Interview with Sasha Cottman

small author pic sasha cottman (120x84)Today I’m talking with Sasha Cottman whose book, Letter from a Rake has just been released by Destiny Romance. Welcome Sasha!

Thanks for the warm welcome Bernadette.

You write Regency Historical romances. Can you describe your genre? What will readers find in a Regency Romance?

Regency historical romances are set around the turn of the 18th century. The period only lasted 8 years while the future George IV reigned in his father’s place, due to the King’s mental illness.  Most Regency novels loosely cover the period from 1800 to Victoria’s reign in 1837. Readers of Regency are often entertained with the story of dashing heroes and feisty heroines. The social and legal codes of the time restricted women’s lives greatly, but the modern Regency novel does tend to bend the rules, allowing the heroine to shine.  The grandmother of all Regency novels, Pride and Prejudice is set around this era.

Can you tell us about how your book Letter from a Rake came about?Letter From A Rake

Letter from a Rake actually came about from a failed attempt at writing my first novel. In that book, Millie (the heroine of Letter from a Rake) was a secondary character, but she was so strong she basically shoved the poor heroine off the page and demanded I write her story instead. When you are continually dreaming about scenes involving a secondary character, it’s time to listen to your muse. The scene in the maze, kept me awake night after night until I finally gave in and started writing the full story.

What do you love most about this story?

What I love about this story is the sense of family.  My favourite Regency novels have always been ones where the characters have family around them; Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series was one of the first Regency series I ever read and I fell in love with every one of her books.  When you have family around your main characters, it gives you lots of scope to work with, as well as helping to establish backstories.

How do you come up with your ideas?

When I am walking on the beach near our beach house, ideas often just pop into my head, as a result I have learned to carry a notebook on my walks. Walking at lunchtime is also a great way to solve plot problems.

Do your characters appear first or do you have to go looking for them in the story?

Characters always appear first. Usually the emotional state of a character will find its way into my thoughts and then the rest of the character gradually begins to form.

What qualities do you see as most important in a romance hero?

Humour has to be the most important thing to me. I need to like a romance hero and bond with him before I can then fall in love with him. Alex, the hero in Letter from a Rake has a lot of the humour of my four brothers. There are a number of scenes where he does things that my brothers have done in real life. I spent a long afternoon chuckling to myself as I wrote the hangover scene.

What genre do you like to read and why?

I’m an historical romance girl, I have read a few contemporary romances, but I always come back to the historical ones, especially Regency.

I’ve read quite a few paranormal and fantasy fiction books along the way; I love the whole world building that goes with those genres. Once I discovered Tolkien at university, I became an unashamed Lord of the Rings fan. I visited the movie set in Wellington after I had gone to New Zealand on a business trip. If you own the extended directors cut of the Fellowship of the Ring DVD, you will find my name at the end along with the rest of the LOTR fan club members.

Who is your favourite author and why?

Just one?  Stephanie Laurens, especially her early Cynster novels. I think I own all her books. Special mention must go to Anna Campbell who runs a very close second, and is also a really lovely lady. I’ve picked her brains at several writers’ conferences.

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

Join a writers group; surround yourself with others who believe in their writing; it will help you to believe in yours. If you’re fortunate enough to join one of the romance writers groups somewhere in the world, make sure you volunteer some time to help the organisation.  From judging and critiquing of other’s work, I’ve learned a great deal.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently writing the next book in the Radley family series, which follows on from the epilogue in Letter from a Rake.  Yet another secondary character who demanded his own story.

Thanks for giving readers an insight into your stories and your writing life. Check out this short blurb below:Letter From A Rake

The unconventional Miss Millie Ashton, recently arrived from India, finds England a cold and dismal place. The fashionable ladies of London society look down their noses at her and it isn’t long before Millie is planning her return to the country she considers home.

When Millie befriends the high-spirited Lucy Radley, she also meets Lucy’s handsome brother, ‘Alex the Great’ and things take a turn for the better. Alex, the Marquess of Brooke, is considered the most eligible bachelor in London, yet he appears fascinated by the independent Millie.

