Australian summer break. For the first time ever I travelled without my laptop and so I was relying on my tablet to download mail from the Internet. This turned out not to work so well. To make matters worse the wifi in our hotel was pretty dodgy so I was only checking mail intermittently. When I logged on and found the email from Kate in my inbox, I was stunned. It was the last thing I was expecting to see. At first I was reluctant to open it, not wanting to spoil my holiday with news of a rejection. Luckily curiosity got the better of me! I was thrilled to find that Escape wanted to buy my manuscript.

By coincidence my beta reader was also holidaying in London and I’d made plans to meet her that very same night. We had a lovely champagne fuelled celebration!

Being published hasn’t really changed my day-to-day life. I write full time and have been doing so for almost two years so my routine hasn’t really changed. I guess I’m a little surprised at the amount of time taken up by non-writing parts of the business – website maintenance, writing blog posts, having a presence on social media and so on. Luckily I enjoy all of those things!

How long have you been writing and did you always write with the intention of one day being published?

Like many writers I have been writing for as long as I can remember. When I was little I used to produce my own weekly magazine, Witches Brew, which I still have copies of! So I’ve always written for pleasure (and was an early self-publisher!), but for many years I believed third party publication was a pipe dream.

After my youngest child was born I found myself at home full time. I took an online creative writing course and from there progressed to a Professional Writing and Editing course. That was in 2005—the same year I joined RWAus—so my journey’s been a long one.

What would we find on your book shelf / e reader?

I’m an eclectic reader. I love all sorts of different things. I write contemporary fiction and I guess I’m drawn to reading contemporary works primarily, but having said that one of my all time favourite books is Geraldine Brooks’ The Year of Wonders, which is set in the 1600s. Other favourite books include, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding, The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide and my go to comfort read, Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery.

On my e-reader right now I have Georgina Penney’s Unforgettable You, which I’m really enjoying. I’ve pre-ordered Outback Ghost by Rachael Johns and I’m looking forward to reading that as it’s the third of her Bunyip Bay Series and I’ve loved the other two.


What was the most helpful piece of advice you’ve ever received in regards to writing?

Just write. It sounds so simple, but carving out the time to write can be difficult, especially for unpublished writers. It can be hard to prioritise writing when you’re not being paid and when other people don’t necessarily take your writing seriously.

The only way to improve as a writer is to write. Of course attending classes and reading craft books can be helpful but you can’t improve words that are not written. I make sure I write something every day, even if it’s just a sentence.

Are you a plotter or pantster or a bit of both?

Both! I tend to start with the characters’ GMC and work from there. I usually write a rough outline and divide that into three acts, making sure I know what the black moment will be. Once that’s done I pants my way through the book. Often my characters take me places that I’m not expecting to go. In my current WIP the black moment turned out to be something I hadn’t originally envisaged.

What would we find you doing in your spare time?

I’d love to able to say I knit or crochet or run marathons, but sadly none of these things are in my repertoire. I love reading and I love writing! When I’m not doing those things you can probably find me talking to someone –my husband, my kids, my friends or even my dog. I do like a chat and my husband reckons if talking ever becomes a sport I’ll be an Olympic gold medal contender. I often combine talking with my other loves – eating and drinking coffee.

Can you tell us about your works in progress?

Right now I’m working on a book tentatively titled Homecoming Queen. It’s about a woman, Jo, who comes home to a small town to be bridesmaid for her best friend. She’s running away from her complicated life in New York, which includes a movie star ex-fiancé and a successful career that has become unsatisfying. Jo’s hoping to find respite amongst her family and friends, but when she arrives she’s shocked to find her high school sweetheart and love of her life, Ryan, has moved back to the town.  Ryan’s life took a turn for the worse after his relationship with Jo ended and he’s still bitter about their break up. Jo fears the town is not big enough for the two of them.

What does the future hold for Lisa Ireland?

Hopefully lots more published books!

Could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts of ‘Breaking the Drought’, please?

Sure!  This is the moment Jenna first realises she’s attracted to Luke. It takes place during a shearing competition.

‘All right shearers, take your positions. Ladies, please join me in counting them down.’ Mal held up three fingers. ‘Three, two, one, go!’

All three men grabbed hold of the metal clippers hanging above them and got to work on removing the wool from their sheep’s belly.

Despite not being professionals they seemed to know what they were doing, expertly holding the sheep still between their feet as they manoeuvred the clippers over the animals’ bodies.

