Friday, 12 August 2016

*GIVEAWAY* New Zealand Swag Bag!

I'm giving away a huge goody bag stuffed with New Zealand swag. To enter all you have to do is follow the rafflecopter link and paste a URL for a review you've written for one of my books. The review can be on a retail site like Amazon, or on Goodreads, or a get the idea. :) 
If you haven't written a review, you'll need to do that before you can enter - don't worry, it doesn't need to be long, witty or even good! 

Good luck to everyone who enters.

Keeping it fresh - advice for the mid-career writer

I originally wrote this for the lovely Tamar Hela and her blog. For once I'm being serious as I share the ways I try to keep my writing fresh. Hope all you writers out there find it helpful. :) 

There are a lot of fiction writing advice books out there. Most of them focus on teaching the basics of the craft and guiding you on how to find your voice. There are very few that concentrate on what to do once you have the basics down. I think this lack of balance reflects a deeper problem within the world of fiction writing—a lot of writers assume that once they’ve found their personal style and understand the basics there’s nothing else to learn.

They’re wrong.

If you don’t want your writing to stagnate… If you don’t want to write the same book over and over… Then you have to challenge yourself in every new piece of work you write. Think of the process as mining. You can dig down a little, find something interesting and then stay at that depth forever as you widen the same hole outwards. Or, you can go deeper and find something more precious. Maybe even find something that no one has ever found before. And yes, digging deeper is harder. But it’s worth it.

So, if you’re a mid-career writer and you want to dig deeper, how do you go about doing that? You could try some of the following:

Get out of your character comfort zone

Challenge yourself to write a character unlike any you’ve ever written before. If your speciality is alpha men, write the weakling—but do it in a way that makes him lovable, desirable and magnetic. (Be careful he doesn’t morph into your usual character type throughout the book. Keep him true to himself.) If you write great submissive women, try writing about a strong, leader-type woman. Get into the head of your character, changing your language and adapting your style to suit the character’s voice.

Make story, not plot, your priority

When we first start out, we cling to the formulas for plotting as though they are lifelines. The problem with this is that sometimes the flow of the story can become mutated or get lost to accommodate the structure you feel it must fit. Instead of following a pattern for your book, focus on the story. Story is the natural development of a tale which meets the criteria of your fictional world and the needs of your character. Plot is a series of events which follow a set structure. Do you see the difference?

Try not to think about whether your fiction fits accepted norms, but rather whether the story flows or not. Ask yourself: is this is the story your characters need to tell? Does it make logical sense within the frame of the world you’ve created? When you read something written by a natural storyteller, you often can’t see a structure at all. It’s buried underneath the very real dilemmas of the characters. It flows with a natural rhythm that suits the world the writer has set up. And it always surprises the reader.

Do one thing in each piece of work that you haven’t done before

With each new book, try to do something new and do it well. If you’ve always focused on the internal drama of your characters, write a scene where everyone has to deal with an external drama. If your last book was full of action, make this one full of emotion instead. If your last book flitted all over the world, set this one in a single room for the duration. Do something hard that will make you think deeper for every single scene in your story.

Never go with your first idea

I learned this one in art college! Always brainstorm your story ideas. Keep asking “what if?” until you hit an angle that you wouldn’t have come across otherwise. This will keep your stories fresh and give greater depth to your writing. The first few ideas we have are usually pretty obvious. Dig deeper. Find the idea that’s going to surprise you and your reader.

Critique your own work

There is a difference between having a critique and being a critic. Being a critic is often a negative thing; staging a critique is a productive event. The difference is that a critic often compares your work to the work of those around you, whereas a critique asks questions of the work itself to make you consider it on a deeper level.

Have a critique of your work by asking questions of it and not being afraid of the answers. Ask things like: “Is this truly in character or am I trying to bend the hero to fit the plot?” and “What other outcomes are possible from this set of circumstances?”

Always ask yourself why you’ve chosen something and whether there is a better, more unusual choice to be had. Make “what if?” your mantra. What if the plot took a different direction? What if the character did something else? What if there was another person in this scene? What if the setting was different? “What if?” is a question that will help you mine deeper into your work.

Okay, so that’s five things I try to do with each new book. I hope, if you give it a go, that you’ll let me know how it works out for you. And if you have some suggestions to add, all the better—I’m always looking to improve my writing!

Thursday, 4 August 2016

SALE! Two book romantic comedy set 0.99 this week only!