Against the odds, their unlikely friendship deepens. But Alex has a secret and when a love letter goes astray, it threatens to destroy all their happiness…

Can Millie and Alex overcome the obstacles in their path to find true love? Or will one miscommunication ruin everything

Letter from a Rake is available as an ebook from Destiny Romance, Amazon, Kobo, iTunes and Angus and Robertson.

Sasha Cottman is in the virtual world.

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Blog  The misadventures of an author in the Regency Kitchen.



Chatting to Jennifer St George

Jen St GeorgeToday I’m chatting with Destiny Romance author, Jennifer St George. Welcome, Jen!

Thanks for inviting me on, Bernadette.

Congrats on the release this month of The Love Deception. Can you tell us about the story?

The Love Deception is my third novel with Destiny Romance. It combines legal intrigue, courtroom drama and a dash of exotic Barbados.

The Love DeceptionWhen Felicity Carter wakes up naked in a strange bed, she has no idea how she got there. And no recollection of meeting the gorgeous man calmly offering her breakfast. Felicity flees – hoping that their paths never cross again.
 The last thing she expects is to discover that her mystery man is Damon Fullbright, partner at the law firm where Felicity has just started work – and her new boss!

Damon is appalled to find the out-of-control young woman he rescued has been hired to work on his team. Apart from anything else, he doesn’t need the distraction of a hot blonde with a barrel-full of issues. But one-by-one, Felicity blows all Damon’s preconceptions out of the water. When Felicity explosively reveals her dreadful secret, will he risk his reputation and trust her to discover the truth?

How did you come up with the idea for your book?

I used to travel extensively and would often wake up in a hotel in a foreign country and forget where I was.  In those first few seconds of waking, I’d always get a jolt of adrenaline and I’d wonder where I was. Of course I’d quickly realize I was fine, in a hotel and had to get up and go to work. I wondered what it would be like if you woke up and had no idea where you were. Felicity does just that at the beginning of the book. From that point on, her life is a rollercoaster ride in the search for truth, understanding and ultimately…love.

What do you love most about The Love Deception?

I love that both hero and heroine will do anything to protect the ones they love.

The Convenient BrideWhat is different about this book when compared to The Convenient Bride and Seducing the Secret Heiress? What is similar?

This book has an element of romantic suspense about it which is different to The Convenient Bride and Seducing the Secret Heiress. All three books include exotic locations, opulent settings and a hot, hot hero!

How does winning an award like the Clendon (as you did with The Convenient Bride) help your writing career?

I think being a finalist and winning awards helps bring you to the attention of editors. It also adds to your writing credentials, which is invaluable when drafting submission cover letters.

You work in PR, what are the three most important ingredients in promoting yourself?

  1. Develop a brand for yourself
  2. Get your online presence in order. This is important to establish before you are published.  Editors will look for you online.
  3. I’ve found getting to know popular romance bloggers has been very beneficial as they will feature/review your book and/or do an author spotlight

Of course ahead of all of this is to write fabulous books!

Seducing the Secret Heiress, Jennifer St GeorgeDo you have any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

Probably the top things that helped me achieve publication were

1) Volunteering. I volunteered for Romance Writers of Australia. This put me in touch with lots of published authors and editors through my work in sponsorship
and media.

2) Education. I attended every writing workshop/course (highly recommend Margie Lawson’s online courses!!), author chat and conference I could.  I read loads of romance writing ‘how-to’ books.  I read lots and lots of books in the line I was targeting

3) Competitions. I entered so many competitions as possible with as many entries as were allowed.

4) I wrote, wrote, wrote, wrote.

How has writing changed you as a person?

Hmmm.  That’s a good question.  I probably watch people a lot more than I did before.  Especially for inspiration on how people react in certain situations.

What genre do you like to read? Who is your favourite author?

I read across a lot of genres – obviously lots of romance (mostly category as that’s what I write), but I also love crime (eg recently read Michael Connelly, Stieg Larsson, Gillian Flynn), historical drama/action (eg Bernard Cornwell) and literary authors such as Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes and Iain Banks (who sadly passed away several weeks ago). I don’t read too much fantasy, but I am ripping through George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I try to keep up with winners of the major awards such as The Booker and Miles Franklin awards (although I am very behind at the moment!!) and am still working my way through the classics. Only read To Kill a Mockingbird last year (I know, I know!).  Unfortunately I’m a slow reader so my TBR pile is huge!