Jenna couldn’t take her eyes off Luke as he firmly but gently went about removing the wool from the sheep’s back. Before starting he had stripped off his shirt and now a close-fitting navy singlet rode up to reveal glimpses of his washboard stomach as he worked. His tanned body glistened with sweat as his quick, strong hands moved over the sheep. Jenna’s pulse quickened as an image of those hands caressing her body flashed through her mind.

Brooke was caught up in the excitement of the competition, clapping and cheering beside Jenna. ‘Go Luke,’ she yelled.

Suddenly Luke stopped and stood upright. The ewe was bare. He nudged the fleece forward with his foot and a young teenaged boy stepped forward to collect it. The boy shook the fleece out and laid it on a round metal table. Luke let go of the clippers and threw a fist in the air.

Jenna held her breath as Mal examined the fleece.

‘Ladies,’ he shouted above the noise. ‘We have our winner!’

Matt and Cameron were both now finished. The shearers released their sheep into a small pen while the young rouseabout took their fleeces. The losing competitors were quick to shake Luke’s hand and slap him on the back.

‘Luke, time to get your prize. Which of these lovely ladies will you choose to get a kiss from?’

Luke laughed and shook his head. ‘It’s too hard to choose, Mal.’

‘A deal’s a deal, son. Let’s not disappoint the ladies now.’

Luke nodded as his eyes scanned the crowd. ‘Alright then.’ He stood still for a moment, seeming to consider his options as the girls all called out to him, hoping to sway him their way.

Butterflies of nervous anticipation swirled in Jenna’s stomach, which was ridiculous. As if he would pick her. Luke Tanner had made it quite clear he thought she was a pain in the butt so she was probably last on his list. Nevertheless, he was striding towards her purposefully it seemed. His gaze was fixed on her, and with each step it seemed more and more likely that she was his chosen target. Her pulse thudded in her ears as Luke came to a halt almost directly in front of her.

‘Made your choice have you, Luke?’

Jenna held her breath as he answered.

Author Bio:

Lisa Ireland lives in a small coastal town with her husband, their three sons, and a crazy Labrador named Millie. When she’s not writing or reading she spends her time walking Millie along the beach, drinking copious amounts of coffee at a local café, and cheering on the Mighty Cats at Simonds Stadium.

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Lisa is kindly gifting one e-copy of ‘Breaking the Drought’ to one  lucky reader. To be in the running, all you need to do is leave a comment below for Lisa.

This competition is open world wide and will be drawn one week after posting.  





Author Spotlight: Juliet Madison, Sarah Belle, Jacquie Underdown and Robyn Neeley – Magical Realism Romance Novelists…


Today on the Author Spotlight, we have four authors who have previously been categorised as multi cross -genre, but now, due to readership interest and a proactive publishing team, finally have a subgenre to call home. The genre formerly known as Fantasy-Magical Elements- Paranormal twist-Contemporary-Time Travelling-Dream Casting, please welcome, Magical Realism Romance and the authors who live it!

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 Firstly, what is Magical Realism Romance?

Not quite paranormal, not quite fantasy, this genre believes that magic is a part of the every day, and that there’s more to our lives than can be explained. If you’re looking for a little mystical, a little miraculous, a little more, this is the romance for you.

As an author, how important is it to fit within a defined sub-genre?

Jacquie– In terms of being able to brand myself as a romance author and explain to readers succinctly what my books are about, I think having a defined sub-genre is incredibly important. It also provides readers with a quick reference that they will fit with my books. However, the fact that I’ve not been able to fit within a defined sub-genre, until now, also has its benefits in that I know I’m creating a new breed of romance, one that will be original and fresh for readers. And that’s the main reason I’ve persevered with the magical realism romance genre.

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Juliet – I think it helps readers the most, letting them know what there going to be getting from a book.


Sarah– Like everyone has said, it helps readers to identify what particular elements are in a story and will allow them to seek out other authors in the same genre.

Robyn– It’s definitely important to me. When readers pick up one of my books they are in for fast and funny dialogue, a sweet story, and a heart-warming ending. Magical realism fits in nicely with my brand, and I was more than eager to give it a try with Batter Up, my first book that includes one spell-binding approach to finding true love.

What were the main issues with being ‘subgenre-less’ prior to this new branding? 