The first two romances I ever wrote are on sale as a two book set this week. 
You can get both for 0.99. What are you waiting for?! And don't forget to spread the word. :)


These two books are the first romance novels I ever wrote and they're very dear to my heart. Laura's Big Break was the first book I won an award for - the Romance Writers of America's Silken Sands Award - and that was a huge encouragement at the time. It's also a book that brings back some great memories for me. It's set in Holland, where I lived after I met my Dutch husband. A lot of the experiences I had during that time, especially the ones where I screwed up learning to cycle, are shared by Laura in this story. At the end of the book - don't worry, no spoilers - she also visits Bolivia, another country I've worked and lived in and love dearly. So yeah, Laura's Big Break has a lot of personal experience woven into the tale.

As for Mad Love, Dean has always been one of my favorite heroes. He's so dedicated to Maddie, so in love with her, that it blows me away to think about it. The way he encourages her and delights in her craziness are attributes I think all men should have - that and his six pack! And yeah, London is another place I've lived. What can I say? I get around! 

So there you have it. My first two books in one handy volume. I really hope you enjoy reading them!

Monday, 25 July 2016

The goat ate my manuscript...and other things that interfere with my writing!

Like all writers, I deal with constant interruptions in my work. Most of these are normal, everyday interruptions that are part of the package of working from home - kids playing in my office while I write, hubby doing every freaking DIY project he can find that's right outside my office door, cold callers, people at the door and cats. Seriously, cats are a big problem, just look at all the posts on Facebook with photos of cats sitting on a manuscript and you'll know what I'm talking about. ;)

But some things have interfered with my work over the past few years that just don't fit into the usual list. I thought I'd share them with you:

  • The goat ate my manuscript

This has happened three times now. You would think I'd learn from my mistakes. Apparently not. Anyway, my pet goat is adorable. And she eats everything. Twice I've thought it would be lovely to work outside in the sun while hanging out with my goat. And twice the bloody goat ate my work. The third time she got at my proofreading while I was putting out the fire I'd started on my treadmill. (Read about that mess here!) This is my life people. There is no excuse for it.

My goat on the kitchen table. She'd sneaked into the house when the kids left a door open.

  • My husband set fire to my manuscript

Never leave your manuscript lying around. This is a lesson I learned the hard way in our house. You see, we have a wood burning fire and my husband was looking for some paper to light the thing. And what was sitting on the floor beside the sofa, but a pile of paper. Ten minutes later the edits I'd made were up in flames.

The time hubby went through a chainsaw obsessive phase and brought down a tree on top of the chicken coop - 
outside my office window!
  • The horse soaked my manuscript

Thinking I was smart, I tied the goat up and worked outside with my miniature horses for company. Nope. Not a good idea. They stuck their noses into everything and spilled my drink all over my manuscript. (This is the problem when you keep rescuing other people's unwanted animals! Or maybe, the problem is turning them all into pets and letting them hang out with you in the garden...)

One of my pet horses outside the kitchen trying to get in to keep me company
while I was editing inside the house - for a change!

  • The chicken pooped on my keyboard

I have a chicken who likes to come into the house through the cat door and hide. (You can read about her here.) She has scared me more than once by cooing from whatever cupboard she's managed to get into. Plus, I've found eggs under my bed. The worst was when I left a sandwich beside my keyboard while I went to do something else. She went after the sandwich and pooped on the keyboard. I couldn't get the damn thing clean and had to buy a new one.

the criminal chicken at the cat door

  • The kids put beads in my printer

My girls went through a beading phase and, like everything else they do, they thought they'd do it in my office. They wanted to keep me company while I wrote. I was so grateful... (How many times did I accidentally write about beading while they were there? Many, many times...) I didn't realize my six year old had used my printer as a table until I went to print a document and found it was full of beads. Had to take it apart to get them all out.

the culprit - I have no idea why she's wearing that helmet...

  • My laptop fell in the stream - along with pretty much everything else...

On a beautiful sunny day in summer, after a heavy rain, I decided to work beside our stream. There's a steep bank at the edge of the stream where my pet sheep likes to hang out. After I'd dragged a chair over to the spot to keep my sheep company, I went back for my laptop. On return, I slipped in the mud, slid down the bank on my back, lost my laptop in the stream and the sheep chewed my shirt while I lay there with my feet in the water. 

My pet sheep when she sneaked into my daughter's pigsty.

You know, now that I've reread this, I could probably sum up this post with one sentence: don't work near animals or kids! 

My backyard. The animals are supposed to be in the paddock.
This is what happens when you turn rescue animals into pets!

Okay, that's enough public humiliation for one day. If you have any writing mishaps you want to share, I'd love to know I'm not alone!  :) 

new book - Reckless

Reckless is out now! I'm so super excited. And exhausted... :) Anyway, I thought you might like to read an excerpt, so here it is:

About Reckless

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.

Available at: Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | B&N

I'm also taking part in a blog tour this week. To enter the blog giveaway visit one of the sites below and you'll find the rafflecopter entry info. Good luck!


