What fires my Mojo?

As part of the launch of our Romantic Suspense Down Under website (www.romanticsuspensedownunder.com), Helene Young, Bronwyn Parry, Shannon Curtis, DB Tait and I are blogging each day for a week and doing giveaways. Here is my blog from Tuesday:


When we launched this website we asked readers what they wanted to know about us.

The replies were interesting: from, ‘Always enjoy hearing what inspires you all as authors. What fires your Mojo? What gets the creative juices flowing? What moves you enough to want to express it in your writing, and share it with the world?’ to ‘I like hearing how you come up with murders and keep everyone smiling throughout the stories:)’

Helene, Bron and DB might have different answers, but I thought I’d share what gets my creative juices flowing. Often it’s a spark, a thought, the “What if?” that occurs when I read an article or look at a certain location or overhear a conversation.

Some years ago I was eating lunch in the food court of the five-storey-high atrium of the Anzac Square Building in Brisbane. Light shone through the glass roof. Five balconies hung from the five stories. In the middle of the floor stood a tall metal tree, rectangular in shape, leaves sharp and coppery in the light.

For the other diners there it was a place to eat. For me, it was the perfect place to kill someone. Not literally. And not then. But the idea wouldn’t leave me, and when I was writing Until Death, I knew how I could use that idea.

So for me, it’s the challenge that gets my creative juices flowing. The challenge of conveying the story that’s inside my head that needs to be told. I love plotting, love weaving clues and red herrings into the story, love creating characters that will make my readers cry, laugh and fall in love with them.

The challenge of bringing all the plot threads together in the end; the challenge of making my readers care about my characters; the challenge of writing and re-writing and making every word count so the suspense is enthralling and the romance heart-wrenching and ultimately satisfying.

The challenge of experiencing the primeval pull of Carnarvon Gorge and conveying that convincingly in Dangerous Deception; of creating a villain in Fatal Flaw whose story was incredible but still making it credible to the reader; of having the very sensitive issue of paedophilia at the core of Grievous Harm and getting a review saying “it was handled well”.

And the answer to how do I “come up with the murders and keep everyone smiling throughout the stories” is by, hopefully, making the reader care so much for my characters that, no matter what terrible events they are forced to confront, she knows the love that is growing between them will see them triumph. Because no matter how complex the plot, how dastardly the villain, how suspenseful the story, the passion and the love and the caring between my hero and heroine must be the glue that binds all those other elements into an un-put-downable story.

So thank you, Janet and Helen, for reading romantic suspense and asking the questions that made me discover, once again, the joy I find in writing this wonderful sub-genre.

Please go here to post a comment and be in the draw to win an ebook (and a drinks cooler if you live in Oz).

This is the entrance to the Amphitheatre at Carnarvon Gorge in Central Queensland. When you walk through that split in the cliff you walk through the mountain until you come to where part of the mountain has fallen in to form a huge amphitheatre with a small opening at the top where sunlight filters down. It’s like being in an ancient cathedral. Awe-inspiring.)

Carnarvon - ladder to Amphitheatre tunnel entrance (2)

Can’t wipe the grin from my face

Someone out there must love Grievous Harm (well, at least several someones), because it has made the shortlist of the Australian Romance Readers Association Awards in the Romantic Suspense category. I am so thrilled and would like to thank all the readers who voted.

ARRA Awards finalist 2014

Now I’m hoping they would like to vote again in the finals. It would be beyond my wildest dreams to have Grievous Harm make it to the top but I would love to see John’s and Kate’s story get there. They are the fictional embodiment of all those people who work so hard to bring child abusers to justice and I tried my best to give them a voice.

Meet My Character

I was tagged by rural romance author Heather Garside to participate in the Meet My Character blog hop. Thanks, Heather, for inviting me.

Heather grew up on a cattle property in Central Queensland and now lives with her husband on a beef and grain farm in the same area. She has two adult children.

She has previously published three historical romances and has helped to write and produce several compilations of short stories and local histories. The Cornstalk was a finalist in the 2008 Booksellers’ Best Award, Long Historical category, for romance books published in the USA. Breakaway Creek was a finalist in the QWC/Hachette Manuscript Development Program and was released by Clan Destine Press in 2013. It is a rural romance with a dual timeline. Her recent release is Tracks of the Heart, a collection of three short stories.

