The wonderful Love Reading Romance has organised a book tour for Shelter, check it out here.
If you enjoyed Luka and Kat's story in Shelter, you might like a sneak preview of what's coming next in my animal shelter series. In book two, called Unleashed, the focus will be on Nick and Stacey.
She rested her cup of tea on the bench to run a critical eye over the garden. A good thing that Tom, her gardner, was returning from holidays soon because it was turning into the Black Forest out there, bushes tangling with one another and grown too woody and dense for the sunlight to penetrate, just like the Schwarzwald she’d visited on holidays past. If she wasn’t careful, one day, between leaving her car and opening the front door, a wolf would leap out from the darkness and eat her. Chomp.
Heilige hairballs, why did her dad have to read her that story so many times?
The crunch of tyres on the dirt driveway interrupted her Little Red Riding Hood scenario. The nose of a familiar car appeared, a tattooed forearm slung out the window.
Speak of the big, bad wolf. But all that this wolf was going to do was split her firewood and take some kittens off her hands. Or so he’d have her believe.
Nick waved to her as he exited his twin-cab and she waved back. He loped through her yard, a hipster wolf built along long lines. The shadows of her garden lent him dark overtones, turned his brown beard black, his brows and hair blacker. Much as he’d hate to hear it, he’d be perfectly cast as the Big Bad in a play or movie.
She rinsed her empty cup out under the tap and went to the door to greet him. “Hey, Paul Bunyan, you’re just in time to show that firewood who’s boss.”
She smiled but something was different. What? It was probably just the sight of him in something other than his poop-brown RSPCA uniform. The unfamiliarity of a different skin. He wore his flannel shirt unbuttoned and nothing but a crisp white singlet beneath in place of his usual t-shirt. The singlet hung loose, untucked, over his jeans, the kind of sloppy dress that earned one a reprimand in the military. But his lean, hard frame would fit right in.
Her skin prickled and she tugged at the neck of her t-shirt. How was it possible, in the dead of winter, for it to be so hot? She unbuttoned the top button of her flannel shirt. “Can I offer you a drink?”
He eyed her top button like it had done something magical. “Nah, I’ll just get down to it.”
Get down to it. Tee hee. Oh, her and her schoolyard humour. “Okay.”
She returned to the kitchen and only glanced his way occasionally as he opened the back of the empty trailer cage, readying it for a load of wood. He always took some of the split wood home for his own wood stove. As she stirred red food colour into a bowl of icing he removed his flannel shirt and hung it over the trailer. A gust of wind tore at it and she frowned. It was colder than a witch’s tit out there. Was it exploitative to have him chopping her wood? Was he, in fact, only out there in the the arctic wind chopping wood in nothing but jeans and a white singlet because it was the only way to get wood for himself? Or because he felt like he owed her? That would be awful.
She put down the bowl and went outside to reassure that him that he didn’t need to chop her wood if he didn’t want to but paused in the doorway, the sight of him bringing her to a halt.
He looked…different. A ripped Grizzly Adams with an undercut. When the fuck had that happened? Not the haircut part, she’d heard about Midge’s attack with the scissors, but the ‘ripped’ part. Had he always looked that way and she just hadn’t noticed? Though now that she thought about it he was usually way more covered up, wearing a t-shirt or such to protect his neck and chest scars from the sun, and the delicate sensibilities of others.
What she hadn’t noticed before was the ink that extended from his wrist and wound, in trailing cursive script, all the way up to his shoulder. It wasn’t the usual thick ‘sleeve’ of tattoos but single-line quotes. She knew the one inside his forearm said ‘the animal shall not be measured by man’ a Henry Beston quote. What did the others say? And when and how did he get them? And how was it that she’d been too busy with ruptured ventricles, tumorous masses, resected and anastamosed small bowels, broken bones, tooth removals and a murdered husband to notice?
