A collection of musings, articles and news about romance fiction.


What to do post-conference…

NSOP BallroomWe all go to these conference events with high hopes and a nervous stomach – and some of these events can seem like a blur – so many people, so many sessions, so many – oh, good grief – so many drinks, so many really good tidbits that can help you with whatever problem or challenge you face. Afterwards, though, it can feel like a bit of a drag – the exhaustion, the overwhelming sense of what has happened, and what you have to do next to get where you want to go with your business, career, life, etc. Here are a couple of tips that I’ve developed over the last several conferences I’ve been fortunate enough to attend.

1) Rest, refresh, rehydrate.
We spend so much time darting from one session to another, or sipping cuppas in the breaks, or drinking at the social networking events, and cram so much into the limited time we have at these conferences, making sure we see/talk/pitch/network etc., that our bodies deplete in both energy and hydration. Get the rest, get refreshed, and rehydrate – that will put you in the best position to harness all that motivation, insight and advice you gained through your experience and direct it to something that is productive.
2) Email your new contacts.
Whether it was at the buffet, in the lift, or sitting next to each other in a workshop or discussion – hopefully you made at least a couple of new contacts. If you can remember their names, chances are you can find them on the internet. Send them a friendly wave through cyber-space (no stalking allowed). It doesn’t have to be much, something along the lines of ‘I really enjoyed meeting you…’ can make a major positive impact on the other person, but it also builds on the networking foundation you established at the conference. Follow them on Twitter, friend them on Facebook – if they’ll let you and don’t think you’re a stalker – these people could become your strongest friends, and your best communication network and brains trust. Also, keep an eye on any social media channel that discusses the event you attended, and feel free to add your comments to the conversation.
3) Go through your notes.
If necessary, type up all of those handwritten scribbles you call notes and try to put them into some sort of order. Go through the program and check over any notes you’ve written for the sessions you attended. Organise them into some sort of logical notebook – or perhaps just a point-form takeaway list. Not only is it neater and easier to find, but it has the added bonus of reaffirming those points you so wanted to remember.
4) Make plans.
So you’re all fired up – you’re rested, you’re refreshed, you’re rehydrated, you’ve established contact with new friends and you’ve organised your notes… and you’re itching to get back to work. What stood out from the conference that makes you want to DO? If you’re really lucky, there were a number of great take-aways from the conference. Make a list, prioritise, but write down your action plan. Those who write down their goals are 33% more likely to achieve them.
Do it the S.M.A.R.T. way – make your plans specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.
S.M.A.R.T. Goal Examples:Smart Goals
I will finish my 70,000 word manuscript by December and submit to XXX editor at XXX publisher.
I will tweet once a minimum of once every workday, and run a contest to build my following by an extra 10% by January 2015.
I will have my website up and running by November 1st in time for Nanowrimo.
You get the idea. Don’t forget to take stock in a few months to assess who you are doing with your goals.
5) Deliver on your promises.
If you made any kind of overture or promise – e.g.; yes, I will send you the partial manuscript, Madame Editor – then DO it. If you promised to send someone the notes you took of a particular session – then DO it. If you promised yourself to set up a savings account so that you can start your next year’s conference fund, then DO it. And – bless your soul – if you decided to volunteer for any role in the organisation, then DO it.

Attending a conference can be exhausting and exhilarating – and expensive. Make sure you get a return on your considerable investment by taking something away from the conference and USING it. Whether it’s a new way to approach a task, a new friend who is in exactly the same position as you, perhaps even a valuable mentor – these aren’t just social occasions, these are your opportunities to build the future you dream of.


Writing 101: CONFLICT LOCK

When creating character and story goals and conflict, there are generally two ways to go about it:

Protagonist and Antagonist  wants the same thing (hero/heroine vs villain).

Variation: Protagonists want the same thing (hero vs heroine).

Protagonist and Antagonist want different things, but by one accomplishing his/her goal, the other does not (ie: in direct conflict and at risk).

Variation: Protagonists want different things (hero vs heroine).