Monday, 18 July 2016

On being a mom and a writer - or, the joys of working at home!

It's mid-winter school holidays over here in New Zealand. Weather wise, I can't complain. Winter holidays in Scotland meant darkness, snow, black ice and freezing your backside off anytime you set foot outside the door! Winter in North Island, New Zealand, means the odd rainy day, wearing a cardigan (instead of a coat) and posting pics of frost on Facebook if you happen to get any! In fact, now that I think about it, Winter in North Island NZ is closer to summer in Glasgow... :)

Anyway, enough about the weather. The kids are off school for two weeks and I'm trying to work around them. It isn't going well. My eleven year old keeps interrupting me with random questions like: "Who invented the first engine? How do you make light-bulbs? Where does color come from?" Meanwhile, my six year old just comes into my office every five minutes to fill me in on what she's doing: "This thing happened with the Barbies, mum, it's so funny..." (For the record, it's NEVER funny!)

So far this week, I've rewritten the same sentence more times than I can count (and it still doesn't make sense) and I managed to change the name of the hero in my current manuscript to Lego without realizing.

my office whiteboard has become an art board

Meanwhile, the mess that has taken over the house - from toys, art materials, clothes and empty snack boxes - is beginning to encroach on my office. Yesterday, I threw myself onto my desk chair only to jump back up again in agony - there was a pile of Lego on the seat. When I got up to get something from my printer, I tripped over roller skates and hit my head on the wall. All my colored pens have mysteriously disappeared, along with my sticky tape, blue tack and post-it notes - I suspect they're in one of the "art piles" throughout the house.

The kitchen table has become art central

To help out, hubby has taken time off work this week to keep the kids occupied while I write. He's doing this by changing the water tap in the kitchen sink... Yeah, his time off has been swallowed by a new DIY project. He turned off the mains water supply to the house yesterday and it hasn't been turned on yet. There are words coming out from under the sink that the kids shouldn't hear - thankfully, they're in Dutch and going over their tiny heads right now. I'm waiting for him to throw in the towel and call the plumber. I love my husband. He's great at many things. DIY isn't one of them! We're talking about the man who has fallen through the same spot in our ceiling three times. The man who rewired the garage in the last house and we couldn't sell the place until we got a professional in to fix everything he'd done. The same man who destroyed the chicken coop while chopping down trees... yeah, that man! And do the kids ask him what he's doing under the sink? No. They come into my office and ask me!!!  

a very happy hubby currently destroying the kitchen

On top of all this, the kids are giving me writing advice. My six year old thinks there should be more words like "and" and "the" in my sentences. She also thinks I don't know how to use full stops. My eleven year old is totally convinced that I'd have a better chance at literary success if I just wrote more Harry Potter books. I've explained that I didn't write them in the first place (I wish!) and that I can't just take up where Rowling left off. Her advice was to change the names and set it in New Zealand. She's sure it will be a big hit. Plus, she tells me, I don't need to put any of that soppy kissing stuff in them...

So that's it. I write around the chaos all day long, stealing a sentence here and there in amongst discussions on plumbing, Lego, Barbie and how to use their various art materials. When everyone eventually goes to sleep at night, I fix everything I did during the day! I estimate that I'm getting about one useful sentence a day written right now. And I'm pretty sure that's better than average for most writing mothers! Only one more week of chaos to go... :)

the hall wall has been turned into a freeze full of aliens and planets (yet unfinished!)
p.s. in the time it's taken to write this post, I've admired an ambitious art project, showed shock over how little water the hot water tank actually holds, explained how blue-tack works, been a plumber's assistant and cut out aliens from card - and it isn't even lunch time yet!

Sunday, 17 July 2016

FREE ebook!

One of my early romance novels is FREE on Amazon for the next few days. Grab a copy while you can! 

click to go to Amazon
Disgraced cop Jack Miller inherits a house. He also inherits a tenant. She's sexy, mysterious and obviously up to no good. His cop instincts are in overdrive. He's trying to get his job back and no police force will employ him if there's illegal activity in his house. His only option is to solve the mystery of his crazy tenant's behaviour and kick her out - if he can keep his hands off her long enough to do it! 

Davina Davenport is trying to make a movie with 'borrowed' equipment, in a house without permission and on a deadline. It's her last stab at an acting career and even she knows the plan is slightly insane. Her boss at the TV station is asking about the missing equipment. Jack Miller is nosing around her house - and her. And the creepy cameraman from work wants to blackmail her into trading sex for his filming skills. 

It will be a miracle if the movie gets made before Davina ends up fired, in jail or in Jack's bed! 

Go to Amazon