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The Witch

Wicket Witch of the WestMagic is integral to high fantasy and ‘the witch’ is central to the magic in many of these stories. The witch or sorceress wields her magic for good or ill and is often maligned. Popular culture is adorned with witches of all kinds, from the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz to one of my personal favourites, Polgara in David Eddings’ Belgariad series. Classically, the witch is hideous, with warts and whiskers. She might fly on a broom and make potions which can turn a man into a toad or make a princess sleep for a hundred years. Our fairy tales are full of nasty witches.

SorceressHowever in high fantasy, it is very common for a sorceress to be a force for good and also to be beautiful. Polgara could shift into the shape of an owl and was a powerful positive influence in the communities she worked in. The Aes sedai in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series were servants of all and devoted to various and distinct pursuits. Whether they were healing the sick, fighting wars, seeking justice and knowledge or mediating in kingdom disputes, they were virtuous- most of the time.

Hermione GrangerThis is one of the attractions of fantasy: that there is such variety. Your witch can be the most evil woman who has ever walked your world or she can be the saviour of that world. She can be the heroine or she can be the mentor, guiding the hero in his coming into power, as Polgara did for Belgarion and Moraine did for Rand in The Wheel of Time series.

Belatrix LestrangeIn Princess Avenger, I have a ‘classic’ witch, Hetty, who is Princess Alecia’s mentor. Alecia has no mother so Hetty fills this void and is always on hand to give sage advice or heal a wound if Alecia gets herself into hot water. She crops up again in The Lady’s Choice where a spell she casts at the behest of Squire Ramón causes a bucket load of trouble.  In The Lady’s Choice, Benae appears to be a normal woman, but she can speak mind to mind with her horse and she can delve and heal with her mind.

The Lady's Choice Cover- high resI guess it’s not surprising that much of magic is centred on healing. In my fantasy world, medicine was primitive and a magical cure could save a queen or send a valued soldier back to the battlefield. Many modern techniques and medicines are still regarded as magical.

But no matter how the magic is used, witches in fantasy stand apart. They may do good but they are regarded with suspicion because they aren’t understood. This makes them lonely and puts them at risk. They guard their privacy and often live in a community in disguise. Witches and sorceresses live their secret lives with the people but their influences can extend right to the throne and beyond.

No wonder I love fantasy!

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The Fantasy World

Kain JazaraOver the last two posts I’ve outlined the sword and the quest, two critical components of high fantasy and both very close to my heart. Today, my exploration will lead us into The Fantasy World.

Coastal Scene (123)- cliffsIn many fantasies, the world takes on the status of a character and many authors spend innumerable hours in what we writers call world-building. For some authors, the world will come first and they won’t start writing until all the rules and geography of the world is in place. Many readers love being taken out of their land and dropped into the middle of a different realm, one that can come to be as familiar to them as their everyday surroundings. If the author has done their job, the fantasy world makes sense to the reader and everything that occurs in the story follows the rules of that reality.

High fantasy worlds are antiquated, their technology roughly Middle Ages or pre industrial. Life is hard, people die young of diseases, wars are fought in hand to hand combat, ladies wear extravagant gowns and the men, breeches. Travel is by foot, horse or carriage and food is harvested by hand. The world may even have a map as most authors want to be able to visualise their worlds. Maps help the author to get distances and travel times right as well as directions. As a fantasy reader, I love maps as they help me to orient myself in that world.

RainforestThe most important aspect of high fantasy worlds which sets them apart from reality is magic. Magic can take many forms. It may come from witches and warlocks or from the forest itself. Dragons and other creatures can have magic powers. In Princess Avenger, the magic potions of Hetty the witch come up against the transformative talents of Vard the shape shifter. Benae, in The Lady’s Choice, had a magical talent for healing and also the gift of being able to speak mind to mind with her horse Flaire. Magic in fantasy stories is only limited by the imagination of the author. It is what takes a life a drudgery and pain and creates wonder and light and perhaps a triumph of good over evil.

The Lady's Choice Cover- high resSo, imagine the world of the Middle Ages, add magic and you have The Fantasy World. No wonder so many of us are captivated by this genre.