Conflict Lock

I wish I could claim this tool, but I’m not that clever. I first heard this from Fiona Lowe, who had been inspired by Jennifer Crusie, and I’ve also seen Bob Mayer explain it, so I will pass this fantastic nugget on to you, and urge you to visit the sites of those authors for more information on the craft of writing. Again, there are so many different ways a writer can reach their goals, I’m merely recommending what I’ve found has worked for me in the past…

The Conflict Lock is a diagram that can help you create sustainable conflict for your characters, and draft out your plotline. Or, if you’re struggling halfway through the book, it’s a good way to find out whether you have enough conflict for a novel – or a short story. Or if your conflict is weak, it is a way to help figure out how to bolster it.

Simply put, a conflict lock shows you whether one character’s goal BLOCKS another’s.

BASIC Conflict Lock

So, how do we create the conflict lock?

Step one: Draw four squares

Step two: Label one row for Protagonist (Hero and/or Heroine), and one row Antagonist (Hero or Villain)

Step three: Label first column ‘Goal’ and second column ‘Conflict’.

Step four: Write in your characters’ objective in the GOAL column, and what is preventing your character from achieving that goal in the CONFLICT column.

If your protagonist’s conflict is born from your antagonist’s pursuit of his/her goal, and vice versa, then you have a CONFLICT LOCK.

Here is an example from my first romantic suspense novel, VIPER’S KISS:

VK Conflict Lock

My heroine, Maggie Kincaid, is mistakenly identified as the lethal ‘Viper’, and finds herself on the run, determined to clear her name. My hero, Luke Fletcher, believes – along with everyone else – that she is the Viper, and is in pursuit.VipersKiss

For Maggie to remain free, Luke doesn’t achieve his goal. If Luke apprehends Maggie, she doesn’t achieve her goal.

If you draw a line from my heroine’s goal to my hero’s conflict, you will see that what she is doing is the source of his conflict. If you draw a line from my hero’s goal to my heroine’s conflict, you will see that what he is doing is the source her conflict.


In essence – one cannot achieve his/her goal because of the direct actions of the other.

Good luck and get writing!




Writing 101: Conflict Basics

What is internal conflict? What is external conflict? What other types of conflict are there? How do you set up conflict in a novel? How do you sustain that conflict?

If you’re just starting out with writing a book, conflict is one of the most important – and most challenging – elements to grasp.

I love conflict (only in my books, of course). I love the way it can put your character through the crucible, and have them emerge as a purer essence of themselves. I also love the potential for drama in humour that conflict can create. Conflict is such a critical aspect of writing, and it’s such a huge topic, I’ll cover it over a number of posts. This first post will look at conflict basics – what it is, and what it isn’t, and the two main categories that conflict falls under.

So…what is conflict?

Simply put, conflict is the struggle between two opposing forces.

Think…Two people applying for the same job…Cinderella and the stepsisters fighting over Prince Charming…Taylor and Brooke wanting Ridge…or cops and robbers – one wants to apprehend, the other wants freedom…

Conflict then becomes the basis of suspense: which force will triumph?

Without conflict…nothing happens. We can pick up our bat and ball and go home, because nothing is happening. No crimes or mysteries to solve. No relationships to resolve. Police are superfluous. So are superheroes (I know, gasp).

Conflict drives the plot of your story. In the beginning, something happens and creates a story question. For example, in a romance, boy meets girl. Story question – will they somehow get their Happily Ever After? Conflict: Boy doesn’t like girl. In a murder mystery, someone dies. Story question – will the detective figure out who the murderer is? Conflict: Murderer frames another suspect for the crime. In a fantasy, the Least-Likely-To-Succeed must complete their quest. Story question – will they find their Holy Grail or enable/disable the prophecy? Conflict: The evil witch is sending her minions out to destroy the Least-Likely-To-Succeed.The conflict is the issue that immediately prevents that story question from being answered within that first chapter – and keeps us reading.

