Saturday, 18 October 2014

Never say never and other dilemmas

This morning I have passed the 112,000 word mark on my latest creation and can safely say I've hit the half way point. Yes, you read that right... half way. I'm expecting to reduce this considerably in the editing process, but it's still going to be a big book by the time it's finished.

I set out to write this story way back at the beginning of this year, fully intending to have an August release to coincide with my two year anniversary as a published author. Well, that never happened. I'm a bit disappointed but not beaten. Life is what it is, and as a wife, mother and grandmother we don't expect it to run smoothly all the time. There have been happy events with weddings and a new grandson, and not so happy ones with health issues. Time has definitely not been on my side and this book has become so much more than my initial idea.

Thankfully, I'm not held to a deadline, nor would I want to be. I'm loving this journey with my characters, venturing into new and unexplored territory with my writing as I did with Master. Like Master, I started off having no idea where I was going and allowed my characters to lead me on. So far, it's been quite a ride with an exciting evolution of my storytelling. The research alone has been enormous.

What seems to be emerging is as big a thriller as I've ever attempted. Thrillers remain my all time favourite genre in books and films. I especially love a good spy thriller and often imagined myself in this world of intrigue which stays hidden in the shadows. My only disappointment was that mainstream thrillers tend to build up hot, steamy scenes only to shut the bedroom door in our faces. And I understand this, but I was always one of those readers that wanted to take a peak. I certainly dreamed of writing such a story.

Master was my first attempt of an espionage thriller with the bedroom door held wide open and the reader invited in, but the scales were tipped more toward plot. This next book is a little more balanced, but the plot is far more complex with many extra characters and, I understand, might not appeal to those who like their erotic stories with a simpler plot. If I can win those readers over, I'll be delighted, but I make no apologies. This is how I want to write my story.

So my latest dilemma is a strange one. I have always ranted and raved on that I don't enjoy serials that leave you on a cliffhanger and you have to buy more to get to the end of the story. I always said I would never do that. Never say never. With the sheer size of my book, I've had people advise me to split it, for some very good reasons. Some people shy away from big books. Some people do love a cliffhanger and enjoy going on with something else while they await the next installment. My proofreaders are saying they could be editing the first half and getting that ready for release as I go on with the second half.

One thing I won't do is publish anything until the entire story is written. George R. R. Martin is the only author whose far greater wisdom I will submit to, as he makes me wait for Winds of Winter. You see, there's a good example. He keeps me waiting so I won't be distracted from writing. Good on you, George.

In doing likewise, I could then put the first half out while the second is undergoing editing. That first half would be a full length novel in itself. Hmm.... I don't know, which is why I'm happy to hear your thoughts and ideas if you'd like to comment. Remember, I'm only two years into this publishing thingy and always learning and open to advice. One promise, if I did it, I would keep each part at US$2.99 and there would only be two parts.

Now as I write this, I'm thinking of where I am in this story. My next chapter would end this first part on one pretty good cliffhanger. That's right, I could be one chapter away of sending this off to my proofreaders and getting it ready to publish. Scary. Exciting!

Well, there's my rant for today. I needed that. It's funny how you can become so emotionally caught up with your characters. Knowing what I'm about to do to them... well, it hurts. I'm horrible, but someone has to do it. Such is the lot of the author.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

A Kiwi Liaison, more than just a bunch of books.

One of the highlights of my busy year was meeting Christine Leov Lealand, another New Zealand author who writes erotica. There are people you meet through your life and immediately you know that you're going to be great friends. Christine is one of those people for me. We met for dinner in Dunedin on a cold Friday night and spent the next five hours just talking about everything, but in particular about a project Christine had come up with. She wanted to make a compilation of works by four New Zealand authors. I was very proud to be one of them and was able to contribute a little more than one of my stories. Having designed my own book covers with my dear friend Leah, Christine was happy to let me have a go at one for this.

My photographer, Leah of course, asked me what I was looking for. I said that it had to be classy, erotic and very Kiwi. Leah is amazing. I give her a simple direction like that and she turns out the most incredible end results. Between us, I think we make pretty good designers. I chose the background for the cover when I came across a local graffiti artist's work on a wall at the train station. Leah knew the artist and we took time to seek his approval to use his work.

The other two people involved in the cover were the models Aaron and Maggie. Now Maggie is a long time close friend of mine who is incredibly talented in acting and modelling. She's been in movies, fashion shoots, theatre plays and she is the model on all of my Line Trilogy Books. She works tirelessly and enthusiastically every time and isn't afraid to be a little daring. I said to her that this time I wanted everyone to see her beautiful face, not just her beautiful body.

Often we forget about those wonderful people who grace the covers of our books. Most of the time they are unknown, a model that we will never meet, but whose presence on our covers is often what first attracts the readers. Well to all you wonderful people, I say thank you.

And the other authors in our compilation? Well, I haven't got to meet them yet. I spent an hour in a delightful chat with A. J. Burton and I'm yet to meet P.J. Bayliss, but we now all share a bond through our writing. To me, A Kiwi Liaison was not just a box set of books. It was the coming together of a bunch of Kiwis to produce a wonderful piece of entertainment to share with the world. Sometimes being an author is just bloody good fun. I will leave you with a link to Christine's blog to let her tell you the rest and will give you all the links where you can buy A Kiwi Liaison

Christine's Blog

Sunday, 17 August 2014

A teaser from Book Five

As promised to some of my readers, I am releasing a teaser from the book I am currently writing . There is still much to be written and a lot of work to be done, before I can even think of a release date. This piece is in its raw, unedited form. A title has been chosen, but I will keep that to myself, until closer to a release date. Happy reading,