 

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The Quest

Arrow in full kitIn fantasy stories, there is usually a quest or an epic journey towards a goal. This often involves much travel and exposes the reader to exotic characters and locations. What sort of goal am I talking about? The journey is usually undertaken by a hero or heroine with the help of others. They may have to find a mythical sword or convey a magical ring of power through enemy territory in the hope of destroying it; all the while, keeping the object from falling into the hands of the evil lord, of course.

There may be several books needed to finish the tale. In Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, the quest was to destroy the dark lord for once and for all. Hero Rand had to come into his power to achieve this as did many of the other characters.

Benae prayingThe fantasy genre is the champion of the series and the reason for this is the quest. You don’t solve all of the world’s pressing concerns in one book, especially if your hero must grow into their power before they can achieve their goal. The momentum of the quest swings back and forwards between good and evil, keeping the reader on tenterhooks. At the close of each book, there will be an ending, but not THE ending.

Princess Avenger High Res CoverIn a fantasy romance, the hero and heroine will be on a quest to win true love, but both may also have secondary journeys. These often get in the way of the primary goal which is a happily ever after. In Princess Avenger, Vard and Alecia are drawn to each other, but Alecia’s vendetta and Vard’s need for a mentor threaten the achieving of their true love. The same could be said in The Lady’s Choice. Ramon’s quest to find Alecia, and Benae’s drive to marry a wealthy prince, make it almost impossible to achieve a future together.

The Lady's Choice Cover- high resAt the end of a long quest, when the reader has devoted hours to following the hero on their journey of growth and achievement, there is nothing more satisfying than the attainment of that goal whether it be peace on Earth or true love.

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Fantasy Swords

Knight with SwordOver the next few months, I thought I would outline some of the fantasy icons and in particular, high fantasy. This will give readers an idea of the influences in my writing.

One of my favourite fantasy icons is the sword. This weapon features in most high fantasy stories. Its importance as a weapon of this genre can’t be denied but its value goes much further than that. Proficiency with the sword is a given when you’re dealing with an alpha male hero. Usually this hero will be a blade master and the insignia on his sword may reflect this. An awareness of fighting a blade master casts fear into the heart of opponents. There also may be a learning of sword play as a hero grows into his power as Rand did in The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.

Kain JazaraSword play is romanticized as a dance in many fantasy stories. The opponents move around each other, using forms that may be named and creating a mesmerising spectacle for those watching and reading.  The sword of a blade master may be manufactured of special metals, imbued with magic that means the blade will never lose its edge and there may only be a limited number of that sword created. This enhances the value of such a weapon and the wielder becomes the stuff of legend.

Of course the sword may be unique and magical such as Excalibur, the mythical sword of King Arthur. His ability to draw it from the stone proclaimed his kingship although many say the sword in the stone and Excalibur were not one and the same. It doesn’t really matter and Excalibur played almost as large a role in those stories as King Arthur himself.

Princess Avenger High Res CoverThere are no special swords in my stories as yet but there are swordsmen, for whom the sword is merely an extension of the hand. My hero Vard from Princess Avenger is a supreme swordsman, able to best anyone in the kingdom. His proficiency with this weapon is in stark contrast to his struggle to master his shape shifting talents. His battle to control his animal transformations is the crux of why there must be more to tell between Vard and Alecia.

Ramón, my hero in The Lady’s Choice, has come into his mastery of the sword since Princess Avenger, determined to thwart Vard and rescue Alecia. Lady Benae has other plans when she meets Ramón, seeing in him a man of honour and courage who moves with the fluid grace of the master bladesman.

The Lady's Choice Cover- high resAnd so you see there is romanticism in the sword; in its beauty, its magic and even its power. Whether the sword is pulled from a stone, rises from a lake, is handed down from father to son or found in a dusty chest under a bed, each has a tale to tell and a part to play in high fantasy stories.

 

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A New Doctor Who

When my blog was very new, I wrote a post called ‘The Most Romantic Doctor Who’ which was, in essence, a tribute to my favourite Doctor, David Tennant. This post is one of my most popular and is still viewed by people every week. The Doctor resonates with so many people around the world, what ‘Who’ lover wouldn’t want to tap into that wealth of material? But the subject is so massive that it’s difficult to pin down a topic to write on.