Good conflict creates doubt in the reader. Doubt creates curiosity, and with that comes suspense. If the conflict is simple, if resolution is easily conceived and thus easily achieved, then it doesn’t really create doubt – and we stop reading. If it’s obvious from the start that Boy likes Girl and Girl likes Boy – well, they will get their Happily Ever After. If it’s obvious who the murderer is…well, then there’s no mystery. And if the evil witch and her minions are disorganised and ineffectual, than Least-Likely-To-Succeed…succeeds. End of quest.

Note: Conflict is not an argument. It’s not based on a misunderstanding that can be cleared up if only your characters would really talk: You ran away because you left the iron on, and not because you’re afraid to commit? Ooooh. Great. Let’s get married. (End of conflict, end of story.)

So…how can you create conflict?

Well, as stated earlier, conflict is the complication that prevents your character from obtaining what they want. It’s the begetting of trouble.


For example: She wants children – but doesn’t have a suitable partner who can get her pregnant. No partner = conflict. Story question: Will she get her children? He wants the promotion – but so does she. Rivalry = conflict. Story question: will he get the promotion, or will she? Superhero wants to save the world – but supervillain wants to take over the world. Opposition = conflict. Will s/he save the world?

Over the next few posts, we’ll look at internal and external conflict, and the different variations of conflict, and ultimately how to use conflict with plotting.

For now, good luck and get writing!

Writing A Book Is Like Soccer

I do not play soccer. In my family, that’s not just unusual, it’s almost a crime, and spawns many a long conversation on the supposed merits of the game at family gatherings.

There is something about the thrill of the game, the smell of the fresh air, the warmth of the sun on my head that I’m just not really enamoured with. Maybe because it’s a winter sport and I’m freezing my tush off watching kids run around a muddy pitch – then have to wash muddy clothes. Or maybe because ‘they’ schedule games close enough to sparrow’s fart on a Saturday morning when most folks would prefer to be reading the paper over a leisurely breakfast. Maybe.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not opposed to the game, or any sport. I think team sports are important, fitness is important, developing coordination skills is important. I enjoy watching my kids’ efforts, I enjoy cheering them on, regardless of who scores, and I love that they develop resilience. I occasionally kick a ball around, an activity that is both enjoyable and satisfyingly destructive if the wrong window gets in the way. But perhaps because I attend so many games and watch them with an enquiring eye, I’ve learned something.

Soccer is not so different from writing a book.

Why do people play any game? It comes down to the thrill of the competition, of pitting oneself against the odds to triumph, and the satisfaction of knowing you rule the soccer pitch, if only for one Saturday morning. There are the obvious benefits – fitness, hand-eye coordination, and the in-your-face fist pump when you score that goal (we’ll call this external motivation).

Then there are the less obvious benefits, the communication one learns and shares with playing in a team, working together, learning to offer assistance and accept aid, as well as the confidence and satisfaction one gets from being active. There is the joy of winning and the crushing disappointment of losing. We’ll call this internal motivation.

There may be other factors at play, also – your opposing team member may be the bully or ‘ace’ student at school and you finally have a chance to show them what’s what… Or maybe you do this because your father is a massive Bend It Like Beckham fan and you don’t want to disappoint him, or your friend does it, and it’s a way to get out of the house and hang with your mates, thus avoiding chores… either way, this motivation contributes to backstory, and having a compelling and relevant backstory makes any book interesting to read. Just like soccer, though, when information emerges over the course of a season, so too must backstory be threaded through the course of a novel, and not in one info dump (otherwise you’re that kid – or parent – on the sideline that everyone avoids talking to).

In a game of soccer, you have two opposing forces (teams). In writing a book, you generally have at least two opposing forces (a protagonist and an antagonist, or for a romance, your hero and heroine may be your opposing forces).

Either way, that’s conflict.

Each side has a clear objective. In soccer, the objective is to score a goal, and hopefully prevent the other team from scoring a goal. In writing, your character/s must have a clear goal, and in a good, compelling story, those goals will also be counter-productive.