Heather works part time at the local library, at home on the farm and helps produce a local monthly newsletter, amongst other voluntary activities.

BC Ebook Cover

Heather’s book Breakaway Creek is available through Clan Destine Press.

Now I’d like to introduce you to my main male character from my latest thriller, Grievous Harm, John Corey, through these blog hop questions.

  • What is the name of your character?

John Corey

  •  Is he fictional or a historic person?


  • When and where is the story set?

It’s a contemporary story that starts in Brisbane, then goes to Sydney before moving to country New South Wales, back to Brisbane, then Outback Queensland. I love Australia and like to show the variety in our great country. And the plot takes the characters where they need to go.

  • What should we know about him?

Although he works for a covert agency that answers only to the Prime Minister and has to undertake assignments that force him to act in ways that he doesn’t always like, John has kept his sense of decency and moral compass. When he decides to help Kate find her missing niece, it is in defiance of his orders but he knows he can’t brush aside the fact that children are being violated and he is the only one in a position to find them.

  • What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?

Something happened in John’s past that has made him determined not to become emotionally involved with another woman, and it’s only when he’s faced with an impossible situation that he realises he loves Kate. The decision he has to make, while saving her from a horrific fate, also destroys the future he thought he could have with her.

  • What is the personal goal of the character?

To save the children who have been taken into an invidious cult.

  • Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

This book is Grievous Harm and there’s an excerpt on my Books page.

  • When can we expect the book to be published or when was it published?

It was published in October this year by Clan Destine Press and is available as both print and eBook.


I have tagged two authors who write in different genres, Nicole Hurley-Moore and Christine Gardner.

Nicole has always been a lover of fairy tales, history and romance. She grew up in Melbourne and Central Victoria and has travelled extensively. Her first passion in life has always been her family, but after studying and achieving her BA in History and Honours in Medieval Literature, she devoted her time to writing historical, fantasy and contemporary romance. She is a full time writer who lives in the Central Highlands of Victoria with her family, where they live in the peaceful surrounds of a semi-rural town.

Black is the Colour Cover

Ciana has loved Oran all her life and nothing, not even her father will prevent them from being together. But the Mayor of Stonemark has higher aspirations for his daughter than the village blacksmith. He engages the help of a witch and dark magic to bend Ciana to his will. Oran knows that he doesn’t deserve Ciana. But their love is stronger than the metal he forges and welds. She has his heart and he will never turn from her no matter the cost. They plan to run away and start a new life far beyond her father’s reach. But their escape comes too late. Separated, Ciana will need all her strength to journey through the deep forest and save Oran from the witch’s curse. Alone and with only a trail of black feathers to follow, Ciana will fight against the odds and attempt to bring her lover home.  Amazon link – http://goo.gl/f3juDg



Christine lives in regional Victoria, Australia, with her husband and a Siberian husky, Esky, the proud owner of the back yard. After a life-long love of reading and of history, she spent several years at both TAFE and university, studying everything from editing and professional writing to history and philosophy, eventually emerging with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons). Her studies led to the writing of a non-fiction book, ‘Not Guilty’ and the fiction version of the same story, ‘Her Flesh and Blood’. She has also written several novels for children and young adults and is now focused on fiction for adults. Her last novel was ‘Stony Creek’, a rural romance, and all her books are available on Amazon.



Prue King is nineteen and lives on Karinya Station, one of seven girls. She and her friend Sally decide to go on the adventure of a live time—a road trip, right around Australia. Neither Prue nor Sally is in any hurry to settle down, unlike some girls their age. They want to see the country and be independent. When they meet brothers Dan and Steve on the Sunshine Coast Prue is stunned by her feelings for him, but her plans remain the same. She and Sally are determined to get to Perth where they will live for at least a few months and decide what their futures hold. When the girls leave the brothers behind though, they experience something that will change their plans and their lives, perhaps forever.


Thanks, Nicole and Christine, for agreeing to be part of this blog hop.


At the Top End

We’ve had a great tour of the Kimberley region of Western Australia with AAT Kings. Our guide, Nellie, and driver, Cam, made sure our trip was the best it could be (in spite of those early mornings they inflicted on us so we could get to the next magnificent attraction). Cruises up tropical rivers with crocodiles sunning themselves on the banks, feeding the fish in the Chamberlain Gorge, flying into the Bungle Bungles, drooling over pink diamonds at the Argyle Diamond Mine, visiting the War Cemetery at Adelaide River. Then there was swimming in the Katherine River at Katherine Gorge. The cruise guide assured us that they’d checked to make sure the area we swam in was free of crocs but only five of us took the chance. Beautiful cool water – bliss after the heat and walking from one part of the gorge to the next.