I don’t think I have an all-time favourite author.

Destiny LogoWhat’s next for you?

I’m half way through my next book which I’m hoping my Destiny Romance editors will love and another contract will be heading my way!

Thanks for sharing your inspiration and words of wisdom with us today, Jen and all the best with The Love Deception

What’s in Name?

Leisl Leightonby Leisl Leighton

What’s in a name? Apparently heaps.

A swimming teacher I work with told me the other day because of multiple negative experiences with boys called Jackson, and girls called Brittany, she couldn’t help but roll her eyes whenever she had a new kid to teach who had one of those names and think, ‘what hell are these ones going to put me through’. Now, I don’t think the kids’ behaviour had anything to do with their names, but it did make me think about what we see in a name, how it affects us and the lasting impressions it leaves. This question became even more important recently when I had to come up with a new name for the novel that Destiny Romance has just published.

When I started to write this novel, as usual, I had no idea what it was about. I am a true pantser (writer who doesn’t plot). But I had a re-occurring dream about a music producer with a dark past she wanted to hide and a rock star she wanted to work with whose fame threatened to bring her secrets to light. There was also a phrase that kept recurring in my dream, ‘sounding the heart’. The hero said it to the heroine when he was talking about what he saw in her. So, of course, that’s what I named it when I had to name my document. What I didn’t know then, was that it would turn into a romantic suspense novel with a stalker and murderer in the mix. I knew when I was subbing it that the name wasn’t right, but I couldn’t really think of anything else, because ‘Sounding the heart’ was what it was to me.

Destiny LogoOf course, that title would be good if it was a straight romance novel, however, it in no way suggests the suspense/murder part of the plot – which is a quite significant part of the story. My editor very carefully asked me how attached I was to the title (my answer when I was writing it might have been, ‘quite a bit’, but now, it was ‘not at all’.)  Knowing this question was going to be coming I had been thinking about the importance of titles and what certain titles said to me. I know there have been times when I’ve picked up a book just because of what it’s called. Of course, if the blurb didn’t appeal to me, I put it right back, but the title was the thing that caught my eye. So, it seemed, there was a lot in a name if I wanted people to pick up my novel and have an idea from the title what it might be about.

I quickly came up with a bunch of titles that encompassed different aspects of the novel – the twin connection, the music, the dark creepiness of the stalker and combinations that encompassed elements of two or three of these. I really wanted something that would speak of the way the hero and heroine’s music spoke to each other (so touching on the feel of the original title), but also suggested the darker side of the novel.

Killing Me SoftlyIn amongst all these suggestions was my favourite, Killing Me Softly. I liked it because it hit the darker elements nicely, but also references Roberta Flack’s 1973 song about a woman listening to a musician whose song speaks to her soul (something that is mentioned by the heroine in the novel), so it shows the importance of music in the hero and heroine’s journeys. Luckily, my editors loved it too and picked it among the dozen others I’d thrown out there.

So, after years of calling the novel by another name, it is now called ‘Killing Me Softly’ – and do you know what? I love it. It feels good, much better than ‘Sounding the Heart’ ever did. It tells me so much more about the story. And I hope it speaks to readers too.

Killing Me Softly is out now. Find it at, Amazon, Kobo or iBooks.

Talking with Leisl Leighton

Leisl LeightonToday I’m talking with Leisl Leighton who has TODAY released her debut novel Killing Me Softly. Welcome Leisl

Thanks Bernadette. It’s so lovely to be here.

Please tell us a little about your story and what genre it is.

Killing Me Softly is a romantic suspense and is about reclusive music producer, Alexia Deningham and rock star, Daemon Flagherty. Alexia guards her privacy fiercely. When she agrees to work with superstar Daemon and his band, it is on the condition that they stay with her at her isolated country estate.

Fresh from a messy divorce, Daemon is determined to focus on his music. He wants to work with the best and that means Lexi. He certainly isn’t looking for romance, but he finds himself intrigued by Lexi’s secretive behaviour.
Despite Lexi’s reservations, their attraction grows.  But someone is watching Lexi. Someone who will stop at nothing to destroy the woman who has ruined his life. When his campaign of terror ratchets out of control, Lexi must fight for survival but who can she really trust?