I came across a blog by my friend and colleague Leisl Leighton called Saying Goodbye to the Doctor in which she eloquently describes her journey through the evolution of the different doctors both old and modern day. It’s really worth a read as is the rest of Leisl’s blog. I could relate to much of what Leisl had written. I never watched Doctor Who’s old series though I’ve seen some episodes and footage from this era.

Christopher EccelstonMy experience of Doctor Who came with the advent of the new Doctor Who, Christopher Eccleston. He bounced onto our screens as the ninth Doctor and I thought he was fabulous, as was Billy Piper who played Rose Tyler. I was still trying to get my head around Doctor Who and all its laws and possibilities, not to mention the assorted baddies, when Doctor ten, David Tennant, came along.

David Tennant imageIt didn’t take long for me to fall completely in love with David and he is still my favourite to this day and always will be. It didn’t seem to matter whether he was with Rose or Martha Jones or Donna Noble, each brought out a different aspect of his character, to give us a more rounded picture of his strengths and flaws. So far, he appears to be the only Doctor who has fallen in love. Perhaps this is why so many of us were mesmerised by him.

Girl_in_the_FireplaceThe main writer of the Eccleston and Tennant series was Russell T Davies, and I give a lot of the credit for my enjoyment of these Who eras to the wonderful writing. However my favourite episode, The Girl in the Fireplace was written by Steven Moffat and directed by the brilliant Euros Lyn.

As I said goodbye to Doctor David, there could not have been a more distraught devotee than myself. For one who had come to identify Doctor Who with Tennant, I just couldn’t conceive of another playing The Doctor. Along came Matt Smith and I prepared to love him as much as David. After all, I had successfully transitioned from Eccleston to Tennant, why not to Smith? Along with a new doctor, a new premier writer took over the series. Steven Moffat began weaving his convoluted yarns and I was very lost at times.

The_Eleventh_Doctor_and_Amy_PondMatt Smith was too young, too bumbling and I just couldn’t warm to Amy (Karen Gillan) either. On top of all this, the show had a new executive producer. It could be said that the entire landscape of Who was changed dramatically. I faithfully viewed the first few episodes, trying to get my head around the stories and the new Who and I admit, I gave up. I was devastated that my favourite show had been changed beyond my enjoyment. Occasionally I would catch part of an episode and find that, even in light of the odd laws of Doctor Who and ‘timey wimey’ stuff, I just couldn’t follow the stories.

Dr Who VincentI don’t know what happened to bring me back. It took me two series to accept Matt Smith and I’d be interested to hear if other fans had the same experience. I’ve now watched all the Matt Smith episodes several times over and love them, especially Vincent and the Doctor in which The Doctor and Amy take Vincent Van Gogh forward in time to show him how famous he became in the hope that it might save him. Each time I view these episodes I understand them better and feel that they are so complex that you can’t fully appreciate them without multiple viewings.

I will miss Matt Smith. I came to love his three way rivalry with Amelia Pond and Rory Williams. River Song added a feisty other dimension and Clara Oswald will continue into the next series with the new Doctor. TwelthdoctorWhich brings me to Doctor Peter Capaldi. You won’t be surprised to hear that I’m unconvinced about Peter as the new Doctor. He’s not young and sexy and I think that the three recent Doctors have really added dimension to the role in this area. Capaldi is much more in the mould of doctors in the old series, though we did have several younger men playing the character. We shall see.

Last, I can’t end this without mentioning The Day of the Doctor.  The episode introduced Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor and featured David Tennant and Matt Smith along with Tom Baker and Billie Piper. We even got to spend time with the War Doctor. It was magnificent television, creating a world viewing record for simulcast of a television drama. The show has us hooked and I don‘t mind admitting it. Long live Doctor Who in all his incarnations.

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Valentine’s Day 2014

I Love You- Valentine's DayNo one would question the fact that this day is for the ultimate romantics but I think Valentine’s Day brings out the romantic in many of us, even just a tiny corner. We begin to think about what it means to us to have a valentine and how we should show our appreciation.

