Guestpost, Mills & Boon, Romance, Writing

Guestpost – Nikki Logan’s Love Affair with Deserts

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In 2014, I was lucky enough to take two big overseas trips from Australia—first to the United Arab Emirates and later also to Canada. K’ching! But when you’re a writer every trip, everywhere, is a research opportunity (and deductible) which makes the expense more palatable.

My UAE stop-over was a functional one, at first, mid-route to Wales. Of all the states on the Arabian peninsula, the collected Emirates are the least conservative (which is not to say they’re not still quite conservative by our standards) and perhaps the most accessible to and tolerant of Westerners. I flew into Dubai but I just had no interest in the glass and chrome spectacle of the world’s most consumptive city; I was more keen to hit some of the natural spots. In the UAE, nature pretty much comes in three flavours – marine, mountain and desert.

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I picked desert.

In July.

What a noob!

Some simplistic context…. Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen make up the bulk of the Arabian peninsula (sand making up the bulk of them), and, years ago, a number of smaller Emirates grouped together politically to form the United Arab Emirates along the southern shores of the Persian Gulf. The whole peninsula was once the floor of a vast ocean, and all that golden desert sand is actually ancient sea sand that has been shifting about on the surface ever since. As our present mini ice-age locked up all the water, the land there lost much of its original green oasis and wildlife and—over millennia—it has baked and blown to its present dry state.

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The temperature gauge on the expensive limo that whisked me out of the city and out into the desert toward Oman read 58 Celsius. Celsius! Off the asphalt it was a little cooler (50C) and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the 6-star resort I stayed at was virtually a ghost town. On the up side, the scorching heat meant I had the resort’s amazing facilities— and the entire desert— practically to myself. But I understood a little better how I had managed to get such an accessible price on such an exclusive resort.

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For the record, desert—most particularly the sort comprising 99% of the UAE—is completely awesome. It is nothing like you imagine. I expected to find it interesting from a wildlife and conservation standpoint, but I had no idea it would seep into my heart like its sands seeped into my luggage. Its colour, the geometry, the light… *sigh*

I sat on the edge of a massive, fenced wildlife reserve in my private Bedouin tent with my private plunge pool, where the wildlife came virtually to my door feeling like it was all for me, and I had the most magical, restorative and inspiring few days of my life.

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I immediately knew that I’d be setting a book there. If not more than one. Out of respect for the culture and the beautiful people I met, I created my own fictional Emirate and history, but the rest of the wildlife experiences I included in my December release ‘Bodyguard…to Bridegroomwere real. I knew it was the sort of place where a woman could go to find herself and maybe find love while she was out there. Because I both found myself and found a new love (for the desert!) while I was there.

I blogged extensively about my experiences at the luxury resort here if you would like to learn more about it, the deserts and wildlife of the UAE  (scroll down to the deserty stuff).

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Nikki Logan lives amongst a string of wetlands in Western Australia with her long-suffering partner and a menagerie of furred, feathered and scaly mates.  Her romance with nature goes way back, and she considers her life charmed, given that she works with wildlife by day and writes fiction by night–the perfect way to combine her two loves.

Nikki believes that the passion and risk of falling in love are perfectly mirrored in the danger and beauty of wild places. Every romance she writes contains an element of nature, and if readers catch a waft of rich earth or the spray of wild ocean between the pages she knows her job is done.

Find out more about Nikki and her books on her website; and follow her on Facebook and Twitter for regular, nature-filled, updates!

#StrongRomanceHeroines, Q&A, Reading, Tule Publishing, Writing

Q&A with Amy Andrews

One of the very first authors I blogged about, way back when, was Amy Andrews, and I’ve followed her career and novels ever since!

Her latest novels are the quartet Outback Heat, and I caught up with her to find out all about them!

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Some Girls Do is the first a quartet of books set in the outback, and starring Lacey Weston and her three older brothers. How did you make sure that each of the siblings explored a different experience of love?

You know, I didn’t deliberately set out with that in mind, it was more of an organic thing but it certainly worked out that way! Lacey and Coop’s story is an older brother’s BFF thing, Jarrod and Selena have a reunion romance fifteen years in the making, Marcus and Juanita’s relationship explores themes of mental health and PTSD and Ethan and JJ’s story is that of friends to lovers.

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The series is called Outback Heat, and you’re pretty well known for your intense sex scenes… Where d’you write them?  In your office plied with wine, or on a sunny beach in glorious weather?

Lol – I wish! Neither unfortunately. Well, in my office, yes but stone cold sober. Mostly. If I’m writing into the night then there may be some wine involved! What’s that thing they say – write drunk, edit sober?

I think that has a lot of merit particularly where sex scenes are involved for those writers who feel inhibited when writing them. I don’t. For the record.

Are there any dos and don’ts that you follow for writing sex scenes?

Hmm. Good question.

Nothing hard or fast (pun not intended :D) Don’t force them – it took me 7 chapters to get a couple into bed once but they just wouldn’t go!

Don’t have sex scenes there just for the sake of it (although I’ve probably been guilty of that….) Do remember that sex scenes are about the emotions not the mechanics (something I forget occasionally when swept away in it all).

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Do avoid flowery euphemisms for genitals. Sex is fairly base and I think base language and descriptors appropriate to the genre work best.

Do forget about your mother/grandmother/your high school English teacher/priest. Do be mindful of the particular demographic/readership of the particular book.

And don’t, under any circumstances use the term moist or cleft in relation to the vagina….

Lacey’s fiercely stubborn and independent, but more than that, she’s incredibly strong. What do you think makes a #StrongRomanceHeroine?