Can you tell us about how Killing Me Softly came about?

I was thinking one day about how songs can mean different things to different people and then I had a dream about a music producer who was having difficulty with a rock star she was working with until he heard her music. The dream wouldn’t leave me alone, so I began to write. Funnily enough, when I sat down to write Lexi’s story, it didn’t even start with the rock star at the time, but a scene in an asylum where she was visiting her identical twin sister. The story blossomed from there.

Killing Me SoftlyWhat do you love most about this story?

I love the way music is so central and personal to them and yet it’s how they relate to themselves and others. It feels very true to me. I walk around singing all the time, I even sing ‘going to bed’ songs to my sons, or ‘it’s time to get dressed now’ songs etc. Music is a massive part of my life and I love that in this story that passion of mine came out in my characters. I also love the romance between Lexi and Daemon and how they get past so much to trust themselves and each other.

Tell us more about how you come up with your ideas?

As I mentioned above, I dream my stories. Sometimes the dreams are just about a character or characters who keep coming to me and won’t let go. Other times I dream a scene over and over. And sometimes, I dream a scene that then continues the next night and the next and so on, until I have the beginning of a story. Then, as I’m writing, the rest just comes to me. I’m pretty much a pantser, which means lots of re-writing, but I’ve tried plotting and it just doesn’t work for me.

What qualities do you see as most important in a romance hero?

I think he needs to be wounded or not whole in some way that only the heroine can help him with. And he needs to have something in him that is especially for her.  He doesn’t have to be an Alpha, but needs to be strong within himself, but not so strong that he can’t be emotional and caring and listen. Listening is really important. Even if he doesn’t act on what the listening tells him or denies it at first, he is smart enough to let it sink in and eventually do something about it. And most of all, he doesn’t have to ‘rescue’ the heroine. I like a heroine who can rescue herself.

What genre/s do you like to read? Who is your favourite author?

My bookshelves are filled with fantasy, paranormal romance, romantic suspense, historical romance, YA and contemporary romance – so I’m a bit of a genre slut, sharing my likes around! I don’t have an all over favourite, but I do have favourites in each genre. My favourite fantasy author is Raymond E. Feist. Paranormal – Nalini Singh. Historical – Anne Gracie. YA – Richelle Meade. Contemporary and romantic suspense – Nora Roberts.

When and how did you get ‘the call’? How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing forever, although up until about ten years ago it was mostly scripts for theatre and cabaret with a little dabbling in writing an epic fantasy novel I intend to go back to when I figure out how to weave all the elements together properly.

Destiny LogoIn regards to how I got ‘the call’, I pitched an epic paranormal to Carol George at the RWA conference last year. I met up with Carol at a Penguin workshop in January where she passed on the novel I pitched, but kept assuring me that they really liked my writing, and the ‘no’ was because the story I’d pitched just didn’t have a strong enough romantic thread in it. She asked me if I wrote anything other than paranormal and I mentioned I used to write romantic suspense. I pitched her one I thought was most ready and she said they’d love to see it. I rushed home, spent a few weeks polishing it up and sent it to her in mid Feb. I got ‘the call’ from Sarah Fairhall a few weeks later. I was so used to getting ‘we love your writing, but don’t have a place for that story at the moment’ or something similar, that it took a few minutes for it to sink in that she was saying they wanted to publish my novel. I kept saying, ‘Really?’ and probably sounded like I was away with the fairies, although I think Sarah is used to that. It took ages to sink in, but my family and writing friends helped there, as they each threw a party for me and my husband kept buying champagne, because there seemed to be something to celebrate every second day.

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

Firstly, write. Secondly, keep working on your writing – join a writing group, get a critique partner, enter competitions, read books (both in the genres you’re writing and books on writing techniques) and keep writing. Thirdly, write some more. You can’t improve if you don’t write. And fourth, don’t give up – aside from writing, perseverance is key.

What’s next for you?

More writing. Hopefully more published novels. I’m working on another romantic suspense at the moment and a paranormal series I’m excited about and there’s always that epic fantasy I first wrote that I want to get back to one day and do justice to, not to mention all the ideas floating around in my head for more stories.  I’m a writer at heart and I would love to build a career out of that sharing what I love with other people.