Wellington, New Zealand, April, 1999

Thursday night always saw a large gathering of politicians at The Diamond Bar. Their week’s requirement to be in Wellington for Parliament sittings often showed on their strained faces, as they knocked back the first drinks quickly. The journalists that drank there knew better than to bother them. This was a neutral zone, where politics remained outside the doors and opposing parties could socialise together. Any infringements of that were dealt with swiftly by the bar staff, and a nosy journalist would find himself issued with a life ban from the popular watering-hole.
There was a still a lot that could be learnt through observation and eavesdropping on conversations, amplified by several rounds of drinks. Three journalists were seated in a central booth, where they had a good view of everyone and could discuss their theories among themselves. It didn't matter that they were from competing newspapers. Sometimes you had to give a little, in order to get a lot back.
Gary peered at his colleagues. “So who are you betting on for the outcome of this trial?”
“I’m tipping the government for this one,” Alex replied sullenly. “I mean it takes balls to go up against them, but you just got to know that they’ll all be closing ranks. Hell, they’re not even letting the poor bastard see the warrant.”
The youngest of the journalists shook his head in disgust. Brendan North hadn't been in his reporting career long enough to have developed the cynical attitude of the older men.
“If it happens to one man it can happen to us all. Anytime the government want to know your business then all they have to do is send in their heavies and rip your household apart. It’s not right. There are laws.”
The door to the bar opened and instinctively they looked to see who the newcomer was.
“That’s Sean Kavanagh,” Alex told them. “Poor bastard lost his wife just over a year ago to cancer, leaving him with a kid to raise.”
“No doubt he’ll play on that one, to get the sympathy vote.”
Alex shook his head. “No, from what I’ve heard he’s half a decent man. His wife was a stunner too. Can’t be easy raising a kid when you have to be away half the week, across the country for work.”
They returned to their former conversation until the next patron entered.
“Oh shit, it’s Grim Mary,” Gary smirked.
Brendan turned to see a woman who looked to be in her early thirties. The pencil skirt and business jacket she wore, hung loose on her thin frame and looked as drab as her mousy hair, caught back in a bun. Thick framed glasses were perched on a long thin nose and her mouth was turned down as if she was displeased with her surroundings.
“She’s been coming in here every Thursday, for the last four years,” Gary explained. “I think she hopes to find Mr. Right in here but, I’ve never seen her get lucky.”
“Not exactly a centrefold, is she?” Brendan observed. “What does she do?”
“Assistant to the Clerk of the House. Just about runs the Beehive. Does all the menial jobs, picks up all the other secretaries’ slack. Works fucking long hours. I feel sorry for her. She’s not that bad looking, but she’s boring as shit and I doubt she’s ever had a decent fuck.”
Brendan laughed. “You seem to know an awful lot about her.”
“Like I said, I feel sorry for her. Sometimes I yack with her, but the only thing she seems to be able to talk about is the laws around legislation. I tried once to get a bit out of her, what goes on in the Beehive, but she gave me this long lecture, and I mean long, on how and why civil servants of our Parliament must restrain from idle gossip and have a duty and legal responsibility to keep their mouths shut.”
They watched as Mary stood at the bar, being ignored by the staff until she started waving her card at them.
“She’ll get a gin and tonic and sit at that bar and try to strike up conversation with anyone who sits next to her, but everyone knows her now and tries to avoid her.”
Brendan frowned. “We should invite her over.”
“Are you mad?” Gary leaned in towards him. “Unless you want to know what the latest amendment to the Employment Act of 1975 is.”
“Actually, it’s 1992,” Brendan grinned. “But hell, she must know other things. Hell, she's a woman. You know what they say: It’s always the quiet ones.”
“Yeah right,” Gary chuckled. “Alright, I’ll go get her, but don’t say you weren’t warned.”
Brendan and Alex watched as he went across to the bar and spoke to Mary. When she looked in their direction they both smiled and waved. Mary stared back with her mouth hanging open, but nervously followed Gary back to their booth, sliding in beside him.
After introductions she sat silently, sucking on her drink through a straw.
“So have you got plans for the long weekend, Mary?” Brendan asked.
Her eyes widened. “I’ve got holidays.”
“Sweet. Are you going away anywhere?”
Mary bowed her head and kept sucking on her drink. She didn’t look at them as she answered. “Yes.”
“So where are you off to?”
She raised her head and stared at Brendan fearfully. “Why do you want to know?”
He leaned back and saw Gary pursing his lips together tightly, trying not to laugh. “I was just interested.”
“I don’t know where I’m going," she remarked sharply. "I can’t talk about it.”
“Fair enough.” He glanced at his amused companions. “We were just talking about the trial going on in the high court this week.”
Mary nodded. “The government has to act when they suspect threats to security of the country.”
“Yeah, but this guy is hardly a radical and yet the SIS smash their way into his home, take all his files and won’t even show him the warrant.”
“They must have had just cause, and that type of warrant had to be signed by the Prime Minister himself, and therefore will most certainly be valid. This is not something that should be discussed in establishments of this sort.”
Brendan smiled. “Well, what do you like to talk about, Mary?”
Again the fearful look passed over her face and she looked about at them. Her thin lips opened and closed until she finally spoke.
“Have you ever felt terrified about doing something, but you know you have to do it, because if you don’t you would never know what might have happened and it would haunt you for the rest of your life.”
She now had all their attention. Brendan frowned and peered at her. “You might need to elaborate a bit more, Mary.”
She shook her head and looked at the watch on her wrist, before fumbling about in her handbag and drawing out a ten dollar note.
“Would one of you get me another drink, please?”
Alex waved her money away and got up. “Another gin and tonic?”
Mary breathed heavily and shook her head. “No, something stronger. A whisky. Can I have a scotch on the rocks?”
“Yeah, sure.”
When she looked down at her bag again, he gave the others a quizzical glance before heading to the bar.
Gary nodded to Brendan to keep talking.
“So you were saying about doing something scary.”
Mary looked up at him anxiously. “I didn’t say that I was doing something. I posed a hypothetical question.”
“Well I suppose we all have to take risks sometime, otherwise life would get pretty, bloody boring.”
“That’s right.” Mary nodded emphatically. “And as long as it’s legal, that you’re not breaking any laws. I would never do that, you must believe that.”
“You don’t have to convince me, Mary,” Gary grinned. “Everyone has the deepest respect for you.”
She stared at him, as if he had said something terrible. “But what if I did something that wasn’t respectful, that people wouldn’t approve of?”
“Then it would be a personal choice of whether you live up to other people’s standards or live up to your own.”
“That is the choice, isn’t it, and I’ve made mine.” Mary suddenly got up and took the ten dollar note from her purse, laying it on the table. “Tell Alex, thank you for the drink. I have to go.”
Before they could respond, she was out of the booth and walking determinedly to the door, leaving the men staring after her, stunned.
“I thought you said that she was boring,” Brendan remarked.
Gary chuckled. “Well, whatever the crazy bitch is doing, I hope she does have fun for once.”