Thanks for that, Ali. Lacey was tough to write, to strike a balance between her being young/grieving/acting out and irresponsible/reckless. She is stubborn and trying to be independent but lacks the maturity and skill to pull it off. She wants to be but her social conditioning with her three older brothers often wins out so she’s a strange mix of I’m all grown up I can do this, damn it and please come and bail me out.

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Some reviewers have said that Lacey is bratty and irritating so clearly, a strong heroine is in the eye of the beholder and something readers obviously differ on. As such, these contrasting views makes it kind of hard for an author to write a strong romance heroine who is universally loved. One reader might call your heroine tough and assertive and love her and another might call her emasculating and a ball breaker and despise her.

Personally, I think what makes a strong romance heroine is in what she does, not what she says. It’s her actions or rather, what she learns from those actions that will define her.

Now, that doesn’t mean she won’t screw up. A strong romance heroine isn’t some perfect, flawless goddess – she’s as fallible as the rest of us. But I think she has a strong sense of self. Or finds one throughout the book and has the gumption to stand up and say I know what I want and I’m going to go out and get it.

Whether that’s kicking ass Lara Croft style,  or taking on a school board or renovating a house with a baby of a hip and no man with a tool belt in sight. Strength comes from inner belief.

What’s your current project, and what will we see released by you next?

I’m involved in my first indie project which I’m really excited about! A boxed set of novellas with six other authors that comes out on October 19th (it’s a crazy month!) Natalie Anderson, Avery Flynn, Michele De Winton, Robin Covington, Carmen Falcone, Talia Hunter and myself have teamed up to give the seven mortal sins our own special twist.

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It’s called Seven Sins (funnily enough) and there’s something for everyone for only 99c! I’m doing gluttony and it’s my first foray into BDSM J You can pre-order here!

The first two Outback Heat books are available now:  Some Girls Do and Some Girls Don’t.

Amy Andrews loves good books, fab food, great wine and frequent travel – preferably all four together. She lives on acreage on the outskirts of Brisbane with a gorgeous mountain view but secretly wishes it was the hillsides of Tuscany.

To find out more about Amy , check out her website, subscribe to her newsletter and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Erotica, Guestpost, Harper Impulse, Reading, Writing

Guestpost – Nicola Prentis/Jane and The Two Mes

Is my pen-name the real me?

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I’d been writing as Nicola Prentis for a few years before I became Nicola Jane.

Nicola Prentis wrote, and still writes, in the English Language Teaching (ELT) market with three published books and articles for various ELT publications. When I then wrote a choose-your-own-adventure style erotica, Follow Your Fantasy, and it was so filthy even I surprised myself, clearly Nicola Prentis couldn’t put it out. The ELT market is conservative, to say the least, and while classroom activities might include pairwork and small groupwork, they don’t involve threesomes and orgies.

So, Nicola Jane stepped in. She was single, dating for fun more than to Find Someone Special, and was quite happy dating people who were in non-monogamous relationships. She looks like me too, but her face is turned away from the camera so you can’t be completely sure who she is which fits perfectly for the “voice” of a choose-your-own ending because the reader is the main character.

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A photograph, a couple of articles about non-monogamy (here and here) and a very explicit book and she became more real than Nicola Prentis. My blog which had covered funny stories about online dating became Nicola Jane’s story even though it had been Nicola Prentis who went on the dates – even the ones with the non-monogamous guys. Nicola Jane blogged about things that empower women and their sexuality, even though these were all topics Nicola Prentis believed in too. I created such a believable character that even people who’d known me for years believed in her.

Such is the Erotica Fallacy. Writers are always told to write what they know. “To know” means to have done something, therefore, erotica writers must have lived it all. My boyfriend still finds it hard to reconcile the two Nicolas and was sure, at the very least (!), I’d slept with women and been to sex parties.

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In the year since Follow Your Fantasy was released, Nicola Jane Prentis met The One. Not through online dating, not that there would have been anything wrong with it if she had, but via the much less dramatic work scenario. She had a baby and, even though, she had to write the follow up to Follow Your Fantasy while pregnant, Nicola Jane just faded away. Her blog went quiet, her book promo tailed off; she didn’t have a lot to say.

Nicola Prentis, however, was still blogging and writing in the ELT market. She spoke at a conference about the gender inequality in her industry and was trolled by a load of old misogynists. And she tried to get a chick lit romance she’d written years ago published. Love Lessons is about Sophie Day, an English teacher in Rome who falls for her sexy Italian student, Marco Mezzanotte. Love Lessons draws heavily on my 12 years of teaching English abroad and has plenty of humorous classroom scenes but no sex. Which might be why my publisher didn’t feel it had enough “me” in it and passed on the manuscript.

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What they meant, I’m sure, was not enough Nicola Jane – a version of me that came and went in 18 months was more real for them than the me that has been here all along and who wrote a fairly innocent romance based on a 12-year teaching career. That’s fine; I see how the two don’t fit well together. So, I decided to self-publish on Amazon instead. I designed and drew the cover myself, had editing help from friends in my writing group and am really happy with the result.

The next question for me is:

Who is going to promote the sequel to Follow Your Fantasy when it eventually comes out?

Nicola Prentis still can’t for the same reasons she couldn’t before. But then, Nicola Jane needs a face and that face needs to look like mine.

I never intended to bury her, yet she needs reincarnating.

Nicola, both of her, divides her time between London and Madrid, a baby and writing.  Connect with her online at her website, and on Facebook and Twitter.

She has just self-published her romance novel, Love Lessons.