Thanks, Leisl, for sharing so much of yourself with us today. Look out for part 2 of Leisl’s feature where she talks about the process of naming her book ‘Killing Me Softly’.


You can find Leisl at  and links to her book at



MilestonesToday my blog reached the milestone of 4000 hits. It took just over 12 months to climb to this and while I’m sure it sets no record, it’s still an amazing achievement. I’ve had a great time creating content for this blog and tried to stick with the romance theme.

Finishing line

I thought you might be interested to discover the most clicked of my 40 previous posts was The Most Romantic Dr Who which continues to get clicks on a regular basis. Next most popular was the Alpha versus Beta Heroes post.

Looking for Inspiration


I want to thank my readers for their continued interest and encourage you all to comment when you feel moved to do so. Here’s to reaching 10 000 hits within the next 12 months. I do love a challenge!Destiny Logo



In the coming weeks, I’ll have a series of interviews with Destiny Romance authors. I can’t wait to discover their new releases, writing lives and writing secrets. Until then…

Vincent Van Gogh

This post is dedicated to my father-in-law, Vincent Rowley.

Van Gogh SelfieThe story of Vincent van Gogh resonates with people today. He left a wonderful legacy in his art but his life was a mixture of genius and insanity. Many would say that true genius can be very close to insanity. Have we romanticized Vincent’s life? Possibly. The thought of an artist or writer toiling away in beautiful locations, creating their masterpieces does appeal to those of us who are so inclined. But Vincent’s life was cut short.

Van Gogh was the son of a protestant minister and his life course led him from dealing in art to Christian ministry and finally to the life of an artist. He was unlucky in love and, as is often the case, didn’t receive recognition for his creative genius until after his death.  Like most artists and writers, Vincent took an interest in those around him and in his surroundings and this inspired his art.

Another source of inspiration for Van Gogh was his brother Theo, who saw something in Vincent and encouraged his artistic endeavours. The Vincent Sunflowersworld could so easily have been deprived of Vincent’s legacy as he suffered from deep insecurity over his art, having no early artistic abilities, no training and little encouragement from his parents and society. A burning need to leave the world something of himself drove Vincent to paint and his brother financially supported him to enable a life devoted to art.

starry-nightBut Vincent couldn’t control the bomb that was ticking away in his brain- epilepsy, psychotic attacks and delusions. His behaviour was unpredictable and he required hospitalisation. There were long periods of no creativity interspersed with frantic painting where he produced a canvas each day. This was when his The Starry Night was born.

I was out at dinner recently and Don McLean’s Starry, Starry Night was playing. It’s one of my favourite songs and the idea for this blog popped into my head. McLean sings of Vincent’s art, his mental anguish, his death and his legacy.

Van Gogh ChurchThose of you who are Dr Who fans will remember the episode where the doctor and Amy travel back to Vincent’s world, discovering an alien monster which is visible to Vincent but not to them. They must battle this monster without being able to see it. The episode begins in an art gallery where the doctor is viewing a Van Gogh exhibition and sees the monster in one of Van Gogh’s paintings. He travels back in time to find it.Dr Who Vincent

Mission accomplished, the doctor and Amy decide to take Vincent forward with them to show him the exhibition of his work, hoping it will give him the will to live on. He is overwhelmed by seeing his art appreciated and speaking to the guide who pays Van Gogh a wonderful tribute. But Vincent still takes his life a short time later.

Vincent Van Gogh touched many lives and continues to do so long after his death. He lives on in his paintings, just as he wished when he was a young man. And so his life is a triumph and the beauty and tragedy of his soul continue to affect us today.

Last week, we buried my father-in-law, Vincent Rowley. Vince was taken from us too soon, by cancer. He touched many lives and fought his disease for seventeen years. He raised six sons and had thirteen grandchildren. He was a loving and faithful husband to his wife Esther. He had many friends. He helped many people. Of all things in his life, Vince cherished his family and we all miss him. We are comforted by the knowledge that our Vincent is now out of his pain and in God’s arms.