“I didn’t tell them anything,” Mary stated as she hurried along the city street.
The night air was cold and the footpath void of other people, though the traffic moved steadily past her. She should have been part of it, on her way home in her car, to her safe little apartment. Instead she was headed to a building, to a car park, where she now had an hour's wait to see if anything would happen. She cursed herself for going to the pub.
Perhaps if she had gone home first, she wouldn’t have ventured out again and all this madness could have finally been done with, but as she had told those men, it would have haunted for the rest of her life.
The excitement that had gripped her for the past three months, now felt more akin to fear. She was no longer within the security of her home. It was all going to take place in an isolated setting, and she was conscious of putting her life in very real danger. The risks of what she was doing were screaming out in her mind, but through it all came that small spark of hope, that this could be a turning point in her boring and lonely life.
Turning into a narrow street, Mary stopped and looked at the bleak scenery before her. The street was dark and empty, and halfway along it was the car park. When she ventured forward her heels clicked loudly on the concrete and echoed off the dark buildings. She could barely hear the traffic in the main street behind her. This was as lonely as it could possibly be and yet she walked on.
The car park loomed in front of her, ten levels of layered concrete lying in darkness. A large wire gate sealed the entrance and a sign on it clear announced that it was closed, but upon approach she could see that the padlock was open. With trembling hands she removed it, pulling the gate back enough to get around it. Once inside, her heart picked up pace as the echo of her heels amplified her walk into the eerie space. One dirty light, surrounded by moths, revealed the ramp that she had to go up. The incline made walking difficult and she reluctantly removed her shoes.
On reaching the first level she peered out into the darkness, seeing only an empty space, and a light over a door in the distance which said ‘exit.’ It seemed to glow back at her like a warning. Staring at it, Mary suddenly heard something, like the faintest sound of extra footfalls on the concrete, after she had stopped in her tracks. She froze and listened for several minutes, her heart thumping painfully against her ribs, but only her heavy breathing was disturbing the silence. She decided firmly that she had simply heard an echo of herself.
Slowly she walked on, traversing more levels, keeping close to the wall to guide her, until she had reached the sixth level. With a deep breath, she walked to the centre towards a concrete post, with a large number ‘six’ on it. She stood next to it and waited, pressing a button on her watch to light up the time. She still had half an hour to change her mind and get out of there.
With nothing to do, she tried to imagine what he would really be like. He had described himself as tall, with black hair and blue eyes. He had tattoos which should have turned her off immediately, but it was the way he communicated with her that told her that he was not some uncultured thug.
Every night for an hour he was there, or at least his words were, appearing in the box on her computer, answering her questions, telling her things that sent shivers up her spine. At first she had ignored him as one of many internet perverts that wanted to have cybersex. Being in a public chat room, she was used to this type of harassment and would simply click their private box shut. Online she could be as aggressive as she liked, be anyone she wanted to be and certainly able to communicate boldly. It was easier to imagine herself as a sexual being and be brazen and seductive in her online character. Why was it was so much harder in real life?
She also knew that the same rule applied to anyone else in the chat room. The stats that her fellow chatters offered meant nothing and few were eager to exchange photos to back up their claims. The first time he had messaged her, she had laughed at his demanding words, “We need to talk.”
“I don’t think so,” she had laughed as she put a block on him. Anyone with the nickname ‘Master’ must have tickets on himself.
It was when he had bypassed the block and her nickname, using her real name, that she could no longer ignore him.
“How do you know my name?” she had typed furiously.
The answer that came back had chilled her. “I know a lot about you, Mary, where you live, where you work and I know how unhappy you are. I have no plans to approach you in any capacity, until you want to be approached.”
“I will never want that. I am going to report you to the police.”
“And tell them what? They will find no traces of me.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. I log all of my conversations.”
“And I delete them all for you.”
Her disbelief had turned to terror when she brought up her log file to find it empty.
“How is that possible? How have you done that?”
“I can do a lot with computers. I’ll give you a demo.”
Her computer had suddenly shut down. Mary had jumped up from her chair and stared at it in horror as it began to start up again. Her normal desktop appeared but with it was a private chat box, without even being in the chat room. Whimpering, she had sat back down again and ran her fingers across the keyboard.
“Stop this, please. Why are you doing this?”
“Because you’re ready to give up on life. The searches you do on the internet tell me all I need to know. I just want you to know there are other options and you have nothing to fear from me.”
“Then leave me alone, please.”
“Goodnight, Mary. When you want to talk I’ll be waiting.”
The chat box had disappeared and for the next week she had avoided the chat room, and heard nothing more from this person, but he invaded her thoughts constantly. It was shameful that someone knew the terrible things she looked up on line. It had been curiosity at first, but had soon turned into a morbid study. Ending one’s life was not easy, but as each day ended, existence was losing its appeal.
No longer had she been able to dismiss the thought that she would spend her whole life alone. Her childhood had been miserable from the start, with a drug addict mother, who had overdosed when she was only four years of age. From there she had been put with an uncle and his wife and children, none who wanted her and who eventually sent her back to social services. A string of foster homes followed and she barely got to attend the same school longer than two years.
She had read the reports about herself one time, when a social worker had accidentally left her alone with her file. “A sullen child, with poor communication and social skills, constantly seeking isolation.   
At sixteen she still had fight in her and was determined to make something of her life. What life had denied her in physical charm, had been made up in her ability to learn. With a decent scholarship behind her, she had got her degree, majoring in law and politics.  She had a dream of championing the underprivileged by being their representative in government, but sadly lacked the charisma and personality that brought her any support or got her noticed.
Now her skills were relegated to administrative duties in the Office of the Clerk. Instead of being heard in the House of Representatives, she sat at that front bench, taking down every word spoken and constantly being asked to research the legislative ruling on any particular matter being debated. These days she rarely needed to research anything and could spout the article, page number and interpretation, without leaving her seat.
Her expertise was often sought after by lazy politicians, who needed to research legal matters and some of her evenings were spent doing their work for them. It left little time to improve her social skills. The few dates she had managed never went any further than dinner.
Discovering the internet chat rooms had stripped away some of the loneliness. She could be as flirtatious and witty as anyone, without having to reveal her true identity, and if she acted a little immorally what difference did it make? Wasn’t she a woman as any other, with needs and desires and longings to feel the touch of a man? Every lonely birthday seemed to herald that she was destined to die a virgin.