Jacquie – Being subgenre-less hasn’t limited by ability to become published (that I know of). But I do think it has had a direct impact on how my books can be marketed and to whom they are marketed to. My books are normally slotted into the fantasy romance or sci-fi romance categories, which, as mentioned earlier, give readers the wrong expectations as magical realism romance is far removed from fantasy or science fiction. Having a sub-genre now, with a name that conjures images and ideas that reflect what my books are about, will make it a lot easier going forward.

Juliet – I didn’t feel so much that I was subgenre-less, but multi-genred! When you story crosses into several different genres it can be tricky to know how to pitch it to publishers, or which types of readers to target. Having a more defined sub-genre to categorise the overall type of story is better than saying ‘my book is a futuristic-romantic comedy-chicklit-fantasy-time travel-romance-scifi-adventure’! 😉


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Sarah– It was very difficult to explain what I actually wrote. ‘It’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that’…it was confusing to people and difficult to pitch to publishers and readers. Thankfully there are some amazing authors out there who have paved the way: Marian Keyes, Cecelia Ahearn, Sophie Kinsella and Melanie Rose. For a person who struggles with marketing anyway, being across too many genres meant that my target market wasn’t clearly identified and pitched at.

Robyn– Putting a touch of magic in Batter Up, I wasn’t quite sure where it would fit. A fellow romance author recommended I submit it to Escape, knowing that they had recently acquired romantic comedies with magical elements. I was beyond thrilled to find Batter Up a home among other awesome magical realism books including Fast Forward by Juliet Madison and Hindsight by Sarah Belle.

Why do you write Magical Realism Romance ?

Jacquie – I’m someone who wants more from life than flesh and bone, and I believe there is more to this existence than what can examined under a microscope — phenomena that isn’t always explainable and is somewhat magical. Because I expect more out of everyday existence, I expect the same from the books I read and write. As an author, and as a reader, I want to be transported away, not so far as to lose sight of reality altogether, but enough to make it leave me questioning if the little magical occurrences could in fact be real.

Also, magical realism romance gives me so much more scope with my imagination and the stories I can weave.

Juliet – Because it allows the ordinary to become extraordinary and explores the possibility that there might be more to our world than we know. Plus, it’s great for interesting plot ideas – anything goes, with magical realism!

Sarah–  I read it, so I write it! A touch of magic can take a story anywhere so it’s always fresh and exciting to write. When we suspend our disbelief, we expand our imaginations in much the same way as children do. It’s nice to be a kid again for a while and to believe in magical things.

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Robyn– Faith, hope and destiny themes tend to influence my books so magical realism became a new tool for me to continue to explore these themes in an entertaining way. Also, the research on creating spells was a lot of fun. I now have a nice collection of spell books and am always tempted to try casting one!


What is it about MRR that will attract new readers? 

Jacquie – I sometimes think fantasy and science fiction is too far removed for some readers who like reality-set romances. Magical realism romance is a wonderful happy medium, where a reader can escape the mundane everydayness but still be given something MORE, something the reader wouldn’t encounter, something new, exciting, and magical.

Juliet – It is the perfect combination of realistic storylines and paranormal elements. It’s not completely realistic and not completely paranormal, it puts those magical elements into a world we’re familiar with so readers can more easily immerse themselves in the story and connect with the characters.

Sarah– Magical Realism is fun, engaging and has enough twists and turns in it to keep the plot moving along. There’s never a dull moment with the magical and unexplained! It’s also a break from the every day- nice escapism.

Robyn – These books are a unique and refreshing addition to the contemporary romance genre, offering a unique twist on popular romance tropes.


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 Magical Realism Romance is quite a niche genre. What are your hopes for the future in regards to expanding this genre?

Jacquie – Magical realism romance is a niche genre, but then so was sparkly vampire romance, BDSM erotica and rural romance. But just like those other genres, it is limitless in scope for storylines. Even on the shelves of my publisher, the variations between my novels and the other authors’ novels (who write MRR) are immense. My hope is that readers pick up a couple of books in this genre and fall in love with magical realism romance, just as much as I love to write it. Then it will bring more authors and readers out of the woodwork and we will be able to see just where this genre can go.

Juliet– I hope that more readers will discover the fun that can be had by mixing magical elements into real life storylines. I would love to see more movies made with these types of stories too, those with just a touch of the magical. Maybe an increase in books like this will help boost that.