Had Sharon done the tattoos for him? Stacey had babysat Midge during Sharon’s informal apprenticeship, and when Sharon had taken a mandatory bloodborne pathogens training course. If Sharon had inked Nick that suggested a closer relationship between the two than Stacey had been aware of. For a hot, crazy moment, a sour taste flooded her mouth and a jitteriness sawed through her. She grimaced. “Cut that shit out, right now.” What Sharon and Nick did together was their business, just as whatever Stacey and Mark had done together had been their business and not the MILFH’s. Plus, it was ridiculous to feel possessive when Stacey had at one time tried to get Sharon and Nick together as a couple. How had that gone? Oh, right. Sharon had complained about his terrible fashion sense and lack of interest in shopping. He’d remained tight-lipped about the date but declined a repeat. Hardly a success. Though people didn’t need to be soulmates to fuck.
Might they be fuck buddies?
She studied his arms, tried to picture them wrapped around Sharon’s generous curves. Nope, she just couldn’t see it. He pulled a pair of tatty looking workmen’s gloves from the back of his jeans and donned them. The gloves surprised her. Didn’t testosterone protect his hands?
When he lifted the axe she got another shock. He hefted the wood handle, testing its weight in his grip, and a shift of muscles transformed his long, lean frame, subtracting the looseness from his limbs—fixed in its place was purpose.
With axe in hand, Nick exuded hard, professional confidence. And holy hairballs was it hot.
The axe head glinted in the sun as he cleaved the air with a lazy practice swing, and a million muscles, nerves and tendons coordinated to spit out pure grace. It was as athletic as fuck. She could watch this shit it all day.
His biceps bunched as he lifted a chunky log from the ground to rest it on the tree stump that served as a chopping block. Why use a chopping block? Wasn’t it easier to just hit it on the ground?
He raised the axe until it hung poised slightly above his dark head and gripped the handle with one hand at the bottom and one hand high up by the blade. She caught the taut line of his waist and a hint of six pack before the axe dropped.
His top hand slid down towards his bottom hand on the handle and he brought the blade straight down the centre of his body to cleave the wood.
Whack! The wood, split in two, dropped to the dirt with a clatter. Now she got it. The stump he used as a chopping block raised the log about a foot-and-a-half off the ground and placed it in the power zone of his swing.
It was all about efficiency, accuracy and power.
Within a breath he was reaching for the next piece of wood to split and loading up the axe for his next swing, eyes never leaving the point of impact target on the wood.
Each swing brought the axe down the centre line of his body to split the wood in half before he lifted it back up the same centre line to reload, raising the axe until it hung poised just above his head. All in one fluid motion. It wasn’t quite the same as a golfer driving a ball or a cricket player swinging a bat, but it was a controlled movement all the same, the way he threw the axe up and then pulled down, flicking his wrist at the bottom of the swing. It wasn’t a big, wild swing, more of a controlled snap.
The sight of him alone, outdoors, splitting thick logs with one smooth swing of his axe, took her breath away. Rugged fucker. No, make that rugged athletic fucker.
Why was she only just noticing all this? Was this really the first time she’d actually watched him chop the wood rather than disappearing while he did it? How was that even possible? She’d heard him mention competing in wood chop events but for some reason she’d pictured a bunch of greying blokes with beerguts spending more time spinning yarns and drinking beer than chopping wood, all the while pretending to themselves that they were in shape because they knew how to swing an axe.
Why had she thought that, and why had no one told her otherwise?
How odd to think that she might not have actually, really, totally seen Nick before. He’d been a pair of hands that passed her a carrier crate, or an animal. A pair of legs that fetched her equipment. A voice that talked through animal cases with her and shared a joke. Never had he been an actual man, and certainly not the tall, bearded god before her now, all broad shoulders and lean hips and an actual honest-to-god six pack that had the nerve to peek out from beneath his singlet when he paused to use it to wipe the sweat from his face.
And as for that smooth snake of muscle diving over each hip to plunge into a V that pointed directly at his nether regions, what the fuck was that—besides plain obscene?
She tugged at her t-shirt neckline. How could she be hot? It was the middle of goddamn winter. Her gaze returned to him. And why were his jeans riding so low anyway? Had some woman been trying to drag the damn pants off him?
That shit just made her skin prickly and hot all at once. A dull throb set up a beat in her skull.
Her discomfort grew until everything clicked with a sick, sliding jolt in her gut.
