Thursday, 23 June 2016

a winter epidemic

It's winter here in New Zealand and for the past two weeks my family has been suffering through winter colds.

First my husband, the nurse, came home from hospital with a slight fever and a tickle in his throat. He declared he was dying. Possibly with pneumonia, although it could have been bronchitis (the deadly kind). He coughed all over the house - those huge, dramatic, hacking coughs that prove a person is genuinely, seriously ill. Then he took to bed - armed with his tablet computer, because although dying, he still had to take part in a war in Clash of Clans.

Next to become ill was my eleven year old. She came home from school with a runny nose. She told me the world hated her and burst into tears. Apparently her illness could only treated with copious amounts of TV and ice cream. It was obvious by then that she had the same illness as my husband and I began to worry that I might have the beginnings of an epidemic on my hands. Going by their symptoms and declared level of unwellness (is that even a word?) I thought we might be dealing with Ebola, or the Bubonic plague. I watched my six year old carefully for symptoms, but apart from half a day sneezing, she seemed fine. I even asked her if she was dying, just to make sure. She asked me if I was nuts.

I, of course, stepped right into my role as nurse without one word of complaint. (Insert laugh here.) I made daily pots of chicken soup, fed everyone garlic bread with every meal, stocked the fridge with fresh fruit smoothies and dished out cold medication at the slightest complaint. I was patiently silent through nights of hacking coughs, moans, sneezes and thumping of chests. (Yeah, I don't know why my husband thumps his chest when he's sick either. Perhaps it's a medical technique he learned at nursing college.) I didn't say a word when they reached the stage where they were too sick to leave the house (apparently) but too well to stay in bed, so they found other ways to occupy themselves. My husband spent his time vacuuming. Hours and hours of vacuuming, in a zombie-like state, over the same section of carpet. My daughter spent her days wearing pajamas and baking cakes that no one wanted to eat because she coughed all over them. I spent those days tidying the kitchen and gently suggesting that the carpet was clean already.

Now everyone is back at work and school. The house is quiet once again. There are no tissues scattered over the floors and we've stopped stinking of garlic.

And I have a cold.

I'd just like to state for the record, that I am not dying. I don't need to go to bed. And I have no urge to vacuum. But I wouldn't say no if someone would make me chicken soup!

EDIT: I take it all back! All the sarcasm I've written above, I take it back. I now realize the cold everyone was suffering was actually flu - they weren't just being huge drama queens. (for once!) I know this because, I'm pretty sure there are two hundred tiny invisible elves attacking my body with teeny hammers. I will never make fun of my sick family ever again. Honest. (Well, my kids anyway. My husband I need to deal with on a case by case basis.) In the meantime, I'm going back to my sick bed - before the urge to vacuum strikes...

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Bloggers Wanted!

Would you like to take part in the blog tour for my new book, Reckless?

RECKLESS (Benson's Boys #1) is an action romance with humor, mayhem, evil baddies and lots of hot sex.
➛The tour will run from July 23 - 30
➛Release date is July 24
➛Review copies available via NetGalley
If you're interested, then fill out the form. I hope I'll see you there! :)

click for the form

New Book out July 24!

This is it, the first in a new series! Reckless is a spin off from my Invertary books, based around the London office of Benson Security. You'll meet lots of familiar characters in this book and you'll also meet some new ones. But the book centers around the relationship between Dimitri and Megan as they work together to protect their sisters.

This books is different from the Invertary books, hence the totally different cover, in that it isn't a romantic comedy. It's an action/adventure romance with humor. Basically, I wanted to write my own action movie, so I did! So be aware of the differences going in, this one has mayhem, evil baddies and lots of hot sex. You have been warned! ;)

The new London office of Benson Security hasn’t even opened its doors yet and already it’s neck deep in its first case…
If the mission doesn’t kill him, his sexy partner just might.

Dimitri Raast and Megan Donaldson have a common enemy—the head of an organisation that specializes in human trafficking and sexual slavery. They have similar motivation—Dimitri’s sister was taken by the organisation, and Megan’s sister is threatened by it. They have the same goal—eliminate their enemy and save their sisters. Given they have so much in common, you would think working together would be a piece of cake.

You would be wrong.