Sarah– I would love to see this genre become more mainstream. It’s such a fresh and exciting genre, and covers from romantic comedy to true romance so there’s something for everyone. If you’ve loved Freaky Friday, Drop Dead Diva, Suddenly 30, Big, then chances are that Magical Realism Romance will make you laugh, cry and everything in between.

Robyn – Magical Realism Romance is exciting because of its potential to reach many readers of romance, chick lit, and women’s fiction. I’ve received some wonderful feedback from chick lit readers who say that they enjoyed the romance element of Batter Up and are excited to read more romances that include magical elements. That’s exciting!


If you’d like to explore the world of Magical Realism Romance, you can find a great collection at Escape Publishing.

 Escape Publishing is kindly giving away one copy of any one Magical Realism Romance novel to one lucky reader. All you have to do to be in the running is leave a comment below.

This competition will be drawn on the 15th of August, 2014. The winner will be notified by email, so please be sure we can contact you!


Author Spotlight and Giveaway: RUBY finalist and Lynn Wilding award nominee, Juanita Kees…

Today we welcome to the Author Spotlight our very own RWA blog supremo, Juanita Kees.  Welcome, Juanita, and congratulations on the release of ‘Under Cover of Dark ’!  Could you give us the blurb, please?

New Australian romantic suspense follows Under the Hood, about a Western Australian drug gang, the teenagers they recruit, and the cop who wants to bring them down.

When Mark Johnson delves deeper into his investigation into the murder of Tiny Watts and the involvement of a teenage gang with sleazy lawyer, Gino Bennetti, and his drug world ties, the last thing he expects is to be interviewing Gino’s widow, a woman in a world of trouble.

When her husband is shot and killed, it is both a relief and a disaster. Lily has her son to protect and secrets that run deeper than the scars she bears. Mark Johnson is the last person she wants uncovering those secrets, especially the truth about her son, Luke’s involvement in Tiny Watts’ murder.

As the investigation continues and Lily’s wounds begin to heal, she finds the detective easy to trust and the friendship between them blossoms into more. But the secret Lily holds places everyone in very real danger. When it is finally revealed, Lily will lose everything: her son, the man she’s grown to love, her freedom, and her life.


Also, congratulations on being a RUBY finalist for ‘Under the Hood’. How did it feel to see your name in the finals?

Surreal! There are so many wonderful names up there amongst the finalists. I am both honoured and in awe. I’d hate to be one of the judges with all that talent to choose from. I’m thrilled to make it to the finals with this baby. I had so much fun writing it. Thank you to the judges who read and enjoyed it enough to get it nominated for this fabulous award.

You are one busy, busy lady! Between being a freelance editor, writer and senior editor on the RWA Blog, mum to three boys and wife, how on earth do you manage your time?

Don’t forget the dog!  Plus I work three days a week as an administrator at a Holden Dealership. Seriously? I don’t know. It takes a lot of juggling some days. Perhaps because I love what I do with such passion, I don’t see it as a chore. I do know that there are days when I could use an extra twenty four hours!

‘Under Cover of Dark’ is a romantic suspense. What are the elements of a compelling romantic suspense?

A fast pace, tension, high drama and the odd plot twist surprise to keep the reader engaged in the story, always wanting to know what will happen next. I like to take my readers on an emotional journey as well as an adventure. When they put the book down, I want them to be exhausted, emotionally drained and in love. If the reader feels as if they’ve been a part of the characters’ journey, the author’s job is done.

How do protagonists and heroes in romance differ from those in romantic suspense?

Romantic suspense characters have an edge. They are mysterious, brave yet protective, a little dangerous and love taking risks. While romance heroes wine and dine their heroines in comfort and style, romantic suspense heroes are out there in the wild world saving their heroines in the face of danger. I’d happily settle for both!

Is there any other genre you could see yourself writing in the future?

I’m dabbling in a little Fantasy at the moment with my next series set on Paradise Beach.

When you’re not editing, writing, RWA-ing, what do you do in your spare time?

Spare time??  I potter around my garden, restore garden furniture, read and enjoy the odd motorbike ride to wherever the road takes us.


As a professional editor, do you find that in your own work you edit as you go? What is the main challenge in being both an editor and an author?

The hardest thing is shutting down the editor in me when I write, so yes, I edit as I go. It takes forever! One of my critique partners once said, “You write a very clean dirty draft.” The downside of that is my stories don’t get written very fast!

What would we find on your bookshelf/ereader?

A LOT of romance in any genre, my Tony Park and Matthew Reilly collections, and the odd biography.