Whether it was madness or desperation, Mary had returned to the chat room and sought out the ominous nickname. When she couldn’t find it, she typed into the open room, “has Master been in here?” It had inspired many sarcastic replies and finally she had left.
Within a few minutes his message box had appeared on her screen and her strange sense of happiness to see it, had never departed. For an hour every night she shared her life with a stranger. When the talk had become sexual, she had not turn away, even when he had made demands of her, sick demands to do things to herself, sexual things. The more she complied, the more she wanted him to command her. Her shame was like adrenaline, pumping through her, and as the tasks grew more humiliating, so did her excitement and arousal. Her intellect was turned against her, having to describe back to him, in intimate detail, how she had obeyed him.
At work she had found herself looking around at her colleagues and smiling with her thoughts. You don’t know me, you don’t know what a bad girl I am. For the first time in her life she had an empowerment, a superiority to her peers. Their dull lives had nothing on her secrets.
That power had manifested itself when she refused to take on their work. The rumours had circulated that ‘grim Mary’ must have got herself a man. With her new found confidence, she had begun to make applications for more powerful positions in the government. If she couldn’t represent the people herself, she would certainly influence the ones who did.
Now she was about to meet this man who had made it happen and put her life into his hands.  
“I want this to be real,” she whispered, as she unbuttoned her skirt and pushed it down over her hips. She mindlessly folded it and lay it on her handbag. “I want you to be real, exactly as you told me and I will do anything you ask of me.”
Hesitating for a moment, she grabbed the sides of her panties, took a deep breath and slid them down her legs, stepping out of them and dropping them onto her skirt. Her jacket and shirt soon followed, leaving her clad in a bra, garter belt and stockings. With another deep breath she lifted her small breasts to sit on the rim of her bra, making them jut out with swollen nipples. She smiled, pleased that she had obeyed him and done all that he had asked of her. 
The cold breeze caressed her buttocks and gave her goose bumps over her entire body. Slowly she turned to face the concrete pillar and linked her hands to place on her head.
Tears rolled down her face, as she contemplated all the ways that this could go wrong. It had occurred to her that this could be an elaborate, sick office joke and any moment a bunch of her colleagues would come out to confront her, roaring with laughter over her gullibility.
Her stranger could also turn out to be a gang of rapists or a serial killer who would make her last hours violent and painful. It was strange how that scenario didn’t summon the fear that it should. Just thinking about strange men holding her down, taking turns using her body, sent unbridled adrenaline racing through her body, erupting that thumping pulse between her legs and draining the strength from her legs.
The worst she imagined was that no one would come. The fact that she had said anything to those journalists could have ruined her chances. Her stranger seemed to know everything she said or did. He had become more than a chat box full of words. He was like an omnipresent being that was always there, always watching.
Mary stiffened as she heard noises in the distance and recognized the approach of a vehicle. The desire to look around wrestled with her need to obey him and keep her eyes on the pillar. It made her nauseous, enhancing the probability that she was about to humiliate herself. Any moment she expected to hear laughter and jeering, with the flash of a camera, surrounded by cruel people reminding her how insane she had been.
Suddenly there were lights shining on her, the headlights of an unseen vehicle. Mary’s body shook with tears and fear, but she remained as she was. A door was opened and she heard the slow, solid fall of steps on the concrete.
“Why are you crying, Mary?” The voice was deeply masculine, raspy and gentle, and very close to her ear.
“I’m afraid,” she sobbed.
Mary gasped and shuddered as a large hand ran over her bottom. She could feel him closing in on her. The hand travelled slowly up her side until it was cupping her breast. A thumb caressed her nipple making her squeal and seize the intrusive hand, the sensation too foreign and startling. She was suddenly pulled back against a hard body and felt his breath at her ear.
“You don’t have to be afraid anymore,” He whispered. “Especially when I touch you. Take your hand away from mine.”
“I’ve never been touched,” she protested. “I’m not used to it. It feels strange.”
“The next time you disobey me, Mary, I will punish you. Now take your hand away from mine.”
Trembling, she slowly linked her hands again and put them back to her head. Her legs could barely hold her as her nipple was gently captured between his fingers. She felt his breath on her shoulder and then his lips nuzzling softly against her skin, travelling up to her neck.
“Oh god, this can’t be happening.” She could sense how small she was against him. “Please, Master, please may I look at you?”
He stayed behind her and moved her around so that the headlights were shining in her face. She squinted and held her hand up against the light and then felt him step back from her.
“Turn around.”
She shuffled about slowly and her mouth fell open as she got her first look at him. He was nothing like she had imagined. Despite what he had told her, her common sense had not allowed an unrealistic version of this stranger. In her mind he would be attractive enough, possibly a little overweight, probably not as tall as he had stated. He might even be a bit balding on top. It didn’t matter. There would be something of the truth in him and that was enough.
But everything he had told her had been true. The man who stood before her was startlingly attractive, rugged with the lightest blue eyes that she had ever seen. His hair was thick and a little unkempt, falling about his face and neck. A black singlet clung to a powerfully broad chest and she could see that his arms were tattooed and bulging with muscle. He was terrifying and magnificent.
Mary shook her head and bowed her head. “No, this isn’t right.”
“What’s not right?”
“Someone like you, taking an interest in me. That just doesn’t happen. I’m ugly. I don’t understand it.”
He stepped forward and pulled her against him, lifting her chin so that she had to stare into his face.
“You’re itching for that punishment,” he told her sternly, his eyes boring into her. “You are exactly what I want. For the next three weeks your body will be mine and I intend to use it often and watch as others use it as I direct them, just as I told you, and all for my pleasure alone. Is that understood?”
She continued to stare at him in awe and he smiled.
“Now is the time to change your mind, Mary. If you come with me, I will take you to the room I told you about, where I will take your virginity and explore every part of your body with my mouth and my hands. I will also punish you, for ever wanting to take your life and it will hurt. After that, you will be able decide whether you want to spend the next three weeks with me.”
Mary trembled, searching his face for any sign of deception, but seeing only those incredible eyes boring into her.
“And you will stop if I ask?”
He shook his head slowly. “I will only stop at the utterance of one word.”
“Red,” she whispered, but doubts still gnawed at her. “What if I fail to please you? I’m not exciting and I know nothing about sexual things, apart from what you’ve taught me.”
His smile was almost sinister. “You already please and excite me, and I know enough about sexual things for both of us. I’m going to teach you to love your body, to see your beauty and to know that you belong to someone for as long as you need.”
She was still trembling but her breathing had calmed. More tears spilled down her face as she realised that this was the first time in her entire life that she no longer felt afraid.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