When you have counter-productive goals that work directly against each other, that’s GOOD, STRONG conflict.

In reaching your clearly stated objective in soccer, you may run into another player (literally). In writing, your character must run into obstacles. For a number of reasons:

• Nobody wants to watch a boring, one-sided game, and nobody wants to read a boring, obvious book.

• When you really have to struggle to achieve that goal, victory so much sweeter and exhilarating.

• The more your character struggles, the more your sideline supporters (readers) cheer on that character.

• The more your character blocks or is blocked by an opponent, the more tense the game becomes.

In a soccer game, the ball is kicked back and forth, changing direction with a calculated strike or a careless bump. Just like the soccer ball, your plot bounces from one direction to another, based on the actions of your characters. Without this constant movement, or plot direction, the game is over, and spectators go home.

This constant movement of the ball creates tension in the spectator as well as the player – will they score this time? Will it get near the goal posts? Will that kid with the bleeding nose stop the ball with his face again?  In writing, the to-ing and fro-ing creates tension in the reader, as well as the character. And just like in a story, when one goal is scored, either by one team or the other, it raises the stakes – will the other team come back and equal the score, or possibly win? What is going to happen next? How will this game end?

And as with any book, in soccer there are peaks and lulls. Tension ramps up before a goal – and regardless of the resulting mini-climax, there is always the decline in tension, only to be ramped up again at the next goal opportunity, and then the next. Also, tension ramps up with any clash or conflict, until the ball is kicked out of that tussle and the immediate conflict is over – until the next time.

The entire team are your supporting characters, each acting independently, with consequences for each action. Each character has virtues and flaws, and these traits can contribute to conflict between characters on the same team – he’s a ball hog and won’t pass, or she doesn’t want to get hurt and won’t fully commit to a hustle. If you’re lucky, they’ll eventually get their act together and work cohesively in accomplishing that goal. And if you’re not lucky – well, I guess you’re not writing a Happy Ever After.

Your Goalie can be your hero – and your villain, depending on your perspective. If s/he is on your team, and they block a goal – Hero! If you’re on the other team – villain, and vice versa when the roles are reversed. Each team/character has an entrenched view that is constantly under challenge, and with each practice, each opportunity to develop that skill, there is character growth. Each team member has an opponent – this creates balance on the field, and good, strong competition. Just as your hero must have that opponent that challenges him/her.

And like soccer, it isn’t over until that whistle blows – there is always the chance that things can get better – or worse.

And when the game is over, hopefully those supporters will happily come back for your next book.

Archetypal Characters of Fairy Tales

What is it that we love about a fairy tale?

Disney PrincessesIs it the universal elements in the story structure – good vs evil, hero saving heroine (or vice versa)? Is it the archetypal characters that draw us in? Is it the heroic actions of ordinary people – like Beauty sacrificing her freedom with the Beast? Is it the ideal that one person can make a stand against stronger forces, and win – like Snow White versus the Evil Stepmother Queen? Or is it the pure romanticism of personal risk to save others – like the Prince from Rapunzel?

Or is it the gowns and shoes? Cinderella, we love you!

EnamouredWhen I told my close friends and writing partners that my next release, Enamoured, was a romantic suspense with fairy tale elements, I attracted a lot of questions.

Where you on drugs when you wrote it? What did you use to blackmail/bribe the publisher? Did you seriously think it through? The answers: No, nothing and not even a little bit.

I think there is something so iconic about a fairy tale that it transcends genre boundaries. (Yes, that’s me justifying my juvenile dream of writing a fairy tale with sexual tension and murder, but it sounds better the first way). Then there is the fashion.

My daughters use the term ‘girly-girl’ – and depending on the tone used this can be a positive, neutral or negative term. I, personally, would not consider myself a girly-girl. I like wearing shorts, jeans and sneakers. I’m likely to run away from a bottle of nail polish rather than use it, and I preferred to rumble and tackle than to dress up dolls (but that’s because I never had a Barbie. Deprived, I know)  – until we start talking about fairy tales. When that happens, I turn into a pile of pink fairy-floss mush. With sparkles, thank you. I even giggle.

