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!

#WeNeedDiverseBooks, Guestpost, Release Post, Romance, Samhain Publishing

Guestpost – Piper Huguley and Guys and Dolls

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Thank you for having me here today on your blog, Ali!  I’m trying to remain calm as my latest novel A Treasure of Gold is released. I’m looking forward to letting it out there in the world, because I think romance needs more diverse historical romance, and more 20th century historical stories.

Guys and Dolls was a major influence for A Treasure of Gold, my 1923 story of a buttoned-up pious country girl who meets the big city numbers kingpin in Pittsburgh and she’s forced to question her entire world.  I remember seeing the live musical at a high school first and then watching the movie of Guys and Dolls when I was a teenager. I always loved the whirlwind romance between gambler Skye Masterson, who knows the Bible thoroughly since the only book he has access to is the Gideon Bible, and Sister Sarah Simpson, the prim mission “doll” who ends up being changed by the so-called “bad boy.”  She’s convinced she can convert him to a better way of life, and he’s unexpectedly impacted by her wholesome nature, ironic since what got them together was a bet—something Skye cannot resist.

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The movie musical features Marlon Brando as Skye Masterson. Who could resist hottie Marlon Brando in his sharp cut suits? Guys and Dolls is known as the one and only movie where Brando sings. I don’t care what anyone else says, I like it.  I think that Jean Simmons’s Sarah liked it a whole lot too, since she falls hard and fast for her gambling man.

In Treasure, Nettie grew up in the country in the middle of a whirlwind family of girls, and her place in the family was always made special because her family thought of her as sickly and close to death, so she has a very close relationship with God.  Jay, who wants nothing to do with religion, lost his wife two years before.  He vows never to fall in love again because the pain of losing his deceased wife is more than he can bear. He has a problem.  He can’t keep nannies for his precocious little girl. When they come across one another by accident, Nettie’s belief systems are challenged as she sees what the little girl needs, in the questionable profession of the child’s father. Once Nettie is with them, she cannot help but be drawn in and love happens.

If you’ve never seen the Guys and Dolls, rent it and try not to swoon at Marlon Brando. The short stories that Guys and Dolls is based on are by Damon Runyon. These short stories about street life in the 1920’s and 1930’s are real treats for readers as well. In A Treasure of Gold, I hope readers will enjoy my different take on the good girl, bad boy romance. I believe my story is all about how the power of love transforms us and make us feel renewed all over again.

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Named in 2015 as a top ten historical romance novelist in Publisher’s Weekly, Piper Huguley is the author of the Reconstruction era “Home to Milford College” series. She is a 2013 & 2014 Golden Heart finalist for two novels in the “Migrations of the Heart” series about the Bledsoe sisters and set in the early twentieth century.

A Treasure of Gold is out now from Amazon, Google Play, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

For more information about Piper, check out her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

#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.
#StrongRomanceHeroines, Harper Impulse, Q&A, Reading, Writing

Q&A with Jane Linfoot

I’m a fan of everything vintage, so was delighted to get a chance to interview Jane Linfoot about her HarperImpulse novel, The Vintage Cinema Club!

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The Vintage Cinema Club reflects its characters love for everything vintage.  What do you think is so appealing about old-school fashion styles?

I think people love to choose vintage because it guarantees you something individual that no one else has. Retro will often give you classic design and fabulous quality, compared to newer things. It’s also a way of embracing recycling – being green, yet doing it with style. I heard someone say that modern vintage is looking forward through a window of the past. A lot of it is about rediscovering “pretty” too, after a decade of minimalism.

Friendship is at the heart of the novel, with three women working together and fighting to save their business.  Why do you think that female friendships are so prevalent in romance novels?

Female friendships are an important feature  of current romance stories because that reflects the way real women live their lives.

In the past, settling down as half of a romantic couple was the main aspiration for a lot of people, but women today look for much more than that. Today’s women like to get out there, have their careers, and live their lives on their own terms. Female friends are a crucial part of that dynamic. For most people finding “the one” comes a long way down the line, and it’s natural that our “besties” will be around to help us when love happens.

Female friendship is a fascinating area to explore for the writer. Throwing friends into the romance mix adds interest that takes the story to a different level. I think readers enjoy and appreciate that extra depth.

You’ve got three – very different – romance heroines, in The Vintage Cinema Club.  What do you think makes a strong romance heroine

First I have to admit that floppy heroines are my pet hate.

A strong romance heroine will know her own mind, she’ll have her principles and hang on to them, and she’ll never chase the hero. If she does get close it’ll be on her own terms. And she won’t be afraid to stand up to the hero when he’s wrong, and sometimes when he isn’t.