While Dimitri brings skills and experience from years as a US Army Ranger to their partnership, Megan brings a background in failed career choices and an ability to cause trouble wherever she goes. Yet, even with so much at stake, Dimitri can’t resist Megan’s particular brand of crazy. She’s wild, she’s sexy and she’s fearless. An irresistible combination for a man who lives his life completely in control. Now, after almost a year with one all-consuming focus, Dimitri finds himself torn between rescuing his sister and protecting the woman he wants—from herself.

Before she gets them both killed.

Preorder Links for Reckless (Benson's Boys Book 1)


Monday, 18 April 2016

Calamity Jena - Two Week Sale!

The Calamity Jena ebook is on sale for 99 Cents. 

This is a two week deal people! :)
So grab a copy while you can and spread the word. 

This is book along with the rest of the Invertary series, but can be read as a standalone novel. 
Here's the blurb:

Jena Morgan, Atlantic City’s favorite go-go dancer, may have overreacted when she found her boyfriend balls deep in a stripper called Candy. Instead of washing her eyeballs with bleach, she drank a bottle of tequila and bought a house off the internet. A house far away from her cheating, criminal of an ex-boyfriend. A house in Scotland. As soon as she turns up to claim her new home, Jena finds out exactly why you shouldn't 'one-click' houses while falling-down drunk. It was a dump. With no money, and no skills outside of shaking her booty, Jena does the only thing she can do—she throws herself into the biggest DIY project the Highlands have ever seen. 

Since Jena’s arrival in town, Officer Matt Donaldson’s workload has tripled. The woman is a menace, gorgeous yes, but definitely a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Her only discernible skill seems to be causing chaos wherever she goes. She attracts trouble like honey attracts bears. Which is why Matt isn't surprised when her ex-boyfriend turns out to be a member of the New Jersey mob. Although Jena’s ex has come to Scotland to win her back, she wants nothing to do with him—a reaction the mobster does not take well. Overnight, Matt’s job morphs from hunting missing cats and breaking up fights at the old folk’s home, to chasing down the mob and keeping Jena alive. And he's trying to do it all while remaining professional enough to keep his hands off his sexy, but crazy, American charge. 

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Friday, 1 April 2016

procrastinating like a pro...

Every time I sit down to write these days there's suddenly something else I urgently need to do. I can't seem to stay in my seat. It's like I have ants in my pants. My head it full of stories that keep me awake nights, yet I spend my days painting tables! Yep, I have become an expert procrastinator. So here are my tips on how to do it well.

I painted that table...and three doors,
a cupboard and a wall...
1. Instead of working. Paint random objects with chalkboard paint. Tell yourself you need more surfaces to write notes on. With a little bit of effort you can even convince yourself that you'll plot better on a blue chalkboard surface.
yeah, I don't know why I painted
the wall green either...

2. Instead of writing the book, write notes about the book all over the walls you've just painted. And on your whiteboards. Then use up all your sticky notes - which you should put around your computer for maximum impact. Now look around your room, congratulate yourself on all your hard work, and then celebrate with tea and cake.
this shows part of two massive whiteboards covered in notes

3. Instead of marketing your books, write a list of all the marketing you need to do - then go have cake and tea to celebrate your lovely list.

apparently not...
4. Clean out your fish tank repeatedly until you get it looking the way you want it.

5. Spend hours farting around on Facebook. Justify it by telling yourself you're building relationships with readers and making friends. After all you don't want to be a sad, isolated, lonely writer. It's important for a writer to look after their mental health. (Although, at this point I'm not sure I can still call myself a writer, as writers write!)
filling facebook with "quality" posts
is a good use of a writer's time...
6. Read lots of romance books. Call it research. Have tea and cake while you do it, because research is hard work.

7. Brush the horses. They're very dirty and it's distracting you from working.

8.  Go through all your old photos. You haven't looked at them in years and there might be stuff in there that you can use for research and inspiration.

9. Spend hours in the shop browsing stationary because if you had the perfect notebook and pen you could write anywhere. Then have tea and cake in a cafe to celebrate buying a new notebook and pen.
it helps if your new notebook is labelled especially for writers -
it will show that you've taken your shopping trip seriously

10. Convince yourself that you can't write until you've spent time on the treadmill. You need the exercise because you spend so much time sitting while you write. Really, you need the exercise to work off all that celebratory tea and cake...