Maybe it’s because Prince Charming is so unbelievably, out-of-this-world handsome, or because Cinderella can really rock her frock – and (gasp) those SHOES!!! The Frog Prince’s princess doesn’t just play with a tattered tennis ball, no, her ball is GOLD, and nobody does great hair like Rapunzel.

The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and HeroinesOkay, I know this makes me sound very superficial, but it’s more than that (otherwise I’d be just plain old superficial). These characters play clearly defined roles. One book, The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines, by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever and Sue Viders, outlines them beautifully (as a writer, you need this book on your resource shelf – do yourself a favour and buy it).

Prince Charming is (I guess rather obviously) The Charmer; charismatic, appealing, fascinating, although would rather not talk about touchy-feely stuff, likes to get by on his personality and wit.

Cinderella, on the other hand, is The Waif. She’s ethereal, adaptive and doesn’t complain, but endures a situation until she’s saved.

The princess from the Frog Prince would be The Free Spirit. She’s a handful, but charmingly so. Zany, high-spirited, and more than a little impulsive, she finds herself stuck in many a tricky situation.

Rapunzel would also be The Waif, waiting for her knight to rescue her from the tower.


All of these characters are so well-known to us that each time we read them, in whatever guise, unconsciously we accept them, like familiar friends. Despite the fairy-tale endings, though, these characters do face tests. They must overcome trials, resolve deep personal flaws, and change and develop into better, stronger, faster (oh, oops, that’s the Six-Million Dollar Man – totally another blogpost!) people by the end of their story. Not unlike a romantic suspense – or…any other story, for that matter. Because archetypes are the recurring personalities that people our stories from the Dawn of Storytelling.

Tell me: who is your favourite fairy-tale heroine? Leave a comment to go into the draw to win a copy of my new romantic suspense novella with fairy tale elements, Enamoured.

Most Romantic Songs Ever!

Most Romantic Songs Ever!.

Most Romantic Songs Ever!

I’m going to be honest. I had grand plans of publishing a Top 10 list of Most Romantic Songs Ever – but I couldn’t sit through listening to all of them in one hit. So we’re going with the Top 5 – and then you can tell me your favourite songs!

5. Truly, Madly, Deeply – by Savage Garden. truly madly deeply

This was an awesome Aussie band, and I still sniffle over the fact that these guys aren’t making music together anymore, because they were AWESOME!!! But anyway, back to the song. Love it. Not too schmaltzy, just enough.

4. From This Moment On – Shania Twain. Shania Twain From This Moment

Oh, speaking of schmaltz. I don’t think I can go to a wedding without hearing this song. It’s one of those over-played, could-be-irritating, but just stops short because it really is so lovely kind of songs. Or else I’ve had enough to drink by that stage of the wedding that it makes sense to get teary over how ‘beeeeyooooootiful’ the song is, the dancing couple are, and the flowers. Beeeeeyoooootiful flowers. Sniff. Oh, and we learned that Shania Twain looks beautiful all covered up. (The amount of shawls I went through only to finally discover I look nothing like Shania Twain all rugged up).

3. Everything I Do, I Do It For You – Bryan Adams Bryan Adams

Well, Bryan Adams had to feature in this post somewhere – Heaven, Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman, All for Love, Run to You, Summer of ’69 – er, sorry, I get carried away with the legend that is Mr Adams. But, this is about romantic songs, and I know that when Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves hit the cinemas, my girlfriends and I swoooooooned over this song. It’s the reason I actually like Kevin Costner in a movie – despite the minor hiccup of having a Robin Hood with an American accent. Minor detail, really.

2. I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston. Whitney-Houston-I-Will-Always-Love-You

I know, controversial, another Kevin Costner association – that seriously wasn’t my intention. This is the song that you just have to belt out into a hairbrush – and your partner will just have to love you for it. Okay, maybe wearing earplugs – but I seriously believe that if you can sing this in front of your darling, and they still want to talk to you, then it’s the REAL THING.