You’ve written about subjects as diverse as a motor dealership, gangs and drugs, and kidnapping. How do you go about researching these topics for authenticity?

I’ve worked in the motor industry forever and am a car fanatic. My father was a mechanic by trade, my mother hails from generations of General Motors employees and I married an auto electrician. I have oil in my veins and loads of material to work with!

In Under Cover of Dark, I was lucky enough to have the help of a prison officer who I probed mercilessly with questions. Understandably, there were some questions he couldn’t answer but I was blown away by his absolute commitment to juvenile offender rehabilitation, despite the possibility they’d re-offend.

I watched a lot of reality programs on gangs in prisons and studied their habits and methods of communication. It’s fascinating to see how many ways a coded message can be delivered.


Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress?

I’m working on the next book in the Tag Raiders Series, Under his Protection, which features the youngest member of the gang, Connor, his mum Mia, and Ethan Wright who is a counsellor at the Tiny Watts Rehabilitation Centre opened by TJ and Scott Devin (Under the Hood).

Thanks for coming on today, Juanita. Could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts of ‘Under Cover of Dark’, please?


He stood almost toe to toe with her now. She felt the warmth of his body, the temptation to sink into the comfort it provided. Her body swayed towards him with the strength of the pull. Strong, warm fingers tipped up her chin gently. Dark grey eyes searched hers for the truth and promised a safe haven from harm.

‘My offer of witness protection is still on the table. Take it and let’s end this nightmare of yours.’

Lily hesitated a moment longer, torn between telling the truth and protecting her son who had suffered so much at the hands of these criminals already. She’d borne this burden alone for too long. The strength to fight against it waned as the ache of her strained muscles surfaced.

‘Yes, he has a diary.’

With a sigh, Mark pulled her into his arms and held her against the beat of his heart. Lily listened to the comforting tattoo for a moment, savoured the warmth of his arms and allowed herself to believe he meant what he said.

juanita (2)


Web links






Buy link

Juanita is kindly gifting one  eCopy of ‘Under Cover of Dark’ to one lucky reader. To enter all you have to do is leave a comment for Juanita below. The winner will be contacted via email, so please make sure that we can reach you!

And finally, on behalf of all RWA members, thank you Juanita for all that you do for this wonderful organisation. We wish you the best of luck with the RUBY and the Lynn Wilding award!

*Ed’s Note: Thank you for having me! I cannot tell you how much it means to me to be part of such a wonderful family here at RWA. Each conference is like coming home, a family reunion that inspires, encourages and motivates. Volunteering is a way to give back to the members what they give me – love, support, creative advice and a place where I feel I belong. Here’s to many more years of success and growth for all! You rock!

To my fellow nominees in the Lynne Wilding and RUBY, wishing you all a hearty congratulations and good luck for Awards night. I’m already a winner to be in such talented company. Thank you.  






Author Spotlight- Author Groups: The Naughty Ninjas…


Have you ever thought of being part a formalised writer’s group with the intention of blogging or creating a website together, but haven’t known where to start or what to expect?

Instead of shining the spotlight on sole authors, I thought it might be interesting to focus a little on authors who share a formal blog or website.  Over the coming months I will be chatting to other author groups about the mechanics and benefits of working with other authors towards a common goal.  These groups will share their experiences and knowledge so that it might inspire some of you to give it a go.

For the first in this series, please welcome Rhyll Biest and Georgina Penney from the Naughty Ninjas!


naughty ninja logo

Members of  the Naughty Ninjas are: Andra Ashe, Sandra Antonelli, Sarah Belle, Cate Ellink, Roz Groves, Lily Malone, Georgina Penney, Rhyll Biest.

The group commenced in February 2014 and focuses on the Romance Genre with naughtiness on the side!

Hi Rhyll and Georgina – otherwise known as the founders of The Naughty Ninjas. Thanks for joining us to discuss formal author groups. Can you tell us a bit about the Naughty Ninjas?

We’re seven Australian romance writers and one mighty Australian romance reviewer, Roz Groves. Andra, Cate and Rhyll write erotic romance, Lily and Sandra write contemporary romance, Sarah writes Ro-magic Comedy, Georgina writes Chick lit (with strong romance overtones) and all of us have a robust sense of humour, whether we’re talking about love, life, writing, reading, romance or sex. Or merkins and tentacles.