True Romance

As you get older, there are not so many surprises in life and so when one comes along and sweeps you off your feet, you want to share it with the world. I'm sitting here writing this with a silly grin on my face just remembering what a wonderful time I had last night which began with a knock on the door.
I had already had a few visitors and wasn't in the mood for more, but I put a smile on my face and went to the door, only to find a huge bouquet of flowers. It wasn't my birthday, or any special occasion and I got annoyed that I would have to track down the true recipient around the neighborhood, because they couldn't be for me. I brought the flowers inside and started looking for a card, but didn't find any.
My husband by then had come into the hallway and I sighed at him. "This has come to our place and I don't know who they belong to. There's no card."
He had a silly grin on his face and said, "They're for you."
I looked at him as if he had gone mad. "What are you talking about? It's not my birthday. What are you buying me flowers for?"
Having lived with this man for thirty years, you tend to know each other intimately and flowers is not something my husband would normally give to me and especially out of the blue. Suddenly he was on one knee before me and holding a tiny purple box up to me. A glittering diamond ring was staring back at me. I stood there in shock as he took my hand.
"Would you please do me the honour of being my bride again? I want to marry you again on our 30th anniversary and renew our vows."
I stood there with my mouth hanging open and all I could do was nod. He stood up, grinning and then we were just kissing and I was crying and it was all a big, mushy romantic moment, concluding with the most beautiful ring I had ever seen, being set in place upon my finger.
 The rest of the night just drifted away in a daze of our favourite music, laughter and reminiscing over our wonderful lives together as best friends, lovers and parents of four amazing children, all grown up now with partners and children of their own. I really did get to live the dream and later when we lay in bed, it occurred to me that thirty-one years ago we had stood in another house, in another hallway, in another country and the same scene played out before me. We had only known each other ten days and our news was met with skepticism from everyone we knew.
My husband once told me that it was all the time he needed to know that I was the one he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. I laughed with him at the time. "What? It took you ten days? I only needed three."
On the 24th November 2014 we are going to renew that commitment with our children standing with us and it is as every bit exciting as it was so long ago.


Saturday, 17 May 2014

Having fun with Pecha Kucha

On Friday and Saturday night I made my first public appearance to talk about my books. I was nervous, but in the end I had an incredible time and met some wonderful people. My talk was made all the more easier because it was part of Pecha Kucha night.
What is Pecha Kucha you ask? The words are Japanese for 'chit chat' and it has a very specific format. Twenty slides of a Powerpoint presentation with only twenty seconds per slide. Total talk time, 6 mins and 40 secs to get your point across. What an awesome way to give a speech, which comes with the challenge of timing your talk for each slide.
I was one of ten speakers and we all encouraged and supported each other to deliver two very entertaining nights about the arts for the Southland Festival of the Arts. There were filmmakers, actors, poets, artists, an international designer of Pacific Couture and some very entertaining talks about books.
I know that I had enormous fun and would certainly consider doing it again. Having that structure and strict format was brilliant and would help the most nervous of speakers to deliver a presentation. If you would like to learn more there is all the information here Pecha Kucha 20 x 20

Friday, 14 March 2014

What happened to Mrs. B's review?