This is how not to get a book written. It's really easy. Give it a go. Anyone can do it!

p.s. Number 11. Write a blog post on procrastination instead of writing your book. Call it marketing, or reader relations, or letting the muse out, or getting into the swing of writing again. Whatever you call it, make sure to celebrate when you finish - with tea and cake.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

I'm losing the war...

There is a very good chance that I'm losing my mind. I need to get this off my chest. This topic keeps me awake nights. It fills my days. I find myself mumbling about it in the supermarket. I am obsessed and I know it.

And all because of snails. Tiny. Evil. Snails.

Yep, this is a whole blog post about snails. Trust me, you'll understand my pain by the end of it.

You see, I have a little fish tank that sits on the corner of my desk. It had four little fish in it until my cat ate one, after that I upgraded to a tank with a lid. Anyway, the tank also had three snails. They were tiny, cute, acrobatic and entertaining. I often found myself smiling at the tank and going awwww.

The old bowl before the upgrade.

Little did I know that snails are evil.

One day, there were three tiny cute snails. Two weeks later there were seventy-two! Yeah, you read that right - 72! I'm anal, I counted. They were taking over the tank. The fish were hiding in one corner, terrified. So I removed the snails, very carefully because at this point I still liked them. I put them in another bowl just for them and congratulated myself on a clean tank.
The next morning there were seven more snails in the fish tank. I was amused. How did I miss the little darlings? I scooped them out and put them with the other snails.

The cat proof - but not snail proof - tank

Two days later there were 14 more snails in the fish tank and I started to get a little irritated. Not to mention the 79 in the snail bowl had multiplied to a number I wasn't able to count - because, I've discovered, all snails do is eat, poo, bonk and reproduce. That's it and they do it a LOT. I cleaned out the fish tank again, put the new snails in the snail bowl and took the foul smelling bowl to our stream to free the snails.

The next day there were ten more snails in the fish tank. I didn't smile. It wasn't funny. I cleaned out the tank. Washed everything thoroughly and removed the snails to the stream.

And yes, I found more snails. This went on, day in day out for two weeks until I had another snail bowl full of the little buggers! It was time for drastic measures. I threw out everything in the fish tank except the fish. Replaced all toys and sand with new. Cleaned the filter meticulously. And sat back to look at my snail free tank.

Last night for the first time in weeks, I slept well. Secure in the knowledge I'd won the war.

I just looked in my tank and there are two baby snails. I swear they're laughing at me. My eye is beginning to twitch. My normally cheery disposition has long gone. The peace the tiny tank was supposed to bring is shattered. I'm losing the war. The snails are winning.

The new clean tank with the two bloody snails circled!

I don't know where they come from. I don't know how they get in there. All I know at this point is that I hate snails. With every fiber of my being, I hate snails. And I will prevail. They can't keep me down for long. I will bounce back and I will win this war - even if it takes a three liter bottle of bleach to do it, because I no longer want to save the little buggers and free them in the stream.

No, now I want to annihilate them.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Walking in Scotland - how not to do it

I just read that the new walking path, John Muir Way, celebrated its first birthday this week. The path goes from the west coast to the east coast of Scotland. That's 134 miles of stunning Scottish countryside. It takes roughly a week to do the walk. And I have NO plans to do it. Ever!

Loch Lomond - you can sing the song as you walk past it...
The reason I'm anti-walking in Scotland is experience. Years ago, my husband and I decided to walk the West Highland Way. The route goes from Glasgow to Fort William and is ninety-six miles long. It normally takes about 5-7 days to walk the route, although my over achieving sister ran the damn thing in about 20 minutes. (I can't remember exactly how fast she did it, it gets shorter every time I think about it.)

Anyway we attempted the walk during that rare time on the Scottish calendar - a week in summer where the sun actually shone! It started out great, we umed and awed about everything we saw. I told my Dutch husband all about my childhood experiences in the north of Glasgow as we headed out of it. The sun was bright. The birds were singing. All was well with the world. I should have known then that it couldn't last.

Drymen square
We stopped for food in a cute wee pub in Drymen, spending far too long enjoying the atmosphere and the Scotch pies. We should have stayed there for the night, but we were young, fit and optimistic (read stupid, ignorant and totally unused to walking of any sort) so we decided to walk to Balmaha that evening.