Just before I announce MY number 1 Best Romantic Song Ever! I wanted to say – there wasn’t enough room to put Foreigner, Air Supply, Chicago, REO Speedwagon, Phil Collins, Elton John, Elvis, etc. I will agree, they have ro-MAN-tic songs that are croonworthy, so tell me all about it in the comments!


1. Just the Way You Are – Bruno Mars Bruno-Mars-Just-The-Way-You-Are-2-575x387 

Okay, this is really one for the girls, but guys – here’s a secret handshake from me to you: play this for your darling, and you’ll have a great Valentine’s Day – because it will make her feel special, and then you’ll feel special…

Moonlit EncountersTo celebrate Valentine’s Day, TWC Press is offering the Kindle version for Moonlit Encounters for sale at 99c!

But you could win a copy of the book by leaving a comment – what is YOUR Best Romantic Song Ever?

New Year Resolutions – Using GMC for Sucess

Okay, put your hand up if you’ve ever made a New Year’s resolution, and then promptly forgotten it, only to realise in a blind panic in November that you’ve done nothing you’d planned to do in January…

Yeah, I see you.

List Person

I’m a list person. Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll agree. They may even use the ‘anal-retentive’ or ‘obsessed’ phrases in conjunction with this statement. I’ll just leave it ‘list person’. I like making lists for a very good reason – if I don’t, I’ll forget something. Okay, I’ll forget a lot of things, for example; the milk, or paying bills, the release date of my new book, a guest blog post, or ordering the swag of author goodies… the list could go on (pun completely intended). I mean, even Santa has a list. Two, actually.

I also set my goals – writing, lifestyle – no portion of my life is safe from this exercise.  The pleasure I get from crossing an achieved goal off my list makes me wonder if I might have a problem, but I’m not ready for therapy, yet. But I know at this time of year, we all do some sort of life-affirming nod toward organising a better life for ourselves over the next year, and while listing what we want to do may seem easy, delivering on that promise to ourselves is something we sometimes struggle with. (I’m using the royal ‘we’, here, folks.)

Here’s a trivial factoid: People who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to achieve their goals than people who don’t.

So, instead of blabbing on about my customary S.M.A.R.T. Goal-Setting session, I’ve decided I’m going to try a different angle, by using a writing tool – G.M.C., and using it for Life Strategies.

Must Buy!

Must Buy!

Goal, Motivation and Conflict is an insightful book written by Debra Dixon – a very, very smart lady with a knack for explaining the basic building blocks for creating great characters and great fiction. If possible, I now have an even deeper appreciation for Han Solo. If you’re interested in writing, regardless of the genre, then this is a book you must have.

In essence: Goal – what does your character want? Motivation – why does your character want it? Conflict – why doesn’t your character have/get it?

Or, as I call it, the What, Why and Why Not?

Again, I can’t stress what an awesome resource this book is, and I’ll go more in-depth about it another day, but for now, how can we use the GMC writer’s tool for life strategies?


Goal: What is it that you want? To lose weight? To spend more time with friends and family? To quit smoking? To get out of debt? Identify your own specific goal, and make it specific. For more tips on setting goals, read my article on S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting.

Motivation: Why do you want what you want? This is possibly one of the most important aspects of writing – why does the character want that job/artefact/guy/gal/treasure/evidence? How has their experience and core values interlinked to set up a desire? Motivation is a reflexion of the complex moral fibre, so identifying your motivation is a good way of ensuring your goal is in keeping with your own moral values – if it’s not, or if it contradicts your own core value system, then you will naturally resist accomplishing it. For example: Do you want to lose weight to look good? Or to be fit and keep up with the kids? Or for your own self-assurance? Identifying why this goal is important to you will help it ‘click’, or resonate, and will strengthen your resolve, particularly when you reach a hurdle. This is what will drive you through the tough times, knowing why it is so important to achieve that goal.