This morning I was delighted to find another 5 star review for Master on Amazon UK from a reader named Mrs. B who entitled her review "wonderful read, best book I've read in a while". An hour later the review disappeared and I am back to 6 five star reviews. I have contacted Amazon but have not received a reply yet as to why this review was taken away.
I am a little confused. As I write this, Master is ranking #30 in kindle erotica on Amazon UK. To date, 1200 copies have been bought in the UK and still I only have 6 reviews! The maths doesn't add up. I've received a lot of emails for this book and have always replied thanking them for taking time to write to me and I often ask very nicely if I could encourage them to leave a review. I've had a couple of replies to say that Amazon won't post their review. Why is this?
These are genuine readers from the UK. I'm in New Zealand and I don't know these people. I am not violating any policy.
If I hadn't seen that review in the short time it was up, I would have never known it was there. Am I wrong to wonder if the same thing has happened to other reviews? I would really appreciate anyone leaving a comment here if you have bought my book, reviewed it and not seen your review posted.
I only ever ask for genuine reviews. Anyway, whoever you are Mrs. B, thank you for taking time to review Master. I loved your kind words and yes, I am working on a follow up.
For now, here is the link on Amazon UK: Master

Friday, 7 March 2014

Amazon, what are you trying to tell us?

Recently author Lynn Shepherd wrote an 'open letter' to J.K. Rowling which predictably proved very unpopular and as a result brought the wrath of J.K. fans and others down upon her. She has since apologized and the media attention has died down, but the attacks haven't.
Authors should be supporting one another, knowing the struggle we go through to get our books out there and to have them recognized, and we should be celebrating the authors that achieve success. But, we are still human and make mistakes.
Which one of us hasn't said something in our lifetimes and wished we could go back in time to erase it? It's when my dear Mum's voice still echoes in my head: "If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything"  but we've all done it and sometimes paid the price for our ill-timed remarks. But how big should that price be?
As an author, I don't believe it should be paid on a site that professes to have strict guidelines about reviews. One only need visit Ms Shepherd's Amazon books to see how much she is paying. People have been able to leave comments, not genuine reviews, on her books. How is this possible and with so many without the 'verified purchase' that tells us that these people have at least bought the book. Emails that have said that these comments violate Amazon's policies are being ignored. Why is this? Shouldn't the books at least be purchased before a comment is made?
Amazon is quick to remove a good review from a book because it violates policy. Shouldn't this also apply to these comments? Whether you agree with the comments or not, the issue should be that these comments are in violation of a policy that every author who sells books on their site is subject to. And believe me, if it can happen to one author, it could happen to anyone.
Anne Rice has made her feelings very clear on the matter and supports the petition to stop this. In my last post I wasn't certain about this petition, but clearly there needs to be something done. I was foolish enough to believe that Amazon would remove these comments but sadly that has not been the case.
There are enough forums to vent on. By leaving these comments on there, what is the message that Amazon is sending out? I don't know, but I would love to hear other authors opinions on this or anyone that would help me understand this.    

Monday, 24 February 2014

The cruelty of strangers

Today I came across a post urging people to sign a petition to protect Amazon users and Indie publishers from harassment and bullying. Why only Indie was mentioned, is confusing to me. Traditionally published authors get harassed too. I sat there contemplating whether to sign it, not because I didn't agree with the sentiments being raised but because I just wasn't sure this was the way to stop it.
What it comes down to is how people treat other people. Just this week we lost a lovely woman named Charlotte Dawson, a victim to trolls and media. I only knew this woman in the capacity that she was a celebrity from New Zealand, but I found myself very distressed as I read of her plight. It sickened me that there are so many people willing to be nasty to another human being.
I can only relate to her torment on the smallest scale, having had a few attacks from trolls and having suffered a depressive condition for the last twenty years. Just trying to imagine what Charlotte went through had me in tears.
Having my own vulnerabilities, publishing a book was not easy for me. I knew that I would be putting myself in the public spotlight and opening myself to the severest of criticism. I did it anyway because I hate living a life in fear and I love to share my writing with others. The attacks were not long in coming, from completely unexpected origins. It was my own relatives that attacked me, denouncing me for writing what they called "filth" "demeaning to women" and even personally attacking me with comments "severely psychologically disturbed." They attacked me in reviews and on social media.
I kept this to myself for a while, broken-hearted and ready to withdraw my book and never write another word. One of my daughters saw the post and was on the phone immediately to my other adult children and my husband. My dear family often have a fun tease with me for writing my erotic novels but have always been fully supportive. I didn't know just how supportive, until I suddenly saw all my children go berserk at these relatives. How dare they say this about their Mum. My husband even came home from work, so angry and telling me quite firmly that I was not to listen to this garbage, that I was the best writer in the world  and these people were just jealous that I had made such an achievement. I was overwhelmed by this love and knew then that they were the only people in the world I would ever look for approval.
It is a fact that reviews are still one of the best promotional tools for an author, but it's a tool which can so easily be abused. Someone sent me an email once saying they could get me hundreds of reviews for a price. Why the hell would I want something like this? I want honest reviews, but with that comes the chance that my book might be offensive to someone, they don't enjoy my writing style or some other complaint, and it will reflected in a big, shiny one star. Yes, it hurts but some of those one star reviews have genuine criticism. Apart from my relatives, none have been particularly nasty, but I've been fortunate. My heart goes out to authors who have had the most vicious comments made about their books.
To my own detriment, I don't actively seek out reviews. I don't send out ARC copies and with four books I've requested a review only six times. Manic readers allow you to send out your book to multiple reviewers. I did that, but got no replies. Now I mostly go with sites that do a good promo and that's enough for me.
Do I want to hear that you've enjoyed my book? Yes I do. It makes me happy that I've entertained someone for a few hours. Isn't that the point of sharing a story? Do I want to hear that you think my writing is garbage? No I don't, and it won't stop me writing. I'll be tremendously hurt by your comments for an hour or so, but then I'll be surrounded by my loving family and really remember what is important to me.
Rather than what this petition wants, I'd just like to see people stop and think of how their comments affect other people. Do they even realize how much pain they can cause? If the author was standing in front of them, would they still be able to impart their comments? Sadly, I think that some of them could, but I still believe in the goodness of human nature. Maybe next time that you go to leave a review, ask yourself, if the author was sitting across from me, could I still say hurtful remarks without the anonymity of a forum. Authors do want constructive criticism, the parts of our writing that  we could improve. We learn from this. I can also bear to hear what you didn't like about my book, if written in an intelligent and honest manner that will also have me honestly thinking about what you're saying. It could be a very valid point.
I won't ever respond to reviews except to give my thanks to those from whom I have requested one, and I certainly won't feed the trolls.
If you've ever complained about how terrible this world can be, think about what part you have had to play in that. Be kind to one another and don't be so quick to judge others, especially those in the public spotlight or those who are kind enough to share a story with you. Then we won't need petitions and we won't lose people like Charlotte Dawson.    