Does it all have to be about the dollars we spend? Did you know that Australians will spend nearly one billion dollars on Valentine’s Day? Expensive gifts are one way to show someone we love them but not the only way. Simply the spending of time with your loved one – a good long chat, sharing a movie together, going on a walk, reflecting on how you came to fall in love and telling your valentine the things you love about them – are all great, inexpensive alternatives.

The Lady's Choice Cover- high resNo matter how you celebrate the day, I believe the important thing is that Valentine’s Day is a chance to stop and appreciate each other. So let’s do that this Valentine’s Day: take a moment to pause and remember all the great things about your valentine: the loveable, the funny, the romantic, the thoughtful, the caring, yes all those attributes that make it worthwhile being in a relationship.

Valentine’s Day is dear to the hearts of romance writers- you might say it’s our ‘one day of the year’. I appreciate this all the more since releasing my books Princess Avenger and The Lady’s Choice. I love to hear from readers either by email or by leaving a rating or short review on Goodreads or your purchase site.

Princess Avenger High Res CoverHow will I celebrate the day? A romantic meal out seems on the cards. How will you celebrate on February 14th?

This post is part of Annie Seaton’s Valentine’s Day blog hop so click a Rafflecopter giveaway to enter the competition and win great prizes.

Also head over to the authors below to check out their posts.

Date Name
30-Jan Annie Seaton 
1-Feb Tamsin Baker
2-Feb Demelza Carlton
2-Feb Susanne Bellamy
3-Feb Bernadette Rowley
4-Feb Wendy Ross
5-Feb Isabella Hargreaves
6-Feb Heather Kinnane
7-Feb Barbra Novac
8-Feb Ann B Harrison
9-Feb Tarion Keelan
10-Feb HC Brown
11-Feb Kris Ashton
12-Feb Darry Fraser
13-Feb Lisa Knight
14-Feb Annie Seaton and Prize Draw
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Australia Day Romance

AustraliaDaybloghop2014This blog is all about romance, so when I agreed to be part of the Australia Day Book’d Out Blog Giveaway series, I needed to link the subject to romance. Sure, I could have written something unrelated to Australia Day OR just written on Australia Day without worrying about romance. I didn’t want to do either of those things.

Still, I had charged myself with a difficult task because what is romantic about Australia Day? Let’s see…

Man and BBQWhen I think of our national day I immediately think of food. We have some magnificent national dishes such as pavlova (I choose to believe it’s ours), the lamington, prawns and lamb on the BBQ, Anzac biscuits, pineapple on burgers, macadamias and damper. What could be more romantic than a man cooking a BBQ feast? Damper reminds us of the romantic days of the drover and the freedom of a life of moving cattle from one place to another on the back of a horse. Pavlova, pineapple and macadamias are all close to our hearts as national foods. Last of all, our own biscuit reminds us of the sacrifice of our young men for their country and the romanticism of a life given for others.

MitchWho are our Aussie heroes? Hugh Jackman comes to mind and men and women alike have admired Hugh for his looks and myriad talents but many of us look for our heroes on the sporting field. Chief amongst sporting heroes this Australia Day is Mitch Johnson complete with his moustache, conquering the English on the cricket field. And the mo is so reminiscent of the cricket heroes who have gone before him: Lilley, Merv, Boon and the like. The romance of being a hero, of being admired by an entire country cannot be overlooked.

So many of us will reflect on our history this Australia Day and there is romance in the adventure of arriving in a foreign land and forging a new life. Our forefathers accomplished this and many new immigrants continue to discover the delights and challenges of modern Australia.

Man from Snowy RiverOne of our classic films The Man from Snowy River was based on a poem by the same name, written by the great Banjo Patterson, and showcased the Aussie bush and country life. Our many successful rural romance authors use the same themes today.

RainforestAustralia is a beautiful country full of romantic escapes from coastal scenes to desert landscapes and secluded rainforest hideaways. It is an ancient land which has its own prehistoric history and indigenous people. So much of this country can touch our hearts, get under our skin and stay with us wherever we travel. I’m from the Sunshine Coast and whenever I see one of the Glasshouse Mountains they engender a nostalgia that for me is akin to romance.

So, maybe I’m drawing a long bow on some of these but, being a fantasy writer, the long bow is a weapon I am familiar with and I choose to use it on this occasion.