I wondered if one of the crocs was partial to propellers.
The resting place for those too tired to walk from one part of the gorge to the next.

It’s been many months since there’s been rain in the Top End and it’s very dry. The  cruise boat could only go so far up the river and then we had to walk to the next level where another boat waited but that could only go a short distance as well. Guess we’ll have to come back after The Wet to see the Gorge at its full glory.

Rob and Tom (we’d met Tom and his sister Tanya on the coach tour) decided they wanted to swim with a ‘saltie’ so shared a perspex cage at Crocosaurus Cove with Chopper sizing them up for dinner.

Rob and Tom swimming with Chopper, the 5.1m croc so named because he was missing one front limb and the ‘hand’ of the other limb. Didn’t stop him moving with lightning speed when he went after the meat the handlers fed him.

We were told Darwin’s The BookShop had closed down, but were delighted to discover it had only moved and found it in its new location of Shop 1-30 Smith Street Mall. Gotta love those independent book stores – they are fighters and deserve to survive. And thrive.

I took some copies of Fatal Flaw with me to donate to the Darwin Library, but ended up being directed to the State Library instead of the public Library. Turned out to be a lucky chance as I met lovely Hayley who had not only read my books but was a fan. It was such a wonderful surprise. The biggest thrill for writers is discovering readers who love our books. It’s such a great feeling to know that readers enjoy them. Thanks, Hayley, you made my day.

On Sunday we head to Kakadu on a three-day tour. Hope the mossies aren’t biting :-)

Tell Me Why

My guest today is author Sandi Wallace whose novel, Tell Me Why, makes its debut at the Book Expo Australia in Sydney on Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st August courtesy of Clan Destine Press and Sisters in Crime Australia.

Sandi, congratulations on your first book being published. Is this the first one you have written and how did you get picked up by Clan Destine Press?

Thanks, Sandy! It is a real thrill. And yes, this is the first book I’ve written, although it doesn’t much resemble its early drafts. I worked on the same book for a number of years, developing my style, honing my skills, while practicing with shorter works and building confidence. I don’t undervalue or begrudge this time at all. It was my writer’s apprenticeship and particularly important as Tell Me Why is the first book in a series, so my style and characters needed to be well developed before the first book went to press. When it came time to send my manuscript out into the marketplace, I approached Clan Destine Press, a small genre publisher who I was aware of through my membership with Sisters in Crime Australia. It took me a couple of revised submissions but to my great delight, Clan Destine Press offered me a publishing deal last November and the first book in my Rural Crime Files series Tell Me Why has now been released!

What made you decide to write this book?

I knew I wanted to write a crime series and Daylesford seemed the perfect setting. It’s one of my favourite places, perhaps second only to the Dandenong Ranges where I live with my hubby. Daylesford’s a pretty country town, popular with tourists, arty types and same-sex couples. I liked the way that romantic perception juxtaposed with a moody crime story. The inbuilt conflict of a town balancing permanent residents with regular influxes of tourists also appealed. Then I decided I wanted it to be contemporary, reflecting our times, our world, even though it’s fiction.

So I had setting worked out. Then Georgie Harvey, the independent Melbourne writer and her search for missing farmer, Susan Pentecoste, came to me as the main character and story line for Tell Me Why. In my second draft, John Franklin emerged. He is a slightly old-school cop stationed at Daylesford and also a single dad. It fascinated me to position city-girl Georgie in his territory (which is way outside her comfort zone), but with her in the driver’s seat in the search for Susan. Meanwhile, Franklin is working another case – poison-pen letters targeting single mothers – which is a step-up from Daylesford’s usual soft crime.

I angled the book as mainly a Why-Dunnit because many crime readers – including me – are enthralled by why crimes happen, the repercussions and outcomes. Through this book, I had fun exploring human relationships, how far we’d go, and what we’d risk, to find the truth.

Have you always wanted to write crime?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been addicted to crime fiction in film and print. And it seems that, for equally as long, I’ve wanted to be a crime writer. Since I was a little girl, I dreamed of a row of books with my name on the spine – a crime fiction series written by me, with some standalone books, too. I hope this is the start of that dream coming true!