It was a foolish mistake made by unfit amateurs. Looking back, I'm pretty sure it was five solid hours uphill. I thought I was going to die and that was before the sun started to go down and Scotland's flying piranha - the midge - came out! We were sore. Disheartened. And seriously not enjoying the walk. It got to the stage where we literally couldn't take another step, so we climbed a fence into field and pitched our tent - on an almost 90 degree slope.

Beautiful Balmaha
I zipped myself into the tent and refused to come out. I didn't want to get eaten alive by midges. My husband thought I was overreacting. He's Dutch. He didn't have a clue. Hubby decided he wanted coffee. Said he'd die without it. So he zipped himself up in his rain gear, pulled up the hood on his anorak and tied the string tight, so that you could only see his eyes. He tucked his trousers into his socks, grabbed the tiny gas stove and went outside to brave the thick fog of midges - all for the sake of coffee. 

I've never heard cursing like it before or since. "One of them bit my eyeball!" he shouted. There was a scream. "They flew up my nose! I can't breathe! They're in my hood. They're everywhere!" I shouted for him to come back into the tent, which I'd now sprayed full of insect repellent, having decided I'd rather die from chemical inhalation than midge bites. "I want some bleep, bleep, bleep, bleeping, coffee!" he shouted back. Then there was a mini-explosion, followed closely by more cursing - this time in Dutch. A minute later the tent zip went down and he threw himself inside. "The gas canister exploded," he told me looking dazed and bewildered. "I think the midges liked the smell. The attack was worse after the gas escaped." He then spent the next hour doctoring his many, many bites with antihistamine cream.
All the black dots are midges. All the red dots are bites. Scottish midges are like tiny mosquitoes that swarm and get everywhere. They are a plague. So much so that there's even a Midge forecast to let you know when they'll be at their worst and where...  
Dealing with midges - you no longer care what you look like
so long as they can't get at you!
Then the rain started. Good Scottish summer rain. The kind that comes on slowly, penetrates everything and builds steadily until nothing is safe from it. It's okay, I told myself, we're in the tent. We're fine. The temperature plummeted to normal Scottish summer levels and we shivered as we tried to get to sleep.

That's when the tent was attacked. I screamed. My husband did that scared man reaction thing - where they tell you off for freaking out just to cover they fact they're peeing their pants too. We huddled together and watched as the tent was jostled from all sides. "I need to see what it is," he said in a way that made me think he was hoping I'd volunteer. I kept my mouth shut. He shut his eyes, sprayed his face with insect repellent and unzipped the tent a fraction. "Rabbits," he told me. "I think we're sitting on their burrow." Obviously they didn't want to do find another way into it, instead they spent the rest of the night trying to dig through the nylon to get to their house.

With the rain, and the fear, my bladder was overwhelmed. I needed to visit the facilities, which meant braving the killer rabbits, the rain and every bloody midge in Scotland to go outside and pee behind a bush. "Come with me," I pleaded of my big, brave husband. He grinned and pointed to an empty plastic bottle. "I don't need to, I have indoor plumbing." It was at that point I wondered why I'd married the man.

Armed with a flashlight, a roll of toilet paper and an umbrella, I went out into the dark. I inched my way past the rabid rabbits, batted off the midges who were trying to fly in the rain and headed for the nearest bush. I got my jeans down round my ankles and was doing that thing only women understand, where you try to aim and not hit anything you're wearing while balancing on the balls of your feet with your backside exposed to the elements. I'd just like to point out that women and NOT designed for camping. Anyway, I eventually started to do the business when something huge nudged my backside. I screamed, lost my precarious balance, lost the toilet paper and the flashlight but somehow managed to keep hold of the useless umbrella. I landed on my back and slid in the mud part way down the slope.
I swear they were laughing at me.
I heard my husband battling with the tent to come to my rescue - a bit too late if you ask me. Gingerly I opened my eyes to find myself looking up at half a dozen sheep. That's when the rain stopped and the midges appeared to feast on my exposed flesh, as my jeans were still around my knees.

The following morning we packed up, walked down the hill to Balmaha, where we discovered a guest house about three minutes from where we were camped. We got on a bus back to Glasgow, looking like a couple of war refugees. My husband had red dots over most of his face and one eye was swollen shut from bites. I could barely sit on the bus as my backside was red raw from sliding down a hill. Everything we owned was wet and covered in mud and we both stank of sheep poo.

This is why I don't go hill walking.

Can you blame me?