Monday, 3 February 2014

There's something about Mairead

One of the questions I am asked about my writing is the way I go about it. As every good student of writing has learnt there is three act structure to all good writing, and I suppose that is always in the back of my mind. Another lesson that was taught to me was that you should build that structure with plot points and have a reasonable storyline mapped out in your head before you begin. This is where I tend to deviate.
To me, characters are the most important part of the book. You need to know your character inside and out, right down to their favourite food or colour, their strengths and weaknesses and most essentially, their thought patterns. Before I even begin to write their story, I need to know everything about them so that they will respond to conflict as only their character would.
I took a big gamble on Mairead Kavanagh, heroine of The Finest Line. Through my life I've had the privilege of knowing some wonderfully, wild women whose antics have absolutely astounded me over the years. Though I didn't always agree with some of the things they did, their lives were incredibly interesting and I loved them for it. I wanted the very first character I wrote to be a representation of that, and so Mairead was born. She is rude, bratty, self centred and completely irresponsible, but still has a good heart which is shown in her compassion for the underdog. Circumstances have dictated some of her behaviour in losing her mother at an early age and being thoroughly spoilt by a father who is trying to compensate for her loss. Mairead longs to be good, to be liked by her peers, but only if they accept her as she is. From an early age, Mairead knows that she has a desire to be disciplined, to feel the physical pain of being chastised, something she has never experienced in any parental situation. It is a desire that she struggles with as completely abnormal, which only furthers her ventures into self destruction. To make matters worse, in her mid teen years she is attracted to a man who is every bit her opposite. James is ex military, disciplined, polite and educated. He also has a persona of strictness that is like an aphrodisiac to Mairead. When he first threatens her with a spanking, he becomes the very epitome of everything she has wanted in a man, but she can't harbour these ideas. In a politically correct world, women do not allow men to dominate them in any way. She sees it as a weakness in herself to even want this type of relationship, so she shuns it but can never put out the fire it has sparked in her. She can't believe that James could even want a woman like her.
Mairead is not your normal heroine. One only has to read the reviews to see how frustrating and angry she can make the readers. Fantastic! One reader said she nearly threw her kindle across the room because Mairead had angered her so much. Brilliant!
I never set out to write a sweet girl that everyone could adore, because where's the challenge in that? I set out to write a character that would evoke a whole range of emotions in my readers. My victory has come from those who have gone on with the next two books to watch her growth and have finally fallen in love with her. One reader told me that he dated women like Mairead, too high maintenance for him to handle but as he said, "They are the ones that you never forget."
To me, character is everything in a book. If you have good strong characters to begin with, then it is those characters that will guide your journey. I've heard this referred to as writing organically. I don't know, but this is the way I write. When I start writing I have no idea where I'm going. I just keep banging the letters on the keyboard from one point to the next. It is my characters that decide which way we are going. I've never had such a fun journey than the one that Mairead has taken me on.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Behind The Finest Line pt 2

I have read extensive debate about the offering of your books for free. Some have mentioned that people will download your free book and probably never read it. Others have said that you are making your hard work look cheap by offering it for free. Very valid arguments but for me it came back to my reasons for writing The Finest Line in the first place.
I have been writing for over forty years. Hardly a day in my life has gone by when I haven't written something, whether it be a silly poem, a stage play, a screenplay, notes for a plot I might use one day, my thoughts, my ideas. I have a burning passion to write. What I have published is the very tip of the iceberg of my writings. It is a passion that has been passed onto two of my children.
Getting a book out there for the world to read was a celebration of my writing life. I didn't expect it to make any money. All I wanted was to give people a chance to celebrate with me, so The Finest Line was released for US$2.99, which was the cheapest option that KDP would allow me at that time. I released it to Smashwords for the same price but discovered that Smashwords would allow me to give it away for free, so I did.
Completely green to the world of book marketing, I was astonished when I saw that my book had gone free on Amazon. They hadn't contacted me to tell me they were doing this and it took me a while to learn about the concept of price-matching. I was a little annoyed because I thought that there should be a regular communication between myself and Amazon whenever there were changes to my book. How wrong was I?
What happened next completely astounded me. The Finest Line shot to #1 in Free Kindle Erotica in the US, two months after publication. Not long after that it went to #1 in the UK, France and Italy. People around the world were reading my book, well at least downloading it. That was all the reward I would ever want, but when I released my second book in December 2012, I discovered how much people had enjoyed their free read. A Line Crossed had 200 downloads in the first week of release as PAID. It went to the top 100 Bestsellers in Erotica. Suddenly I was an established erotic romance author. The third book had the same reaction when released in May 2013.
Now in 2014 my fourth book is doing fantastic, already in the bestselling lists in Amazon UK and Germany two weeks after release. I  now work full time as an author and yes, I am writing another book.
The Finest Line remains free but a strange phenomenon occurs over which I have no control. Whenever it looks to go #1 again on Amazon, it suddenly appears with a price. It drops out of the ranking to obscurity but within hours has sold so many that it begins to hit the paid erotica bestsellers. Then just as suddenly it goes back to free. I don't know what that is all about but it keeps it interesting.
To this day, The Finest Line has had about 80,000 downloads, most of them free. Not everyone likes the book, but that's okay, because I really like to think they didn't have to pay for it at least. By being free, the reader can make the decision without cost whether they like my writing or not.
To release a book free, even if it's only temporary, can only be a great marketing strategy that I stumbled upon in my ignorance. There are numerous sites that will also advertise a free book for nothing, and this might just be the strategy you've been needing to share your own passion with the world.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Behind The Finest Line Pt 1