Do you see your writing branching out into different genres or sub-genres?

Tell Me Why combines thriller, suspense, police procedural, adventure, mystery and a touch of romance, so I have already branched into different sub-genres. My vision for the series is a revolving cast of characters and locations, although Daylesford and the characters from there will continue to be integral. This rotating platform allows each book to be unique, giving me artistic licence with sub-genres. I wouldn’t rule out writing a standalone book in a different genre but think my roots will always be entrenched in crime.

Who is your favourite author, and why?

Tricky question! I can’t limit it to one because there are so many wonderful authors whose works or work ethics have resonated with me for different reasons and at different times. These are across a variety of genres, literary fiction, classics, contemporary and historical stories. But nowadays, I tend to devour contemporary crime – albeit across its many sub-genres. Some of the recent reads I’ve thoroughly enjoyed include books by Michael Robotham, Jaye Ford, Katherine Howell, Honey Brown, Ian Rankin, Camilla Läckberg, Alex Hammond, Karen M Davis, B Michael Radburn, Bronwyn Parry…the list goes on! And I can’t wait to read your new release, Grievous Harm, Sandy, when it comes out in October.

Any advice for aspiring authors that might help them on the road to publication?

One of my characters in Tell Me Why says: ‘If it means that much to you, do it.’ And that’s what it all boils down to. Write because you want to write; you can’t imagine your life without creating. Know that the process will sometimes be slow and torturous, there will be speed humps (which may seem like mountains) and you will doubt yourself – numerous times. Successes in short story contests, other writing wins or exposure may boost the chances for your novel, so give them a go. Practice, persevere, seek constructive feedback and work with other writers or a mentor. Enjoy every step of the journey, every small win and keep believing. Good luck!

Thanks, Sandi, and best wishes for Tell Me Why.



Tell Me Why will be available for sale and signing at the Clan Destine Press/Sisters in Crime stand at Book Expo Australia. Sandi will also be sitting on two crime panels over the weekend: the Thriller vs Crime Smackdown on Saturday at 11.30am and Crime Panel Did the Butler Really Do It? on Sunday at 3.45pm. 

Guess whose shoes?

Had a fantastic time at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference. It was lovely to catch up with old friends and make new ones and find out what the writing industry is up to from the viewpoints of publishers, editors, agents, and just as importantly, authors.

I took some happy snaps at the Friday night cocktail party, but strangely, most of these came out with a very pink tinge. I was beginning to think it was some magical RWA magic until I went into the foyer and took a couple more happy pics. Some of these are on my facebook page, including this one:

Now, who do you think would own these delightful items of footwear? Here are the damsels whose only distress was knowing that the party was over and they had to go back to their rooms. Or out to dinner. Or to the bar …

Yes, it’s Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books fame, fabulous author and Conference Convenor Shannon Curtis (no relation, I promise), and NY Times bestselling author Cherry Adair.

Here is Shannon in her Conference Convenor/Crisis Warden/is-everything-in-this-cocktail-party-really-pink? mode:

Shannon Curtis in crisis mode.

Welcome to Maggie Christensen

Australian author Maggie Christensen joins me today.

Congratulations on the release of Band of Gold, Maggie. Was there something in particular that inspired you to write this story?

Thanks, Sandy. A number of years ago I heard a story of someone who placed his wedding ring on the table on Christmas morning. It stuck in my mind and when I started wondering what might happen afterwards. Anna and Marcus appeared and Anna’s story began to take shape.

What did you find were the advantages and disadvantages of writing in first person and present tense?

It wasn’t really a choice. Anna’s voice came to me as soon as I began to write. I think the advantage was that it was easy to see the story though her eyes, and I didn’t have to worry about changing POV. As I was writing, I really stepped into Anna’s shoes, and the present tense made it more immediate. I guess the disadvantage was that everything was from Anna’s perspective, so there was no opportunity to see events form anyone else’s point of view. I have to say that, although I don’t normally write first person present tense, I really enjoyed it.

What did you like most about writing Band of Gold?

I enjoyed my characters. The story flowed well for me, and I think I fell a little bit in love with Marcus. I particularly enjoyed using familiar settings. Manly Beach was the first beach I visited in Australia when I lived for several years in Sydney, and I now live close to beautiful Peregian Beach.