Princess Avenger High Res CoverDo you think there is romance in Australia Day? Leave a comment and the person with the most convincing argument for or against will win a paperback copy of my book Princess Avenger– entries restricted to Australian residents.  Entries close at midnight on January 28th and the winner will be announced here on February 2nd.

Please support the other writers involved in this Australia Day Book’d Out Giveaway Blog Hop for your chance to win more prizes and discover amazing authors.

Book’d   Out Australian   Women Writers Challenge Blog
Helene   Young 1girl2manybooks
Juliet   Madison – Humorous & Heartwarming Fiction Lily   Malone – romance writer
Nicole   Hurley-Moore Kendall   Talbot Blog
Creative   Conversations Jenn J   McLeod
When I   Was a Kid  Annie   Seaton
 Carpe   Librum  Karen   Wyld: Yarn Weaver
 Booklover   Book Reviews  Booksaremyfavouriteandbest
 Tien’s   Blurb  BernadetteRowley
 A   Reader’s Heaven  Jennifer   Scoullar
 Eleni’s   Taverna  The   Never Ending Bookshelf
 Write   and Read with Dale  Phillipa   Fioretti
 Suzi   Love  Journeys   with Noelle
 The   Sweet Escape  Sarah   Belle – Romagic Comedy
 Marisa   Wikramanayake  Biest   Books
 Pieces   of Whimsy  The   Eclectic Reader
 Elise   K. Ackers, The Write Frequency  Carol   @ reading,writing and riesling
 Elisabeth   Storrs  My   Word
 Kathryn’s   Inbox  Maureen   Helen on Writing and Ageing
 The   Incredible Rambling Elimy  Loretta   Hill
 Kate   Forsyth’s Blog  Tea   in the Treetops
 Rachael   Johns  Things   Made From Letters
 Musings   by Wink  Margarette   Lyn Sharp
 Sarah   Foster  Matthew   S Wilson
 Write   Note Reviews  Jennifer   Collin
 Sherryl   Caulfield  Literary   Exploration
Lisa   Walker  Wendy   Orr
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2013 – My Blog in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,800 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 47 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Interview with Ms Destiny

Destiny LogoToday I’m reposting this interview with Ms Destiny which was undertaken just before the release of my latest book, The Lady’s Choice. I hope you enjoy it.

Over a lazy, late afternoon drink I recently caught up with Bernadette Rowley, author of The Lady’s Choice, to talk about bad boys, hidden passions and romance.

Bernadette, I’m wowed by your new book. It’s an enthralling mix of lust, palace life, plotting princesses and swashbuckling swordsmen – have you always been a fantasy fan?

I’ve been a fantasy fan since my aunt introduced me to the genre when I was about fourteen. She gave me The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks and since then it’s been one fantasy saga after another for me.

The Lady's Choice Cover- high resYour writing suggests that some intense passions lurk beneath your neat, elegant exterior?

I’m passionate about many things including following your dreams and more than that, being allowed to dream. Intense? Yes, I am that, certainly. I guess my heroines reflect that quality that I have – go after what you want.

Ramon is simply divine … who were you thinking of when you created him? Who would play him in a film?

When I created Ramón initially, he was just a secondary character in Princess Avenger, my first book. But I quickly realised he needed his own stage. I see him as every woman’s best friend, the perfect man; the man you can count on who will put your needs before his always; and he has unforgettable good looks and impeccable grooming.

I would nominate Liam Hemsworth. He has gorgeous blond looks, amazing blue eyes, is the right height and has a great body.

Your hero is a character with a strong sense of what’s right – I prefer someone a bit naughty – you?

I prefer someone naughty and probably dark-haired as well. There’s definitely something within my nature that is drawn to the ‘bad boy’ so it was quite a challenge to see if I could write a sexy beta male.

Your heroine, Lady Benae, has to choose between passion and duty – have you been torn like that?

I’m not too good at duty and would go with passion any day. I think we are all torn between what we ‘should’ do and what we truly wish to do. I try to make decisions that make me happy because you only get one shot at life.

Cruelty and power play a part in your plot – did you find this challenging to write?