A strong heroine has to be gutsy enough to go on in there and challenge the hero in a way they’ve never been challenged before. Standing up to these guys, surprising them, playing them at their own game or even a different one, and coming out on top is the way my heroines like to play it. If they happen to make the hero fall in love along the way, it’s entirely accidental, because love is usually the last thing on my heroines’ minds.

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Writing from one perspective can be tricky enough, but you manage to balance and capture three different voices!  How did you manage to keep each character separate and not conflate them?

Izzy, Luce and Dida in The Vintage Cinema Club are all very individual characters. As so often happens with my characters, they marched onto the page pretty much fully formed, and immediately began ordering me around. This might be because they’d been bouncing around in my head for ages before I began to write, and I guess they never got mixed up because I knew each character so well.

When I was planning the story it seemed important to bring in characters who were very different rather than similar, which meant they are coming at us from different places, and have a different view on life.

In real life people are often drawn to friends who complement their own qualities. Quiet girls hang out with extroverts, wild women will have a sensible friend to keep them grounded. The contrasts between the characters in this book were a great way of shining a spotlight on each of the individual women and their different lives. Izzy’s feisty side is tempered by Luce’s calm, but when it comes to business, Luce wishes she had a share of Izzy’s courage. And what will it take to crack Dida’s hard shell?

I loved exploring the different qualities of each of the women in the book. I like writing about strong women, and I especially enjoyed writing about their interaction, as the women both clash and collide, sometimes ganging up on each other, but always working together. Their combined strength is an awesome power. I found the different combinations of three women in the scenes, and the progress of their relationships in pairs, singly, and all together, developed in a fascinating way, as the story played out. But I have to admit that a lot of the time it felt as if they were acting completely independently, and I was simply the one recording what they did.

What’s your current project and what will we be seeing from you next?

My writing is influenced a lot by things that happen in my life, and right now country weddings are featuring very large. And I’m still enjoying mixing the romance with the friendship themes.

The Vintage Cinema Club is out now and can be found at HarperImpulse , Amazon UK , Amazon US , iTunes , Sainsburys , Nook and Google play.

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Jane Linfoot writes fun, flirty fiction, with feisty heroines and lots of heart.  She lives in a mountain kingdom in Derbyshire, England, where her family and pets are kind enough to ignore the domestic chaos – happily, they’re in walking distance of a supermarket. For her, writing is cool because she gets to wear pretty shoes instead of wellies.

Jane loves hearts, flowers, happy endings, all things vintage, most things french. When she’s not on Facebook, and can’t find an excuse for shopping, she’ll be walking, or gardening. On days when she wants to be really scared, she rides a tandem.

To find out more about Jane, you can find her on Facebook , Twitter and Pinterest , as well as on her website.

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.

Editing, For Books' Sake, Reading, Writing

Tongue in Cheek

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I am so excited to be talking about For Books’ Sake‘s Tongue in Cheek erotica anthology:

Filthy, feminist short fiction from women writers. From sex with strangers (in an anonymous hotel room, while your partner watches via webcam, or on a crowded train) to illicit trysts and extreme exhibitionism via bittersweet breakups and X-rated reunions, 15 short stories showcase a broad range of sexualities, characters and kinks. A bold, diverse new force in contemporary erotic fiction.
 

I’ve been involved in the project as consulting editor, helping to select stories from submissions, give editorial feedback and decide on the story order.

It’s got an introduction from Girl on the Net, and I can guarantee the quality of the writing!

So if you’re looking for saucy, spicy stories, it’s available for pre-order now!

Editing, Writing

“Over-Editing is a Disease”

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I like writing.

No, that’s not quite right.  I love writing.

I love getting the turn of a phrase just right and I’ve been known to spend weeks perfecting a paragraph.

But unfortunately, that’s where I’ve been struggling lately.

“Over-editing is a DISEASE” – Trish Wylie

The problem isn’t that I can’t write; I can.  The problem is that I can’t finish projects.  I find myself with writer’s block when a phrase isn’t just so and I can’t move past it.  I started NaNoWriMo this year, after doing two months of prep work.  That’s two months of plotting and character drawing and making copious notes on narrative structure.

I didn’t even hit 2000 words.

My issue lies in my persnickitiness.  Reading and rereading and rerereading what I’ve already written.  Spending hours pouring over details and getting everything just right.

I over-edit until even I can’t face looking at my work in progress any more.

So here’s my promise, to both myself and to you dear reader:

I will write.  Damn it, I will force myself to break through this funk I’m in.  I will stop over-editing.

As a show of good faith, this is what I’m going to do.  From now on, the end of my post will have a word count; the up-to-date word count of my wip Made for Sin.

And you have my permission to have a go at me if the word count doesn’t up enough.  🙂

Startup Stock PhotosWork In Progress Word Count:  2531 words