She fancied him.
No. No way.
Now was the time for denial. Perhaps some negative affirmations would help.
I am not attracted to Nick. I am not the sort of widow who boffs her dead husband’s best friend the day after he’s buried. I am not going to act on this feeling. Like Barbie, I have no vagina.
Her attraction was ridiculous in the extreme, had come out of nowhere, and should return there immediately. Sure Nick was big and broad-shouldered, testosterone personified, but he was also a colleague and good friend, nothing more.
A few weeks ago it was my birthday and one of my friends thought it would be hilarious to gift me with the unicorn shower cap pictured to the left. It's brilliant and I love it to bits, but it also prompted me to think about gifts for authors and I'd argue that the most valuable thing a reader can give an author (besides a unicorn shower cap) is a review.
Now, I know reading is not all about the author, and some folk just want to buy a book, read it, and move on with their lives. However, reviews are the only thing that keep some authors writing. Now, some might think I'm being a drama llama (there's a real four-legged theme to this post) but reviews do multiple things for authors: they can translate into income (when your book gets noticed by and purchased by more people), they can make the difference between a publishing contract being renewed (or not), and they can give authors enough warm fuzzies to keep writing books despite also working a full-time or part-time job (because most authors earn a lot less than people think they do).
So, think of it as feeding the author fairies whenever you write a review.
That's right, reviews are author fairy food.
And a review doesn’t need to be an epic, thousand-word essay, it can be as simple as two sentences. Or even one long sentence: I enjoyed this book and I hope that the author writes many more like it. Or, I detested this book and hope the author is humped to death by horny dolphins on their next beach trip.
So what should you do with your review once you've written it? The place that will make the most difference is Amazon (in fact, those crazy Amazon algorithms go beserk when an author receives several new reviews, and is the sort of thing that can catapult mid-level and emerging authors into stardom). If you have an Amazon account, it’s easy to leave a review (in fact, Amazon will often email you asking for one).
But if you don’t have an Amazon account, there's still Goodreads, or even just tweeting your review on Twitter, or posting it on Facebook.
After they’ve finished squealing, the author will usually re-tweet or post—as will their friends (if they still have any by the time they've finished writing their last book).
Your review doesn’t even need to be 100% positive. Most authors won’t shoot you down in flamey-pants rage if you say something like ‘I didn’t like this character but the pacing was good and I loved the unicorn with five nipples’.
In fact, if you’re absolutely stuck, here’s a list of phrases you can use to construct a review:
Apologies for the unicorn theme, I think the shower cap has done something to my brain. I have no idea how the nipples got in there. Now get out there and feed the author fairies.
So, as I established in Animal Protection Story #1, the sexiest people on earth are not celebrities or models but people who rescue animals. Here's a couple of hot rescuers right here. What a couple of saucy teases, because who can resist men rescuing a dog from a frozen pond?
Even hotter than these guys, however, are the people in this YouTube video rescuing assorted animals--it made me so happy to see the animals saved, and that people cared enough to do something, that I almost blubbed. But I settled for a big soppy smile instead.
My latest novel Shelter (out 15 February) has an animal rescue scene in it which I hope readers enjoy. I'd love to hear what you think!
Need some steamy reads for 2017? Here's a great giveaway to get you started! Enter at the giveaway page over here.
Let's face it, there's a lot of really craptastic news out there. You know what I mean so I'm not even going to try to summarise it. But the one thing that always reaffirms my faith in people is when they do the right thing to protect animals. So whenever I come across a story like that, I'm going to share it here, and then I'll have a curated collection of stories on hand to combat the forces of darkness, whatever they may be on a particular day. This story is about two dogs (one of them injured) abandoned near a busy road and the deputy who waited with them until animal services arrived. The picture says everything about the smoking hot decency of that dude with the dog. See more at the site here.
It's coming! A Facebook party to celebrate the release of Hell on Wheels, and the glory of roller derby in general. The whole Naughty Ninja team will be there with their skates on, along with Elsa Holland and with all the questions and give-aways it'll be more fun than a cooter stomp or a titty take-out (and we promise to heal your rink rash afterwards).