In August 2012 I had just completed the manuscript of a full length novel (93,000 words) which I called The Finest Line, a highly erotic suspense novel with some BDSM and domestic discipline themes and a very twisted plot. Hell, I was excited. I read it through again and knew I loved my story and I wanted to share it with the world, but I knew absolutely nothing about getting published.
Immediately I went to publisher's websites and started reading the exhaustive process of how to submit my manuscript with a synopsis and the first chapters etc. I felt my balloon of excitement beginning to deflate. If I was incredibly lucky, I might have my book out in six months to a year, if I could get anyone to accept it. That's not what I wanted. I had this book all ready to go. I want it out now!! It was then that I came across this strange phrase "self publish" and discovered that you can do that yourself for nothing, but first I needed a cover.
Again, the price of getting a cover was going to be costly and at that time I literally had no money. My husband and I had our own business for four years, but had suffered a major setback which left us with little money to live, let alone buy a book cover. Never one to give up, I wondered how hard it could be to make one myself. I knew what I wanted. My book explored themes of dominance and submission, pole dancing, spanking and romance. That's what I want to capture.
Through my life I have been blessed by truly incredible friends. Being a part of the film and drama circles in our community I had two dearest friends that were actors and models, one a gorgeous six foot three man and an incredibly beautiful girl, Maggie,  that would be perfect for the cover. I approached Maggie first and said, "How would you feel about being naked on the front cover of my book?"
Always the complete professional, Maggie grinned and said, "Sure, I'm keen." My male friend was just as eager and so my cast was set. Another dear friend Leah was a brilliant photographer and was incredibly excited to be involved. I told them all that I couldn't pay them unless I got some sales, to which they all brushed me off and said they wouldn't take anything anyway. They were in it for the fun.
We approached a strip club where I knew they had poles and again I discovered the kindness of strangers in the manager. When I told her what I wanted to do, she immediately got excited and started suggesting ways to set the lights. She also wanted no money, but asked if she would be able to have a blow-up of the final photo for her club. Of course!
The photo shoot took about two hours in which we spent more time laughing than we did working. We captured about 200 shots but it was one photo that stood out to all of us. That photo would go on to be the cover of The Finest Line.
Love it or hate it, that cover has been a huge draw card to my book. I've had emails from random people in Germany, France and the UK just to tell me how much they love my cover. One guy begged me permission to blow it up as a poster for his wall. I was quite happy to do that and sent him the 300 DPI file so he would get great resolution.
So what did it cost me to publish my book? A carton of beer to share with my friends as we celebrated that incredible release. How long did it take from finishing my manuscript to appearing on Amazon? Three weeks. Is it a perfect book? No, it has errors that I missed in all the excitement. I could update it to be error free but I don't because the book is free and it taught me the valuable lesson of getting someone to proofread your work. It doesn't stop it being popular. With over 120 five star reviews, I know that people have enjoyed my story and I keep it free for them to do just that. How do I do that? Well, that's another story that I'll share with you soon.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Sometimes you have to be a little cocky to be an Indie author

Promotion for self published books doesn't come easy. You don't have the luxury of the advertising team of the big publishers. If you want people to know that your book is out there, then you have to do it yourself. Sometimes this might come across as a little conceited, but if you don't blow your own horn, no one else will.
Through my own experience, and from what other Indie authors have told me, you are forever conscious of that fine line between being confident and being a show-off. How much is too much? Do I sound like a pretentious git? Maybe I should just lie low and see how my book does.
Social media is the one I stress over the most. I've posted about my books on Facebook and Twitter, but I always worry that I am going to annoy someone, so I do try to keep my posts there to a minimum.
What I have discovered is the support that exists for Indie authors. There are people like Gary Walker at Look 4 Books who want to advertise to the world what we are writing, and all for free. I am astounded at the kindness of strangers. Gary puts his heart into this. I am constantly seeing his tweets for my books and for many others. He even goes that step further and creates an amazing picture for our book covers, as he has for mine here:

For a small fee, you can join up with Self Publisher's Showcase and get an awesome author's page like mine, with links to your books, your bio, video book trailer and they also constantly tweet your books. 
There are people out there that want to help you and I will constantly update this post to let you know what is available. Yes, you do need to advertise your book if you hope to get some sales. My advice is be humble, always be polite and friendly and always be ready to reciprocate the service. Put a link to them on your website. Post about them in your blog. 
It's alright to be a little cocky about your books. You've worked hard on them and you want to show them off. Do so, but always remember to thank the people that give you a shout out, share a link or make a comment on their social network. Be appreciative of all the reviews that your readers leave, good or bad. They took the time to read your book. They didn't always have to like it.