Untamed by Anna Cowan

The latest Destiny Romance offering is Untamed by Anna Cowan. A big congratulations must go to Anna whose book has already delighted readers as the reviews demonstrate.

Untamed CoverOutspoken and opinionated, Katherine Sutherland is ill at ease amongst the fine ladies of Regency London. She is more familiar with farmers and her blunt opinions and rough manners offend polite society. Yet when she hears the scandalous rumours involving her sister and the seductive Duke of Darlington, the fiercely loyal Katherine vows to save her sister’s marriage – whatever the cost.

Intrigued by Katherine’s interference in his affairs, the manipulative Duke is soon fascinated. He engages in a daring deception and follows her back to her country home. Here, their intense connection shocks them both. But the Duke’s games have dangerous consequences, and the potential to throw both their lives into chaos…

Wildly romantic, Untamed is a passionate and beautifully written debut novel. This decadent historical romance defies convention and will shock and delight in equal measure.

‘A  strong and original voice, a unique story and characters you won’t  easily forget — this is an exciting and memorable debut. Anna Cowan is  an author to watch.  Anne Gracie 

‘One of the most mesmerizing books I’ve read this year.’ Dear Author

Utterly absorbing, beautifully written, and full of insight and humor.’ Ruthie Knox

Good luck with your debut novel, Anna.

The Anzac Legacy

Anzac Day 2013I’m going to stray from the theme of this blog on this very special day- Anzac Day- with an examination of the modern Anzac Day and its relevance to our society.
Anzac DayTownsville MarchThe spirit of our Anzacs can be felt in all kinds of shrines and monuments but would these brave heroes approve of the country we have created? What kind of Australia were they fighting to preserve? What principles were important to the Anzacs and do these values still resonate today?

Many would say that our response to the sacrifice of the Anzacs is to appreciate and enjoy the freedom they fought to preserve. We don’t have to look far in today’s world for reminders of what our fate may have been but for the ultimate sacrifice of our forebears. But have we truly created the modern Australia that the Anzacs might have dreamed of?
Anzac Day Eternal FlameOur society is becoming increasingly secular, focussed on possessions and the almighty dollar. Homeless youth freeze on the streets and we have abandoned many of our most vulnerable citizens. Some of us don’t even speak to our children, let alone our neighbours. We struggle to manage development while preserving our unique environment. While these facts are disturbing, there is no doubt that young people of today have more opportunities in education, recreation and vocation than ever before.
One might imagine that freedom, mateship, fairness and honour were values dear to the Anzacs. Were they fighting to preserve these ideals or were they simply doing their job? Was adventure high on their list of priorities as they headed off to war?
Anzac Day- CrowdYoung Australians are making their pilgrimage to Anzac Cove in increasing numbers every year. They travel there for many reasons. Some are seeking adventure; others need to gain a better understanding of the experiences of their Anzac relatives. Still others marvel to find their history lessons come starkly to life. Are their pilgrimages critical to the evolution of the meaning of Anzac Day? Will these young people forge a link with the Anzacs and enable the commemoration to flourish for years to come?
Anzac Day PoppyIf we could speak to the Anzacs today, I think there would be a rage of responses to modern Australia. Our country is very different from the society these young men left. Their sacrifice has given us the freedom to choose and that has come with benefits and challenges. Our chosen path has led to a more prosperous society than any of our diggers could have imagined. Along with our prosperity has come a focus on ‘things’ to the detriment of our relationships. Our world sparks excitement and joy as well as fear and sadness.
It is my belief that the Anzacs would find much to be proud of in Australia today. In 2006, Richard Modderman, a student from The Gap State High School, said in his prize-winning essay, ‘A close look at the countless quiet achievers, working either as individuals or as part of a team, illustrates that Anzac characteristics are actively part of our modern day life’.

Anzac Day-Lest We ForgetThe Anzac tradition lives on in the pride of our men and women serving overseas. Australians still value their mates and their right to ‘a fair go’. While we can stand at our local cenotaph and feel the Anzac spirit in the quiet places of our hearts, their ultimate sacrifice will be remembered and honoured.

I didn’t attend a dawn service this morning but I often visit our Townsville cenotaph and relfect on the sacrifices of our soldiers and on their bravery. How do you feel about Anzac Day?