Conflict: Why not? What is standing in your way to achieving your goal? For example, if losing weight is your goal, but your partner keeps stocking the cupboard with naughty munchies, this creates conflict for you. If you want to stop smoking, but always find yourself surrounded by those seductive cigarettes in other people’s hands, that’s going to create conflict. So is shopping if you’re trying to get out of debt. Identifying the conflicts, those ‘hiccups’ that naturally oppose and prevent you from attaining your goal, will give you some insight into your own character – will help you identify potential weaknesses, or areas that require just a little focus, or a little tweaking, to resolve that conflict. Figuring out why you can’t get/do what you want is part of the way to reaching your goal. Knowing what you’re facing, and planning a way around it, past it or through it is in itself a success.

And yes, here comes that old chestnut: Failing to plan = planning to fail. Get some insight into what makes you tick with your personal goals, and get strategizing to insure success.

penSo, get out your notebooks, and jot down your own G.M.C. for 2013 – and good luck!

Tuesday Tidbits with Janni Nell!

Hi Shannon

It’s great to be here for a Q & A session, which had me digging deep at times. Thanks for the interesting questions.

How did you get started writing?

Okay, now I have to ‘fess up to being an obnoxious teen. Back in the day, I loved to read (still do, of course).  Anyway I read this book (nope, not going to mention the title), which I absolutely loved. Except for its ending.  I figured I could write better. (Well, I was an obnoxious teen.)  I gave it a go and soon realised that–duh!—I couldn’t do better. In fact, what I wrote sucked so badly, it didn’t even score a place in my bottom drawer. Only one option: immediate and total destruction. It was a year before I summoned the courage to try writing again. This time accompanied by some much needed humility.

What was your journey to publication?

Well, it was full of speed bumps. Lots of flitting from hot genre to hot genre (not recommended if you want to find your own voice). Many rejections later, I took a chance and wrote a story in a quirky first person voice that felt kinda natural. To my utter amazement, publishers were interested. That little story became the first book in the Allegra Fairweather series.

What is your “call” story, when your first work was accepted for publication?

When I got the call, which was actually an email, I didn’t react the way I’d expected. Instead of screaming and happy dancing, I went numb. I couldn’t believe I was actually going to get published at last. I kept thinking the email must have been meant for someone else. Until my husband pointed out it was unlikely anyone else had written a story called Allegra Fairweather: Paranormal Investigator. Then he took me out for a celebratory lunch. After that it kind of sunk in, and I did some happy dancing. Line dancing that is.

What have you learned about readers since getting published?

Readers are wonderful! Without readers there would be no one to hear our stories, no hearts to touch, no funny bones to tickle. I love readers. In fact, I am one. It’s hard to be a writer without first being a reader.

What have you learned about writing since getting published?

I’ve learned to juggle. Let me explain.

Last year I was working full steam ahead on the latest Allegra Fairweather story—let’s call it AF5—when I was offered the chance to write a novella for the anthology Carina Press Presents: Editor’s Choice Vol II. To be included, I first had to submit a synopsis for approval. That meant temporarily abandoning AF5 to write the synopsis. When it was approved, I got to work on the novella. Once again it was full steam ahead until I received extensive edits for Island of Secrets. You still with me? Great. So, I stopped work on the novella, and spent four weeks completing the edits. Then it was back to the novella. Around this time I was also brainstorming new titles for both works in progress. Fast forward three months and I’m working on edits—developmental and copy—for both Island of Secrets and the novella, which was published as Dance of Flames.

So I can now claim to be an experienced, if not expert, juggler.

What are you working on next?

AF5—remember the one I was working on all those months ago—well it’s been accepted by Carina Press. All I have to do now is…finish the darn book!

Tell us about your most recent release.

Island of Secrets is the third novel in the Allegra Fairweather series. (The novella, Dance of Flames is kind of a 3.5). By the way, if you’re wondering who designs the gorgeous covers for the series, it’s Frauke Spanuth of CrocoDesigns.