Get along to the event page on Sunday, 2nd October at the link here.
The event will run from 4pm to 7pm Canberra time, and ninja and guest authors will be dropping in to give away books as prizes. You'll catch romance authors Elsa Holland, Lily Malone, Sandra Antonelli, Georgina Penney, Cate Ellink, Andra Ashe, Nicolette Hugo and Sarah Belle.
There'll be several copies of Hell on Wheels (ebook only) to be won.
So, brush up on your roller derby knowledge, bring your game, and we'll see you there, fresh meat!
That's right, I've proved all my school teachers wrong by achieving fame and glory. Surely being interviewed by ABC radio counts as fame and glory, right? Oh, well, stuff it, all I know is that the lovely Alex Sloan asked me all the hard (tee-hee) romance writing questions on ABC Radio and that I loved it, media whore that I am. You can listen to the podcast here, as I bang on about various things, including romance writing, and my forthcoming release, Hell on Wheels.
The Canberra screening of the documentary Love Between the Covers (a feature-length documentary film about the little-known, surprisingly powerful community of women who read and write romance novels) was a big success, perhaps partly due to a mention in the Canberra City News magazine, a mention during the interview with Elyse Huntington and Elizabeth Squire I did on 2xxfm 98.3, and the interview with Alex Sloan on ABC Canberra radio. To listen, hop on over to my media page.
Around 50 people turned up at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre for the screening and Q&A session with myself, Bec Fleming, Stella Frances, Elyse Huntington and Justine Lewis, and there were some very interesting (!) questions posed to us.
A big thank you to everyone who came along.
To find out more about Laurie Kahn's acclaimed documentary visit the website here.
You can read about the intricacies of organising the event in the February RWA Heart's Talk newsletter (below).
A little secret: I don't spend a lot of time on my own blog because I'm too busy writing shizz for other folks. So, lest I appear lazy, here's a bunch of my recent posts, on everything from cancer in romance to elf sex:
I had hella fun writing one of the eight continuity stories for Escape Publishing's Down & Dusty Secret Confessions series, and that feisty little puppy will hit the streets on 7 February 2016. You can pre-order it here, if you so desire:
By the way, my veterinary work colleagues will know exactly where I got the hero and heroine's names from, bwa-ha-ha-ha.
Without further ado, here are the series details, and the blurb for Skye.
They say that no one has secrets in a small town – these women prove them wrong.
Eight brand-new stories from some of Australia's hottest writers in Australia's hottest genre. From the bar stools of the local pub to the wide open plains of the biggest stations in the world, these tales travel the dusty roads to the heart of Australia and the women who understand how to work hard – and play even harder. In the latest in the wildly successful Secret Confessions series from Escape Publishing, the women of Down & Dusty invite you into their lives – and their bedrooms.
After five years in the city earning her veterinary degree, Skye Malone is happy to be heading back to Milpinyani Springs, and her best friend Bret. Sure, her crush on him is still at epic proportions, but she managed to ignore it this long, and a good friend is a valuable commodity in a small community like theirs. But Bret spent the last five years growing up, and suddenly Skye’s girlhood infatuation evolves into something much stronger and much more dangerous – an adult woman’s desire.
It's true, Elyse does not fuck around when it comes to hot dukes. She has a shed out the back of her house where she uses nanotechnology and in-vitro something-or-other to spawn and clone them. Why, her back yard is just one giant puppy farm for dukes, take my word for it. So you better believe her two books about dukes with enormous...estates...are completely anatomically accurate as well as well-written. Yup, and you can get a sneak peak of The Duke's Gamble here.
Stein's chesticles will be hitting the road in August as I carry them to the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Melbourne. I'll be signing copies of Unrestrained and there will be give-aways to be had. That's right, a free nipple if you come and chat to me :)
Tickets for the book signing will only be available online until 18 August, after that it's full price at the door. Hope to see you there and here's a link to find out more: https://australianromancereaders.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/book-signing-event-tickets-on-sale/
11.45: I've laid out minties on the table but the shoppers are wary. I can see them looking at me thinking ‘Who is that woman surrounded by chesticles?’