Rhyll%20Biest   GeorginaPenney

What sort of activities do the Ninjas undertake?

Our website, social media, podcasts and newsletter combine direct and indirect marketing. We share practical information about writing and marketing, books we enjoyed, and information relevant to romance (e.g. author interviews). And then there’s the naughty stuff purely for entertainment, including recipes, opinion pieces, advice columns and nerdy facts. If one of us has a launch date, the ninjas go into overdrive with promotion. There has been threat of a nudie run to promote the raft of upcoming releases but that’s on hold until Cate Ellink can knit a merkin big enough to cover up the entirety of Georgina’s wobbly bits.

What inspired you to form the Naughty Ninjas? How long did the group take in its planning stages prior to going live with a website?

Seeing other successful group sites, frustration with individual promotion efforts, and attending a promotion workshop all provided inspiration.

We started with a small core group in September 2013 who nutted out brand, aims, design and content ideas and general operation principles via Skype meetings. That part didn’t take too long and mainly involved a lot of bawdy talk and laughter. It then took us a couple of months to develop the site and fill it with content before trialling it with a small audience before the official launch on Valentine’s Day this year.

 Sandra%20_Cookieface_%20Antonelli    Cate%20_Man%20Eater_%20Ellink

What sort of issues do writers need to consider prior to forming a group- – IT, Intellectual Property, rules, expenses, etc.

If you’re looking to form a group like ours (with or without the merkins or tentacles) the key thing is going to be communication. Get all members to give you a realistic (not utopic) idea of the time they’ll have and the responsibilities they want and then halve that to allow for family dramas, book launches, bad hair days (or running out of coffee). That way you’ll start off on the right foot, with everyone having a manageable work load.

If you don’t have communication, you’re going to have trouble sorting out all the other tricksy bits and pieces when it comes to the following:

  • Deciding who is going to develop and maintain the site? (You can get mixed results if everyone is uploading to the site regardless of their tech savvy.)
  • Who owns the content, the site or each contributor?
  • Who is going to pay for the site domain, images and giveaways/prizes? How are you going to decide membership and handle disagreements or disputes?
  • How much time do you want to spend on the group and what’s the plan for sticking to that time limit?
  • How are you going to measure and report the achievement of your goals (assuming you’ve set some in the first place)?

Oh, and we can’t forget the tone of the group. Make sure you’re all on the same page when it comes to content. We ninjas can be a little risqué and it was super-important to make sure everyone was okay with that from the get-go.


How do you manage to keep in contact with everyone, as well as coordinate writing activities and due dates?

We’re a geographically dispersed group, with members living in Brunei, Canberra, Melbourne, WA, NSW and Queensland, so online communication is our main method (and some of it is actually serious group-related stuff!). At the moment, we mainly use email and a fantastic project organization site called Freedcamp to co-ordinate website content. The smaller stuff is all taken care of through Twitter and Facebook with the odd blog visit. The podcast is done through Skype.

Most of us are hopefully going to meet up at the conference this year as well for a couple of drinks and shenanigans as well.

roz%20grashopper%20groves    Andra%20_Madame_%20Ashe


What benefits do you see in writers coming together in a formal group to write and market their work?

So many benefits!