I don’t find power and cruelty difficult to write. It seems to be quite as natural for me as writing about love and loyalty. I believe we all have two opposing natures that hopefully are in balance. Fantasy holds much darkness as well as uplifting themes so I’ve had a steady diet of these contrasting values in my reading.

Unless there’s a yacht and a millionaire involved, I’m not very outdoorsy, but I so adored Benae’s horse, Flaire, I can imagine myself galloping off into the sunset, astride some magnificent steed. Clearly you adore horses?

I’ve always loved horses and rode, bred and trained them in my teens and twenties. They’re magnificent creatures and so rewarding to work with.

Benae and her maid are more like sisters than mistress and servant – are you a believer in having good female friends or are they superfluous if you have the attentions of a gorgeous man?

I find I need contact with my close female friends on a regular basis but my husband is my best friend. I’ve always found girlfriends wonderful for sharing your difficulties and bringing problems back into perspective. A problem shared is a problem halved they say.

We know you are a vet and have a family, tell us something else about yourself that will shock or surprise us?

I love being on stage. Before moving to Townsville in 2006, I was part of a ladies barbershop quartet and chorus and just adored singing for a crowd. It was one of the most amazing and fulfilling periods of my life.


Princess Avenger High Res CoverYou write great romance – what’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done in real life?

I’m still doing the most romantic thing I’ve ever done and that’s being part of a loving and supportive marriage. I’ve been married to Michael for coming up 26 years and we’re now entering the phase where children are moving out. We’ve faced some really difficult times, but we’re still best friends and I can’t imagine life without him.

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2013 in Review

Looking for InspirationIt’s the silly season and I’m on holidays until just before New Year. 2013 has been a difficult year in many ways and I’m sure when I look back upon it in years to come, it will be a blur.

Tom and SamAs a family, we’ve faced the challenge of the middle child gaining his driving licence and of him and his big brother leaving the nest. Alternating between fear and pride seems like a permanent state for me. Now that two of our sons are living thousands of kilometres to the south we’ve had to find new ways to keep in touch and to support them. It’s a big deal for teenagers living away from home. Lucky they have an extended family close to hand.

There have been the inevitable financial hardships that most families face and it has been difficult to have the boys away and not be certain we can give them that extra financial help if required. Needless to say, we have all made ends meet.

24.3.2013 U15 Batting Champion wests 2We’ve also adjusted to being three instead of five and forging a closer relationship to the youngest son who has lived his life in the shadow of his older brothers.

And then there is the issue of impending ‘empty nest’ syndrome. Most parents would relate to the struggle to keep the focus on their relationship as children demand so much time and attention. In the closing weeks of 2013, we can see an exciting future for us after children- the bucket list is getting longer.

The Lady's Choice Cover- high resPersonally, I have published my second book – The Lady’s Choice– and as was the case for Princess Avenger, I learned so much in the editing. Writing is a delightful life and an amazing escape from reality. I’ve learned so much about myself through my writing as well. My reading pile is ever growing and in it lie the books of many new friends.

In a week’s time my husband and I travel south to Brisbane to watch our youngest son take part in a week of cricket, a rite of passage his older brothers have already participated in. We’ll spend Christmas with our extended families and then take the long drive back to Townsville for New Year where the five of us will be reunited for a few days.

I’m sure 2014 will also be a year full of challenges and change- that’s the reality of being human.

FireworksI hope you can look back on 2013 with a sense of achievement and pride and that you can look forward to 2014 with optimism.

Happy holidays!

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Talking with Ms Destiny

The Lady's Choice Cover- high resLast week, my interview with Ms Destiny appeared on the Destiny Romance Blog . It was a far ranging discussion where I talk about my reading and writing inspirations and answer some probing questions about myself and about my new book, The Lady’s Choice.

It’s fascinating to examine what parts of your inner world end up in your stories and the perception readers have of you from the outside looking in.

I hope you enjoy this insight into my writing life.

Princess Avenger High Res Cover                          Destiny Logo

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Talking Personally

The Lady's Choice Cover- high resLast week on the Destiny romance blog I talked about the inspiration for one of my characters. Flaire is no ordinary character as he is the heroine Benae’s stallion. I’d love it if you’d click on the Destiny blog and get the low down on my horsey connection.

The relationship between man and beast can be truly special.