I’m a paranormal investigator without a home of my own. So when a wealthy client offers me a lucrative job on a private South Pacific island, I jump at the opportunity.

It’s not all fun in the sun, though. A dead merman—no, really—with an arrow in his chest has washed up on shore. My investigation reveals a century-old war between the mers and a goblin tribe, who believe the mers stole their treasure. But the real thief was a pirate! He buried the treasure and died before digging it up again.                        

Casper, my guardian angel and sort-of-but-not-really boyfriend, usually helps me out but he’s acting all weird and busy. The only person left who can help me find the treasure is the pirate’s former girlfriend, who happens to be a forgetful, alcoholic ghost.

Oh, and I’m not the only one searching for this treasure. Someone else wants it badly and they’re prepared to commit murder to prevent anyone else from getting it…

Island of Secrets is set on an island (no, really) near Tahiti. Tell us your favourite vacation spot, and you could win an e-copy of Island of Secrets.


Rachel Johns: My Love Affair With Television Soap-Operas

Hi, I’m Rachael Johns, I write rural romance and I’m a TV Soap Addict.

At least I was, once upon a time before I popped out three kids in quick succession, losing one much-loved soap-opera with each one of them!

Why do they insist on putting soap-operas on at terrible times for Mums? Here in Australia, my two fave soapies were Neighbours and Home & Away and they were on at 6.30pm and 7pm at night, smack-bang in the middle of the time I get my kids bathed and into bed. Yes, woe is me, I could have recorded them I suppose but I was never good with stuff like that.

I must admit, I don’t miss them as much as I thought I would, but I DO still get nostalgic when I read an article about the anniversary of something special on the show. Recently TV Week did a special on the anniversary of Scott (Jason Donovan) and Charlene’s (Kylie Minogue) wedding and I lapped it all up. I was VERY little when that wedding was screened but I remembered LOVING it. In fact, I loved all the relationships and weddings that happened on my two favourite soaps so I guess it’s not surprising that this little girl grew up to write ROMANCE!!

As a writer, we’re often asked where we get our ideas from and for my recent rural romance JILTED, my love of soap operas formed one of the puzzle pieces. I needed a heroine who had left a small town and started another career that looked to be far more glamorous than life in a small town – she doesn’t think that but the residents of the small town do. Then, suddenly I thought of my love of soaps and decided one way to pamper this love was to make my heroine a soapie actress!!

When I’m writing (or planning) what a character does for a career plays a big part for me. I’ve written about a voice talent, a cultural anthropologist, a country pub owner, and of course a soapie star. I guess in a way, through my writing, I get to experience careers that I may not ever have the chance to actually do.

So, this is my roundabout way of saying that although my books are not auto-biographical, they do each have a little bit of me in them!

Now… before I go, let’s chat TV shows! Are you a soap-opera fan like me or do you prefer something else? Reality TV? Dramas? Crime shows? I’d love to hear what your favourite TV show is and WHY!?

Thanks for having me Shannon!

Jilted Blurb:

She left him at the altar, but her heart was always his…

After more than ten years away, Australian soap star Ellie Hughes returns to the small country town of Hope Junction, determined to remain anonymous while caring for her injured godmother, Matilda.

But word spreads fast in the tight-knit community. It isn’t long before the people of Hope’s are gossiping about the real reason for Ellie’s visit and why she broke the heart of golden boy Flynn Quartermaine all those years ago.

Soon Ellie and Flynn are thrown back together again, forced to deal with the unresolved emotions between them. For Ellie is not the only one with secrets. Flynn has his own demons to battle, and Matilda is hiding something from her much-loved goddaughter.

When all is uncovered, can the ill-fated lovers overcome the wounds of their past? Or is Flynn destined to be jilted again?

If you’d like to contact Rachel, you can find her lurking in these areas:

Website: www.rachaeljohns.com

Blog: www.rachaeljohns.wordpress.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rachael-Johns/260103224001776

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/RachaelJohns

Rachel’s book, Jilted, can be purchased from Harlequin and Amazon, and all good e-retailer stores.