  • Other members can pick up the slack for each other when crisis or deadline looms for someone.
  • Where one blog/website might draw between 100-300 visits each day (depending on how amaze-balls you are), a single multi-author site which is cross-linked to existing blog/website readerships can theoretically be drawing over a thousand visits a day. That makes it more attractive to advertisers, sponsors and readers.
  • Fans of one author will come to the site, see who that author ‘hangs’ with and consider reading the books of other authors. I know that Wonkomance certainly worked that way for me (Rhyll). I’ve had that experience. A couple of readers have contacted me to say they found me through loving Sandra Antonelli and Lily Malone’s books (Georgina).
  • Eight people instead of one are promoting the one site (through tweets, likes, etc).
  • Eight people instead of one are creating the content for one site, so each person can spend less time on promotion. And we believe in recycling, so there’s no reason you can’t duplicate your own posts on your personal sites (blogs/websites) after they’ve appeared on the group site.
  • Instead of one lonely little brain struggling to come up with ideas all on its ownsome, eight brains work together. Assuming each of us has an average IQ of 80 (is that the average?) our site now has an IQ of 640 (which means NASA will approach us with a job offer any day now). Also, we can bounce ideas off each other and have a few laughs while getting feedback and suggestions.
  • With seven authors, that’s seven times whatever number of books each individual author has published to offer as giveaways or discounts on.
  • With eight of us, each with their own contacts and networks, our reach (in terms of finding potential sponsors, interviewees, guests etc) is wider than the Russian mafia’s.
  • Each of us writes in different styles and genres, so we’re able to bang on about a wider variety of things (which is more interesting for readers).
  • Each of us brings their own particular skills, knowledge and interests to the group. Georgina is a podcast whizz, a dab website designer and builder, and has a feel for the overseas romance community. Rhyll is a keen editor, planner and schemer (she makes some third world dictators eyeing a small neighbouring country for annexation look sloppy). Lily understands the hell out of wine, marketing and self-pubbing, Sandra is our recipe, Twitter and coffee queen, Andra and Cate bring science and erotica to the table, Sarah and Roz share their reviewing expertise, ro-magic comedy and well-developed appreciation of Cthulhu and megalodon jokes.
  • The best part is having other like-minded (i.e. fun) people to plan and speak with. Writing can be lonely, but promotion need not be. I think everyone’s energy starts to flag under the weight of promoting on their own. If your day involves working a full-time job (other than writing), meeting your family’s needs and trying to make sense of that manuscript you’re in the middle of writing, promotion can feel like many-tentacled beastie trying to drag you down. Having a group at your back to help you get the word out about your latest release and who’ll listen to you having a bit of a confidential rant, swear of happy moment is fantastic.

What have been your biggest hurdles to date?

They fall into two categories. The first is keeping track of the deadlines, who has submitted what, and what belongs to who, and where projects are at. Google Drive and Freedcamp are useful apps for sorting, backing up and tracking things. And time management. Luckily, if things go wrong, we tend to just giggle and snort at each other.

The second is managing our own crazy-keen ambition and understanding our limitations. For example, we started off with a pretty intense workload to get a decent amount of content on the site but now, six months down the track, we’ve realized that maintaining that workload isn’t necessary to get the traffic we want, so we’ve pulled things back a little and slowed down.


Lily%20_Beanie%20Queen_%20Malone%20copy   sarah%20belle


How many hours a month would you spend on the Naughty Ninjas? What types of tasks are involved?

When we started, lots! But things are much more streamlined now. Georgina spends about 18 to 20 hours a month all up taking care of formatting the podcast, the website and social media side of things (daily FB and Twitter posts) and Rhyll spends the equivalent on getting the newsletter out, scheduling, editing and all the vast minutiae of organising images for articles etc. On top of that there’s the time each Ninja takes to write their month’s articles/reviews, including any research, book reading etc. In Cate Ellink’s case, that involved knitting a merkin, sending it to Brunei and forever confounding the elderly gentleman at Customs.

We set everything up with a publishing calendar planned a month or two in advance, tied with a submission schedule designed to fill each planned item (recipe, review, interview) so if there are any problems in a given month, we’re covered.

Since we’ve got a light-fun based focus, we also try to theme things as much as possible. For example, if it’s national pedicure month, we’ll try to have several items about pedicures (and recipes with toenails).

A lot of brainstorming of ideas for promotion also goes on through Freedcamp. We also use Skype as well. Admittedly, the group Skype calls quickly degenerate into discussions of Cthulhu beanies and masturbation tents.

Is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known in the earliest days of the group?

Everything will take up double the time you expect it to, so have realistic expectations of both your and your group members’ capacity to get stuff done around life’s little (sometimes huge) hurdles.


What’s the difference between marketing yourself as a solo author and marketing a group of authors?

The main thing is having the knowledge that you’ve got a bunch of kickass ladies at your back when it comes to a book launch, a beta read, a celebration or a rant. We all come from different backgrounds so it’s great to have access to such a big pool of different skills and knowledge. And we all crack each other up. There’s nothing like a good laugh to dispel the blues after a bad day in the writing trenches.


Do you have any advice for writers who are interested in forming a group?

The main thing we’d say is don’t start a group with people who you probably wouldn’t be friends with socially. Get together a bunch of likeminded people who you know will be able to communicate well, who are comfortable with the content you want to post and the brand you want to promote. If those people make you laugh so hard that you snort tea (or coffee) through your nose, all the better!


Thanks so much for joining us today, Rhyll and Georgina, and for sharing your pearls of wisdom with us.

If you’d like to check out the Naughty Ninjas, you can do it via:





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