Do you find your readers come from all age groups, or, because your books deal with mature-aged heroines, your readers tend to be in that age group?

When I began writing about women in their prime (I love this phrase), I thought I was targeting older readers – baby boomers. However I’m finding that my readers do come from all age groups. I guess women experience marriage and career crises at all ages, so the situations my protagonists find themselves in are easy to relate to.

Do you think there is an advantage to having background knowledge of two locations, i.e., Australia and Oregon in the US, and how helpful has this been in writing The Sand Dollar?

Definitely! I would never have contemplated Oregon as a setting if I hadn’t spent time there, and I don’t expect I’d be writing about Australia if I didn’t live here. I find that when I write, it’s as if I’m actually in the setting. For example, my current work, The Dreamcatcher, is set in Oregon, and I spend my days there when I’m writing.

What do you envisage writing in the future?

I’m presently writing what will most likely be book 3 in my Oregon Coast series. It picks up Ellen from The Sand Dollar and tells her story. Book 2 stalled part way through so I plan to go back to that one, which tells the story of Rosa, also from The Sand Dollar, and set in the Sunshine Coast in Australia.

Also, although I wrote Band of Gold as a stand-alone book, Anna’s sister Jan has started telling me her story too, so that book is also in the cards. Plus a few more ideas which are still in their infancy.

I intend to keep writing books with mature protagonists, as these are the ones I can relate best to.

That’s great, Maggie. I know what it’s like to have characters start to tell you their story. I’m sure a lot of people think writers are a bit cracked when we say we hear voices in our head, but our characters become like real people to us, don’t they.

Here’s the blurb for Maggie’s book, and an excerpt:

Band of Gold deals with the tricky topic of new romance after a failed marriage.

Anna Hollis is a forty-seven year old schoolteacher living in Sydney. She juggles her busy life with a daughter in the throes of first love, and increasingly demanding aging parents.

Anna’s world collapses when her husband of twenty-five years leaves her on Christmas morning. She makes it through the family festivities, explaining his absence with a flimsy excuse, but later breaks down on a Sydney beach where a stranger comes to her aid.

Marcus King has returned to Australia from the USA, leaving behind a broken marriage and a young son; through their mutual hurt and loneliness, a fragile friendship is formed when he takes up the position of Headmaster at Anna’s school.

Written in first person, present tense the author slips the reader into Anna’s shoes as she struggles to leave the past behind and learns to trust again. Can Marcus be a part of her future?


‘I don’t want to be married anymore.’

The band of gold, symbol of our twenty-five years of marriage lies on the table between us. I am stupefied, unable to speak. Tears prick my eyes as my first coffee of the day grows cold beside me. The sun is shining brightly through the kitchen window. The turkey is sitting on the kitchen bench waiting to be cooked. My parents, daughter, brother and sister, along with her husband and children are due to arrive in five hours’ time. The house is redolent with the scent of pine needles and Christmas pudding. It’s Christmas morning and my world has collapsed.

‘What do you mean?’ I finally utter, thinking this must be Sean’s idea of a bad joke. My mouth goes dry. My head begins to spin. The bottom has dropped out of my world. I look over at the man I have loved for over twenty-five years, his bushy greying blonde hair, his ruddy cleanshaven cheeks. He looks no different from any other morning. He’s wearing the bright yellow tee shirt we bought on our holiday in Bali last year. His steely blue eyes meet mine. This isn’t happening.

‘I can’t do this anymore, Anna.’ His waving arms take in the kitchen including me, ‘All this; family, house, job. I need to get away.’ He pushes his chair back from the table and strides out of the kitchen. I sit there in a daze, my mind going round in circles. Is it too late to call off Christmas lunch? How can I even think of such a thing? Does Sean mean he’s going to leave right now? How will I explain his absence? God, this is really going to be the Christmas from Hell.

Look for Band of Gold at:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1owK2w6

Barnes &Noble: http://bit.ly/1sZmp2

The Book Depository: http://bit.ly/1nbUiHf

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/maggiechristensenauthor

Website:  http://maggiechristensenauthor.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8120020.Maggie_Christensen


Thank you, Maggie, for being such a lovely guest. I look forward to seeing The Sand Dollar and The Dreamcatcher available in the near future.

Quote Post Format

I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.

Marilyn Monroe, Great Person